Singaporebrides | Fashion

July 2012

The Wedding Gown Guide – What’s Your Silhouette?

A bateau or a sweetheart neckline? An A-line dress or a mermaid silhouette? Chapel or cathedral train? Are these questions (along with the millions of wedding preparations you have to deal with) enough to make you throw down the gauntlet and go “I’ll just take THAT dress”, pointing at a random dress at a bridal boutique? If that sounds like something you’re close to doing, or are doing, then retract that finger right this instant.

The wedding gown is undeniably the centerpiece, and the most important detail for a bride and her wedding, so the selection of a dress cannot be slipshod and has to be given sufficient thought. SingaporeBrides presents a three-part guide on how to choose the most appropriate wedding gown for your big day. By the time you’re done reading, you’d be an expert in necklines, silhouettes and trains and wouldn’t look shell-shocked when the designer asks if you have a specific style in mind. Read and pass this knowledge on to other brides-to-be.

Let’s begin with the five main types of silhouettes. The media would have us believe that there is only one body type and shape, but let’s face it, not every bride has that Gisele-esque body. But, that does not mean you cannot look fabulous in a gown. The trick is to find one that suits your body type and shape best.

The Ball Gown

Does your ideal gown resemble that of Cinderella’s? Do you dream of having a fairytale wedding, with a gown that features a fitted bodice and a full bell-shaped skirt? Then look no further, the ball gown silhouette is what you’re looking for. With ball gown dresses, you can fulfill your dream of looking like a Disney princess bride and still be up-to-date with the trend (this silhouette remains highly popular and in trend). This silhouette is also for brides who are in pursuit of the traditional and classic wedding gown look.

The ball gown silhouette is extremely versatile – it looks fabulous regardless of which neckline or length of train you pair it with. Not only that, ball gown dresses also suit most body types, especially those with a medium to tall build, wider hips and hour-glass figures. Pear-shaped brides or brides with a smaller stature should approach this shape with caution: while a bell-shaped skirt can hide a larger bottom half, it can also backfire as layers and layers of skirt can add width to your frame as well. For petite brides, the full skirt may overwhelm your small frame and make you seem rounder than you actually are.

The Ball Gown is most commonly seen at more formal weddings, but if it is your preference, who is to say you can’t wear it to your beach wedding?  Determine the formality of your dress by playing with the fullness of the skirt and the length of your train. For more oomph and a formal look, go for more layers under the skirt (some may require a crinoline or slip underneath to maintain its shape) and a Cathedral length train. Or, take a leaf out of Princess Diana’s wedding and pair the ball gown with a Royal train, if you’re aiming for a more dramatic look.



Still want to look like a Disney princess at your wedding but find the ball gown silhouette a little too dramatic? Fear not; Aurora (that’s Sleeping Beauty, if you don’t already know) dons an A-line gown and is still very much a Disney princess. The A-line gown is exactly as it is named: an upright letter A. Similar to the ball gown, an A-line dress has a fitted bodice that is cut close to the rib cage. The difference lies in the shape of the skirt. The ball gown silhouette sees a skirt shaped like a bell while the A-line’s skirt is shaped like the letter A, with less fluff.

Also known as the Princess silhouette, A-line dresses are very popular among brides due to its versatility: it flatters just about any body type. Full-figured brides can rest easy as the A-line hides a heavier bottom, especially A-line dresses with a heavier fabric that tends to be less clingy. It also creates the illusion of height by elongating the torso, perfect for petite brides, or brides with a shorter upper torso.

As with the ball gown silhouette, A-line dresses can be worn for more formal weddings – paired with a Cathedral Length train, or informal ones – paired with no train, a sweeping train or a Chapel length one. Its versatility extends to any type of neckline as well as any length of veil, depending on the degree of formality of your wedding.


Reminiscent of an evening gown from the 1950s, the sheath hugs your body, following every curve from head to toe. Sheaths are best suited for casual weddings but can work for formal weddings as well – just pick one that is floor length. Depending on the material of the dress, a sheath dress can either skim your curves (in thicker silk or damask fabric) or leave nothing to your imagination (in silk or satin).

Mostly popular for beach weddings, brides who are looking to conceal some problem areas (mainly a wider lower body) or are not comfortable with the idea of a body-skimming or body-hugging dress should opt for more forgiving silhouettes, like the Ball Gown, A-line or empire cut. Also, brides who expect to move around (or kneel) a lot should think twice about picking a sheath dress as this silhouette doesn’t allow for much movements.

If you choose to wear your sheath dress without a train, then you can opt for either a waist length veil – for a beach or informal wedding, or a floor length one for a more formal wedding.



The mermaid and trumpet are silhouettes that fit closely to the body with an outward flare at the bottom half of the gown. The difference between the two is minor – the mermaid sees the flare happening below the knee, closer to the hem while the trumpet flares from midhip. The mermaid and trumpet silhouettes best flatters tall and slim brides, so if you’ve been working hard for your big day and can’t wait to show off the results, or if you were born with a model-esque figure (you lucky girl, you!), then this is the silhouette for you. You need to be completely comfortable in a body-hugging, curve-skimming gown because the mermaid and trumpet silhouettes hide nothing.

The mermaid and trumpet silhouettes are suitable for both an informal beach wedding or a more formal ballroom affair. The length of the accompanying train and veil also depends on the formality of your big day – a chapel length train and veil will complement a more formal event, while doing without a train and having a waist or fingertip length veil is perfect for less formal ones.


Think Jane Austen and channel your inner Elizabeth Bennett (main female protagonist from Pride and Prejudice) with the empire cut. Empire cut dresses have a cropped bodice with a waist seam that ends just below the bust-line. As a result, this creates a flattering elongated silhouette, perfect for making you appear taller and slimmer.

It is not difficult to see why this silhouette is highly popular during the Regency period. The skirt sweeps softly over your curves, lending a romantic, feminine touch to the dress while at the same time, concealing flaws such as a thicker waist or a heavier bottom half. As such, the empire silhouette is perfect for brides with a bigger build. It is also suitable for brides with a smaller bust, since it draws attention to the neckline, making it extremely flattering for them. A variation of the empire silhouette is the Goddess. It is all the rage now, with the soft, slinky and flowing fabrics they usually come in and a deep V-slit down the front. The silhouette presented is super-sexy and very feminine.


Go Elizabeth Bennett style with a semi-formal wedding and pair your empire-cut dress with no train or a chapel length train, and a shoulder or waist length veil that’s bound to make your Mr Darcy entranced.

By now you should be articulate in silhouettes and which best flatters your body shape. Always remember to pick one that flatters your shape and you’ll not go wrong. The next step to getting that perfect gown is to complement your chosen silhouette with a beautiful neckline. Learn more about necklines in the second part of The Wedding Gown Guide – The Scoop on Necklines tomorrow.

Read Part Three: The Wedding Gown Guide – All About Trains

Gowns illustrated by Jit from Silverlining Bridal Couture