Wedding Dresses & Style

Wedding Dress Glossary

posted: 04/24/14
by: TLC
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The hemline of your wedding dress can be (almost) as short, long or dramatic as you like.

Shopping for a wedding dress feels a lot like learning another language. Tulle? Tulip hem? Sheath? What does it all mean? With this handy wedding dress glossary, cheat your way to wedding dress expertise. We've got the terms you need to know, as well as pronunciation guides so you can sound like an absolute pro when you describe your dream dress.


Asymmetrical: A hemline that is shorter in the front than in the back, allowing a bride to show off her legs or ankles without giving up a more traditional look.

Ballerina: A hemline with a full skirt that ends at or just above the ankle.

Floor: A formal length hemline that reaches to the ground.

Mini: An above the knee hemline; the original miniskirt rule was to have the dress reach mid thigh, or a maximum of four inches under the derriere.

Street: A hemline that ends just below the knee.

Tea: A hemline that falls between low and mid-calf.

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The shape of your wedding dress might be full and princess-like or straight and sleek.

A-Line: A-line skirts are named for their shape of the same letter, smaller at the waistline and angling out toward a fuller hem.

Ball Gown: The most formal shape, recognizable by a dramatic, wide full skirt.

Drop Waist: A dress with a waistline that falls at mid hip or lower.

Empire: A waistline that falls just under the bust and connects to a flowing skirt.

Fit and Flare: Style of dress fitted through the bodice with a skirt that flares away from the body just past the hips.

Mermaid: Dress fitted through the bodice, waist, and hips, and flaring out from the knees.

Sheath: A straight, form fitting silhouette (also known as a column).

Trumpet: A shape fitted through the upper body and flaring out from mid-thigh.

Tulip: A short skirt made of overlapping, draped fabric that mimics a closed tulip.

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The neckline of your wedding dress should frame your face and chest beautifully.

Blouson [blou-son, -zon, bloo-zohn, bloo-zon]: A loose bodice that blouses out instead of laying flat against the torso due to a cinched waist (often accented with a belt or tie).

Boat Neck: A high neckline that cuts straight (or with a minimal scoop) across the collarbone.

Cowl Neck [koul-nek]: A rounded neckline created from folds of draped fabric; can be cut high or low.

Halter: Neckline with straps that tie behind the neck instead of going straight over the shoulders to the back.

Jewel: A high, slightly rounded neckline.

Portrait Collar: A wide neckline that ends with straps or sleeves starting at the top outer edge of the shoulder.

Sabrina: A high neckline that starts at the inside edge of the neckline and has a slight rounded scoop in the front and back.

Scoop: A low, wide, rounded neckline.

Square Neck: Neckline created by straps that extend straight down from the shoulders meeting a (usually straight) bustline.

Sweetheart: A scalloped neckline with its lowest point in the center of the bust, creating a heart shape.

V Neck: A neckline that comes to a point in the center front, creating a V shape.

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Yes, Virginia, there are wedding dresses with sleeves and straps.

Bell: This type of sleeve can be long or short, but flares out toward the bottom.

Cap: Small sleeves that just cover the shoulders, offering extra support

Drop Shoulder: A dress style featuring straps or lace sleeves worn off the shoulders and across the upper arm.

Dolman [dohl-muh n, dol]: A sleeve cut wide at the arm hole and tapering to the wrist.

Puff: Sleeve that is fitted at the top and bottom and widens (or "puffs") in the middle.

Spaghetti Straps: Thin straps that extend straight over the shoulder; often able to be added to strapless dresses for additional support.

Strapless: A dress with no sleeves, straps or other material connecting the front and back over the shoulders.

Three-Quarter Length: Sleeve that begins at the shoulder and ends below the elbow but above the wrist.

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The fabric of your wedding dress should complement your body type.

Alencon Lace [A-lahN-sawN; English uh-len-suh n, -son] : A French style of needlepoint lace worked on a hexagonal mesh or net and outlined in cord or twisted yarn; traditionally a floral pattern.

Batiste [buh-teest]: A finely woven, plain fabric made of cotton (or polyester, wool, or other materials); lightweight and opaque.

Brocade [broh-keyd]: A woven fabric, often of a heavier material, with an ornate raised design

Chantilly [shan-til-ee; French shahN-tee-yee]: Famous French lace which can be made of silk, linen, or synthetic materials; it has a scalloped edge and most often a floral pattern.

Charmeuse [shahr-mooz, -moos; French shAR-mOEz]: A drapable silk fabric with a satin look.

Chiffon [shi-fon, shif-on]: A sheer fabric that can be woven from silk, nylon, or synthetics and is often layered to create full or flowing skirts.

Crepe : A lightweight fabric (which shares its name with the delicate French pancake) recognizable by its crimped or crinkled face.

Crepe de Chine [kreyp duh sheen]: Lighter, thinner crepe (literally "crepe from China") with a crinkled appearance similar to heavier crepe.

Crinoline [krin-l-in]: A stiff petticoat worn under a full skirt to give it shape.

Crystals: Small pieces of glass or plastic that adorn a dress and reflect light for added impact; as with beads, expect to pay more for higher end materials and less for plastic versions.

Duchesse Lace: Belgian lace known for its raised floral pattern (usually sprays of primrose).

Dupioni [doo-pee-oh-nee]: A sturdy silk made from two or more silkworm cocoons, resulting in noticeable irregularities in the finished fabric.

Embroidery: Raised designs created with thread (often in gold or silver) and sometimes accented with beads or crystals.

Organza: A crisp, light fabric made from silk or synthetic fibers in a plain weave, appropriate for skirts or fabric embellishments (including flowers and ruffles).

Satin: A soft, glossy fabric with a smooth feel; can be made from acetate, nylon, silk, or rayon.

Shantung [shan-tuhng]: A heavy fabric made from naturally-colored tan wild silk with an irregular weave.

Silk: A soft, glossy fabric made from silkworm fibers.

Spanish Lace: A heavier, flatter lace comprising large flowers on a net backing.

Taffeta [taf-i-tuh]: Medium or lightweight fabric with a plain weave and subtle crosswise rib; can be made from silk or synthetic fibers and is often smooth and crisp.

Tulle : Machine-made net of cotton or silk that can be layered to create volume in short or long skirts.

Velvet: Fabric made from silk or synthetics, recognized by its unique thick, soft pile.

Voile : Light, almost sheer fabric made from wool, silk, or synthetics, sometimes embellished with embroidered Swiss dots, and popular for informal or warm-weather events.

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