The 5 Basic Wedding Dress Shapes

(To see larger images of any bodice, click on its named link)

Wedding dresses come in so many lovely varieties, but they can roughly be categorized in 5 different categories. Knowing these 5 basic wedding dress shapes, as well as which ones are flattering to your figure (and which one’s aren’t!) is an essential prerequisite to going wedding dress shopping.

A-Line Silhouette modeled by's signature bride
A-Line or Princess Silhouette

A-line or Princess

The princess or A-line wedding dress has side seams running down from the armpit all the way to the hem.

Look for A-lines if:

  • You want to appear thinner
  • You want to hide wide hips or thighs
  • You are short-waisted
  • You have a pear-shaped figure

Avoid A-lines if:

  • You are full-figured
  • You have an hourglass figure
  • Ball Gown Silhouette modeled by's signature bride
    Ball Gown Silhouette

    Ball Gown

    The ball gown is the traditional fairy-tale dress. If you can picture Cinderella in her ball gown, then you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the ball gown looks like. The bodice of the dress is very fitted, and the skirt is full (amount of fullness varies between wedding dresses.)

    Look for ball gowns if:

  • You are full figured
  • You have an hourglass figure
  • You are very tall

Avoid ball gowns if:

  • You are short or petite
  • You have a small bust
Empire Waist Silhouette for modest wedding dresses, modeled by's signature bride
Empire Waist Silhouette

Empire Waist

The Empire waist is a very timeless and elegant look. Think of the dresses that the muses of folklore traditionally wear, and that’s essentially an Empire waist. The Empire wedding dress is very fitted through the shoulders and chest, with the hemline just below the bust. The skirt is fairly narrow.

Look for empire waists if:

  • You want to look taller
  • You are pear-shaped
  • You have wide hips

Avoid empire waists if:

  • You have a large bust
  • You are very tall
  • You are full-figured
Mermaid Silhouette modeled by's signature bride
Mermaid Silhouette


 Mermaid style wedding gowns are very fitted, with one exception. At the knee or slightly below, they flare out like the tail of a mermaid. They are probably the least common wedding dress choice, but the mermaid wedding dress’s refined feminine flare is perfect for brides who can pull it off.

Look for mermaid shapes if:

  • You are naturally very slim

Avoid mermaid shapes if:

  • You are short-waisted
  • You are pear-shaped
  • You want to disguise problem areas
Sheath Silhouette modeled by's signature bride
Sheath Silhouette

Sheath or Column


Column or sheath style dresses are very form-fitting from top to bottom. They are very modern and fashionable. (There is a fine line between fitting tastefully and being too tight to be appropriate for a Mormon wedding, however, so make sure to get a second opinion before buying a sheath or column wedding dress.)

Look for sheath dresses if:

  • You are naturally very slim

Avoid sheath dresses if:

  • You want to hide or disguise certain areas
  •  You are full-figured
  • You are short-waisted
  • You are pear-shaped

Whatever your body type, there is a wedding dress that is perfectly suited to you. The right wedding dress depends on both your sense of style and your body type, so make sure to pick a dress that looks great on you – not just on the mannequin!

♥ Jenny Evans
Exclusively for
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Modest Wedding Dresses, LDS temple weddings

LDS Weddings, LDS brides

3 comments on “Understanding the 5 Basic Wedding Dress Shapes”

  1. What does short-waisted mean? Can you be full-figured and have small breasts? Doesn’t full-figured mean…not skinny? Couldn’t you provide pictures of full-figured women wearing theses kinds of dresses?

    • What I mean to say is that I am curvy and have small breasts. So which is it? what kind of a dress should I get?

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      Short waisted means your hip to bust measurement is less than your bust to head measurement. It has nothing to do with your bust size. To figure out if you are short or long waisted, 1) measure from your hip line to the tip of your bust, then 2) measure from the tip of your bust to the top of your head. If your hip to bust measurement is longer than your bust to head you are long waisted. If your hip to bust measurement is less than your bust to head then you are short waisted.
      When you’re short waisted, you should wear clothing that elongates your torso. Your goal is to visually lower your waistline and re-direct attention towards your face or legs.
      princess line styles to elongate your mid-section
      Wear a supportive bra to lift your breasts and define your waistline
      Choose paneled skirts with low slung waistlines and strong vertical seams or
      Consider horizontal ribbons below the waist, to lengthen the line of your upper body
      Vertical lines above the waist
      V neckline
      knee length A-line dresses

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