A Glossary to Keep in Mind When Shopping for a Bridal Gown

Brush up on these terms before going to your first appointment.

A Glossary to Keep in Mind When Shopping for a Bridal Gown

Photo: Maya Myers Photography

terms for wedding dress shopping glossary

No matter how much of a fashionista you may have been before getting engaged, many brides will admit that shopping for wedding dresses is a whole different ball game. It’s rare for a sample to fit, the sizing is different, and there’s an enormous amount of pressure to make the right decision. Though popular wedding-related shows like Say Yes to the Dress can help women get a better idea about designers and fabrics, the amount of terminology that is almost exclusively used for bridal gowns can be pretty intimidating.

To have an easier time of it, read the below glossary before booking your first appointment. 

A-Line: A soft flare in the skirt, at the natural waist. Think of the shape of the letter “A” – hence the name.
Ball Gown: A voluminous skirt – usually what people picture when they think of a princess skirt.
Empire: Instead of a full bodice, the skirt starts right below the bust. This look is most common for more relaxed, beachy styles.
Mermaid: A fitted dress from the bodice to the knee, where there is then a dramatic flare like that of a mermaid’s tail.
Trumpet: A subtler version of the mermaid silhouette, where the skirt starts to flare out about mid-thigh.
Sheath: A gown that is fitted all the way down, from bodice to hem. 

Click here to learn about necklines, and here for the most common fabrics used for bridal wear.

Appliqué: Cutouts of fabric – usually lace or with beading – added to a gown or veil.
Bustle: What the seamstress does to get the train out of the way for the reception. There are several types of bustles, which each work best with certain dress styles.
Embroidery: Stitching in a decorative design, usually on a bodice but can also be throughout the gown.
Ruching: When fabric is gathered in pleats, usually at the waist or bodice for a slimming effect. 

Read more on the differences between trumpet and mermaid gowns here.

Opening photo by Maya Myers Photography