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Bridal Gown Lingo – DECODED

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Here is just a quick reference that may help you when searching for the gown of your dreams.

Gown Silhouette

  • A-line. This dress-line is the most accommodating, whether you are tall or short, big or slim. The gown gently flares from the shoulders down. The vertical seams flow from the shoulders to hem
  • Empire. Similar to the A-line, however the upper-body features a form-fitted bosom and is high-waisted. The empire silhouette is best for women who have medium to large busts and wider waistlines.
  • Sheath.  This shape follows the natural body curves from shoulder to hem. They are often cut on the bias, which means they will cling to your shape. Most are strapless and even backless. A very sexy dress for very sexy bodies.
  • Mermaid. Similar to the sheath, except it flares at or below the knee. Again, a very sexy form-fitting dress.
  • Ball gown. The Cinderella dress, with a fitted corset bodice and a full, multi-layered skirt. The waistlines are either “V” shaped, natural, higher than natural, or lower on your hips. This gown shape is great for those of us who are not fond of our hips, buttocks or thighs.

Lengths and Trains

  • Floor length: 1/2 to 1 inch off the floor.
  • Ballerina length : hem is just above the ankle
  • Tea length: hemmed at the lower calf or mid ankle.
  • Street length: hemmed just below the knee.
  • Intermission length: longer in back, shorter in front.
  • Asymmetrical: longer on one side than the other.
  • Mini: no explanation needed here!
  • Sweep train: shortest train extends back 8 to 12 inches after touching floor.
  • Chapel train: trails 3½ to 4½ feet from waist.
  • Cathedral train: flowing train, usually 6½ to 7½ feet from waist.


  • Brocade : A heavy, dense fabric with 3-dimensional designs
  • Charmeuse : A lightweight fabric with a soft texture and semi-sheen.
  • Chiffon: A delicate, semi-transparent fabric with a soft finish.
  • Organza: A sheer, flowing fabric that is somewhat stiffer than chiffon.
  • Satin: A heavy, dense fabric with sheen on one side and dull on the back.
  • Silk: A natural fiber made from silkworm cocoons. A variety of fabrics come from silk threads, including duchesse, mikado, and shantung.
  • Taffeta: A crisp fabric with a semi-sheen and crosswise rib.
  • Tulle: A sheer open weave netting made of silk, nylon or rayon. It varies in texture according to its use.


  • Off-the-shoulder: Varies on how much shoulder is exposed.
  • Bateau: Straight across the chest, just below the collarbone.
  • Sweetheart: From the shoulders, dips to a heart-shaped line that accentuates cleavage.
  • V-neck: Variations range from conservative to daring.
  • Halter: 2 panels of fabric go up from the waist or bust and meet at the back of the neck.
  • Scoop: A rounded line from shoulder-to-shoulder, down to the collar-line or bust-line.
  • Square: A half-square or rectangle version of the scoop.
  • Strapless: The shoulders are completely bare.


  • Flyaway: A multi-layered veil that just brushes the shoulders. A good choice for brides wishing to emphasize the back details of their gown.
  • Blusher: Short single layer veil, worn over the face before the ceremony and lifted back over the head at some point during the ceremony.
  • Birdcage: Short Veil often made of English Net, Mesh or Tulle.
  • Mantilla: A long, Spanish-style, circular, lace-edged veil that frames the face. Usually secured with a comb and worn close to the hair line.
  • Fingertip Length: Bottom of veil should come to the tips of the fingers.
  • Ballerina Length (aka: Waltz): Bottom of veil should land somewhere between the calves and ankles. A good pick for the bride that wants to be able to wear her veil throughout the reception and dance the night away.
  • Chapel Length: This veil just touches the floor.
  • Cathedral Length: This veil is dramatic, as it trails after the bride.

We hope this will help you so you can say “YES” to the dress!! 🙂

2010 Miranda Davis,
Want to use this article in your E-zine or website? You can as long as you include this complete statement:

Event Decor Designer entrepreneur Miranda Davis with Simple Elegance Events and Wedding Designs publishes this weekly e-zine. Get your FREE  “My Dream Wedding without the Nightmare”  at

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