To ensure a perfect fit on your wedding day, it's a good idea to determine the most flattering shape for your figure before you go shopping for a wedding dress or see a dressmaker. Not only will you feel more comfortable on your wedding day, but you'll look more beautiful than you ever expected.
There are four basic categories of dress types:
Ball Gown– This style is the most traditional and formal of all wedding dresses. It typically has a fitted bodice and a waistline that leads to a very full bell shaped skirt.
Empire - The empire style gown is characterized by a high waistline right under the bust which falls to a generally slimmer skirt (though equally could be an A-Line skirt).
A-Line or Princess - An A-line or Princess shape features vertical seams flowing from the shoulders down to a triangular flared skirt, an "A" shape. This is a classic and flattering design for most body shapes, making it popular amongst brides.
Sheath - The Sheath style dress is slim sheath silhouette that closely follows the line of the body.
Each of the above styles can be strapless, have straps of various widths, have short, long or no sleeves, depending on your preference. One thing to consider when choosing your dress is the venue of your wedding and the season. For example, an outside wedding in summer is unlikely to suit having long sleeves. When deciding whether to go sleeveless, you also need to consider what you feel comfortable wearing – for example, if you don’t like showing off your arms, it may be best to choose a dress with sleeves. If you decide on a strapless dress, it is essential to make sure that the dress fits snugly and isn’t going to slip down. There is nothing quite as annoying for a bride than to be hitching up her dress all day.
Another consideration is the fabric that you want to use. Silk and satin are the most common. However, there are also mix fabrics on the market that can look equally good and will be cheaper. The choice of fabric will depend on the dress type you select. Always discuss the fabric with your dressmaker before purchasing. You will also need to decide on the colour that you want your gown, even down to the shade of white you suit. Yes, there is more than one white! Another thing to consider is whether you want to decorate the dress and, if so, with what - sequins, beading, or lace?
Each of these decisions are probably best made once you have chosen a shape and tried on a few dresses to see what you like. A dress on the rack (or in a magazine) looks a lot different on a bride-to-be so it does pay to go along and pay the nominal sum (often deducted off the price of the dress if you purchase) to try a number of dresses on. It is only then that you will work out the style of dress that best suits you.
To help you along, there are some general rules for which style of dress is right for a particular body type. Depending on the type of figure that you have, there are some dress-types that are more likely to suit you.
Hourglass Figure - You have a bust, hips and a defined waist (i.e. the curves of an hourglass).
An A-line dress or a gown with a dropped waist will show off your figure and maybe pair it with a sweetheart neckline to show off your chest if you feel comfortable with that.
A ball gown or empire waist silhouette may make you look disproportioned. A sheath style will accentuate the hourglass figure so it will depend on whether you want it to or not.
Short-Waisted Figure - Your body is naturally proportioned, except you have only a small distance from your ribs to your hips.
A princess-line silhouette fitted at the bodice and opening up gradually to a full skirt elegantly elongates your figure. You could also try a portrait or halter neckline.
A sheath may make your short waist more obvious.
Thick-Waisted Figure - Same figure as above but your waist is undefined eg the line from your shoulders to your hips is straight.
An empire-waist gown will de-emphasize your waistline and give you a long, thinning look.
A princess-line or sheath may draw too much attention to your middle.
Full Figure - Full breasts, a bit of a tummy, round hips and behind.
A ball gown will hide quite a bit, and an A-line style looks great on everyone.
A sheath may make you look heavier than you are and it may be best to avoid spaghetti straps. The empire may make you look disproportioned.
Pear Shaped Figure - You're small on top and heavier on the bottom.
A strapless ball gown will cover your bottom half and focus on your top half. The off-the-shoulder neckline will also make your top more in proportion to your bottom.
A sheath will be unflattering, and a V-neck often draws the eyes down to the areas you are trying to deflect.
Thin Figure – A sleek figure without many curves.
A ball gown will make you look like a beautiful ballerina, and the sheath is most flattering.
Almost all silhouettes will flatter your figure, but stay away from portrait, off-the-shoulder, or halter necklines if your collarbone is too bony.
Petite Figure – A small person in all respects.
It's best to keep it simple. A sheath or A-line dress will work well.
Almost all silhouettes will flatter your figure though a big, elaborate gown can sometimes look as if it is wearing you rather than the other way around on a small stature.
Keep in mind that, while your weight may fluctuate between the time you buy your gown and the day of your wedding, your actual body type will remain the same. So, even if you're planning to drop weight before your big day, choose a dress that really suits you today.
The above advice is simply that – advice. There are always exceptions to every rule and if you have your heart set on a design that doesn’t fit the above rules and you are still happy with it, then that is fantastic. The most important thing is for you to wear a wedding dress that you feel comfortable in - that is the most important advice we can give you.