Wedding Dress Overview

It’s not for nothing that google searches for “wedding dresses” rank among the most highly searched wedding topics on the internet. Young girls dream of how they will look in their wedding dress, not what colors their favors will be, or how high their ice sculpture will reach. Nothing could be more subtly sophisticated or require more care than picking something to match both your very individual body shape and personal sensibilities.

As the adjectives you use to describe your dream gown progress beyond the highly generic “princess” to more subtle words like chic, haute, elaborate, and refined, you may feel as though you are left floundering for ways to refine your search. That’s where we come in. Pink Galoshes aim is to provide useful, current, and relevant information to help you quickly whittle down the myriad of choices to a favorite few.

We have chosen to talk about and consider some of the most exclusive designers on the market. We feel they most clearly articulate the topics we are considering. There are fine indie designers that play with many of these same concepts and whose work is also beautiful and distinct. Look to the bottom for some of our favs in those categories. But for our case examples, one simply can’t look beyond Monique, Armani, Carolina, and Vera. Thank you for making us feel beautiful.

This post will do what we hope no other reference on the internet will do.  We will guide you through the process of defining and refining your vision of how you will look on your wedding day.

How to best figure your figure…

Forget what you know about body type. Start with how you wish to be seen in the midst of your wedding space.
Woman quickly fall into two categories, those who love classic ballgowns or those who favor more modern thinner wedding dresses.

Ball gowns are voluminous on the bottom. They start out form-fitting and narrow through the top and bust-line, then flair dramatically when thy hit the hips. These types of gowns have a very full bottom, usually with layers underneath to give depth. Best for women with curvy and ample shapes. These wedding dresses are lovely in high lofted ceilings–think Gothic architecture, elegant and old ballrooms, and of course cathedrals. There is nothing more dramatic than entering the ceremony in a huge ballgown with a long flowing train.

Thinner, more modern dress styles are broken down into more subcategories. Here are some styles to choose from:
A-line–simple silhouette shaped liked an A. Starts out narrow on top through the hips then slightly flairs when hits the knee. It is slim fitting and has vertical seams from shoulders to hem. Best for women with narrow hips, small busts, or petite features, but really most body types can wear this shape.
Dropped–dips below the natural waistline and sits directly on the hips. Perfect for hourglass figures. This shape defines the hips.
Empire Waist–very form fitting on top, then significantly flairs at the bottom of the bust. There is a small scoop at the bodice and a very high waistline. Ideal for those with smaller features and broad shoulders or equally as stunning on those who want to hide their waistlines.
Mermaid–similar to the modified a-line, but very form fitting until the fabric hits the bottom of the knee cap, then flairs out, giving the appearance of actually being shaped like a mermaid’s tail. Very good shape for those with ample curves or wider hips, accentuating the curves.
Modified a-line–similar to the a-line, but with less flair when the fabric hits the knee.
Sheath–simple drape of fabric; usually in a silk or other form fitting fabrics such as jersey and charmeuse; every curve can be seen within this shape; best for tall and lithe body shapes; usually very simple in construction, ‘less is more’ type of mentality.
Tank dresses–great for the low key bride; very simple styles, the top is shaped more like a tank top, with wider straps, great for those with smaller bust lines who want some coverage.
Trumpet–similar to a mermaid shape, but much less flared at the bottom, great for those with curves, but who still want to have some volume without the drama.

Dressed in silk…..

Materials most often used for bridal gowns include:

Lace–so subtle, so refined, so elegant. It is regal in an old fashioned way. Glamorous without being pretentious, vintage without seeming dated. Lace dresses look best in modified a-lines, or mermaid styles. Or look for lace appliques to spice up a ballgown.

Brocade–Jacquard woven fabric with a raised design; best for colder climates and more formal weddings. Fall and winter brides, this is your fabric.
Charmeuse–light-weight, semi-lustrous fabric that is very soft and silky to the touch.
Chiffon–delicate, sheer, and transparent usually made of silk or rayon. Wonderfully light and perfect for romantic style dresses. Can be dressy or informal.
Crepe–soft fabric with crinkled texture.
Eyelet–open weave embroidery. Lovely and romantic. Amazing for summer weddings on the beach. Rustic yet elegant. Look for ribbon details to make the design pop even more. Carolina Herrera is a pro with this fabric.
Damask–similar to brocade, but lighter.
Duchess Satin–silk and polyester mix woven together to create a shiny fabric.
Jersey–a very light and elastic knit fabric. Simple, plain, for those who want a dress that is simple and comfortable.
Organza–sheer and stiff, made from synthetic fabrics or silk. Heavy fabric usually found in ballgowns; best used for colder weather weddings; lends easily to lace, crystals, and other embellishments
Satin–smooth, heavy fabric with a very high sheen.
Shantung–plain woven silk or cotton fabric with a rougher texture.
Silk–smooth and luxurious…the epitome of wedding sophistication. Try finding a dress lined with silk. Monique is a fan of this. Brides rejoice in the smooth texture next to their skin. It is best for those sheath dresses; work wonderfully in warmer climates, such as destination weddings on the beach or summer affairs.
Taffeta–crisp and lightweight fabric.
Tulle–netting used to create fabric or airy feeling

Every bride (unless she has chosen a sheath style gown) at some point during the evening will need to have her dress bustled. This is not as hard as it looks or sounds. It is essentially the pulling and fastening of the train of the wedding gown. The bustle is often assembled with hooks, eyes, and buttons that are sewn into the dress.
The French bustle is the most commonly used method. This is the fastening of the train underneath the top layer of the gown rather than pulling up the train to secure it. Very elegant and very simple. Works well for modified a-lines with slight trains. Now, the bigger the gown, the bigger the train, so remember this when purchasing the gown. Some bustles can be quite elaborate. Be sure there is someone who knows how to do this.

Every dream dress has a distinct neckline. Fabrics and shapes are nothing if there is not an eye-catching neckline that suits your body shape. Here are some styles that can typically be found on most ranges of bridal gowns:
Bateau–follows the curve of the collarbone from shoulder to shoulder.
Halter–a piece of fabric connects the bodice and wraps around the neck; great for those who want to flaunt their cleavage.
Off the shoulder–fits below the shoulder-with long or short sleeves.
One shoulder–an asymmetrical neckline in which one shoulder is covered and the other is left bare; very modern.
Scoop–a deep u-shaped neckline.
Strapless–neckline that goes straight across just above the bust with no straps.
Sweetheart–literally a neckline that is shaped like a heart; those with ample cleavage should look to this neckline; those who are smaller on top would not benefit from the neckline for it is a bit plunging and draws attention to the bust.
V-neck–drops from the shoulders to form a V. Best for those who have cleavage they would like to show. The deeper the V, the more sexy the dress. Location will determine this style.

Wedding location, time of day, and season are equally important factors. They dictate the type of gown you choose. If you are having a semi-formal wedding, a ballgown would be out of place, but if you are having a big, bold, black tie affair, the more dramatic gown, the better.

Color accents can enhance dresses. Whether it’s a pop of color used in a sash or a subtle tint to the fabric, this is a great way to add some spice.
Blue–This is for the truly independent and free spirited. Look for dresses with blue tulle, stunning and different.
Diamond white–the most common of colors. Not as chalky as stark white, but very similar. This shade can be difficult, for this color can wash out many women, but if your bridal dreams are traditional, this is the shade to choose.
Ivory–the most universally flattering shade for wedding gowns. Pale skin, olive skin, or freshly bronzed skin looks wonderful wrapped in this shade. It will not wash anyone out, and in fact it will add to that bridal glow.
Latte–This is decadent. Look for layers of latte fabric underneath alencon or chantilly lace. Gives the appearance of a darker fabric, but is oh so subtle.
Pink–Pink dresses are gaining a bit more popularity. Subtle dusty roses and shimmery pink fabrics can enhance ballgowns and mermaid styles.
Platinum–definitely a scene stealer. Dresses with a light shimmer or platinum underlays are a wonderful and modern approach. Very fashion forward.
Stark white–the crispest white you can find. Perfect for those with darker skin tones.

The length of a gown is also dependent upon the formality and location of the event. A mini dress would work beautifully at a City Hall wedding followed by a cocktail reception, whereas a floor length gown would work at a lavish formal event. Remember to think about the time of day as well. Mornings and evenings require different gowns. To make it easier, here is a breakdown of all the options out there for length:
Ankle length–a gown hemmed to the ankles. Best for semi-formal affairs. Works with slender or full bodied gowns.
Ballerina–a full skirt that reaches just above the ankles. Images of tutus come to mind! Very girly. A flirty, yet fun option.
Floor length–the hem of the skirt touches the floor on all sides. Very formal and works with both slender and full gowns.
Intermission–the hem falls anywhere between the knees and the ankles. Very old fashioned style. Works best for an informal or outdoor event.
Knee-length–the hem hits at the knee. Very casual and perfect for the laid back bride.
Mini-skirt or cocktail length–the hem ends above the knee. Super fun, super sexy. Perfect for the bride who has a mind of her own. Or a wonderful length to opt for the second dress.
Tea–gowns hemmed at the ends of the shin. Perfect for very tall and slender women who want a bit of the unexpected. Monique’s new spring line features this length.

Support. Every girl needs it. Some girls are lucky, they don’t need to don all the extra things that go underneath the gown. Small chested girls can easily have cups sewn into their gown. But for some, coverage and support is necessary. Luckily there is something out there for everyone. Remember that smooth, clean lines are a definite must. Lacy embellishments can actually show through certain fabrics, so best to keep those hidden until the honeymoon.
Here are some of the options:
Bustier–a tight fitting top worn as a bra. There are even V-back versions that are perfect for those gowns with plunging backs.
Cincher–a one piece undergarment that instantly slims fuller figures.
Corset–a garment that extends from above or below the bust to below the hips. Wonderful support for strapless gowns. Foam rubber corset types can also be found.
Spanx–hides everything. No time for bridal boot camp? Pilates boring you? Well never fear, find comfort and the answer to your prayers in Spanx. Slimming and comfortable body shapers that hide underneath the gown.

Every girl needs to look to someone for some inspiration. With so many styles to choose from it is hard to narrow it down. Become familiar with the bridal superstars, and learn their work. This will make the shopping process so much easier.

Designers that we adore:
Monique Lhuillier
Carolina Herrera
Oscar de la Renta
Vera Wang
Vivienne Westwood
Lela Rose

Armani Prive

Others worth checking out:
Reem Acra

Elizabeth Fillmore
Jenny Packham
Ellie Saab
Melissa Sweet
And now for the photos…


4 Comments so far

  1. Amy-Jo Tatum/ Bride Chic January 15th, 2009

    Great info for brides. Love the photos

  2. Misse January 28th, 2009

    Lazaro is a personal favorite!

  3. Layla D. Smith April 23rd, 2009

    What a fantastic summation of dress styles, shapes, fabrics, lengths, necklines, etc! Thank you. This is a great resource for brides. Mind if I re-post your post on my blog and in my newsletter? Or, would you rather I add you as a guest blogger to add it? This is really great info.

  4. kelley@myislandwedding January 14th, 2010

    your site rocks! are you still contributing???

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