Your wedding dress has one purpose and one purpose only, to make you feel like the most beautiful woman on the planet.
All eyes will be on you on your wedding day, so it’s important to ensure you choose the right style of dress for your body shape in order to make the most of your best assets. Not only will you feel more comfortable, you'll also look and feel more beautiful than you ever expected, ensuring your inner confidence shines.
Here we'll cover your 3 main considerations:
Keep in mind that whilst your weight may fluctuate, your actual body type will remain the same. So even if you're planning to drop 10kg before exchanging vows, always choose a gown that suits your body type.
So what is your body type?
Well, there are four main body shapes and, just to be clear, these don’t include ‘twig’ or ‘beached whale’!
Characteristics: Hips, waist and shoulders being of a similar width. This is often (but not always) combined with slender, toned arms and legs. The majority of any weight gain will occur around the middle.
Famous Folk: Liv Tyler, Emma Bunton are just two celebs that an apple will share their shape with.
Do’s: When it comes to getting an outfit for the wedding, apples should consider dresses that help to define the waist - a typical example would be to opt for a bodice accompanied by an Princess skirt. A bodice with a dropped waist, or a traditional bodice that comes down to a point, are particularly flattering. Detailing around the bust will pronounce that area and dresses that feature a high bust line (such as one with an empire line top) made from a loose flowing material will also flatter your shape.
Don’ts: For very slim apples, dresses in a bias cut profile are good for creating the illusion of shape, but it’s probably worthwhile avoiding dresses with a mermaid skirt, as these will not bring out the best in your figure. Similarly, it's difficult to create definition between waist and hips with the ultra-straight skirt of the column/sheath dress, so again this may not be your best bet.
Characteristics: Synonymous with a classic film-star figure, hips and shoulders (and/or chest if you are lucky!) help to pronounce a beautifully shaped waist line. Weight will be gained on the upper arms, chest, tummy (but you will be lucky enough to retain definition on your waist), hips, bum and thighs - in other words, pretty much everywhere!
Famous Folk: Marilyn Monroe was the ultimate hourglass, but others of more recent fame include Catherine Zeta Jones and Kate Winslet.
Do’s: To emphasise your figure, a dress with a bias cut profile or one that features a mermaid or fish-tail skirt will work wonders. Alternatively you can look to emphasise your bust with an empire line top and appropriate dress embellishments, or opt to give focus to your proportionately small waist with a well-fitted bodice.
Don’ts: There aren’t any really (you lucky b*tch)! The hourglass is probably the easiest of all of the shapes to dress, as it’s possible to tailor all styles to suit. However ball gown or empire-waist silhouette may make you look disproportioned.
Characteristics: Sleek and slender shoulders with a chest that is unevenly matched by proportionally larger hips. Any weight gained will find its way to your hips, bum and thighs.
Famous Folk: Some famous celebs that share the pear look are the bootylicious Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera!
Do’s: For those larger sized pears and for any pear who isn't particularly comfortable with their figure, dresses which camouflage the hips and bum are ideal. princess and fairytale skirts fall into this category. In terms of bodice style, it comes down personal preference. Anything that enhances the bust, adds definition to the waist and adds to the illusion of length will flatter the most.
Don’ts: A column dress won’t be the most flattering choice for a pear, but for all of those who are proud of their big hips, a dress with a mermaid skirt will certainly accentuate this feature - if it’s accompanied by detailing around the bust area however, it will help to create balance.
The Inverted Triangle
Characteristics: Slender hips and proportionately broader shoulders, often accompanied by a full bust. If you are familiar with excess weight, it’s likely to be carried on the upper half of your body.
Famous Folk: The buxom Jessica Simpson, and the more slender Hollywood superstar Demi Moore are just two of the famous folk who possess an inverted triangle body type.
Do’s: When it comes down to choosing a Wedding dress, the best bet is to go for something that adds balance to your shape - a close fitted bodice accompanied by an princess or fairytale skirt is a prime example. Going for this kind of mix will create enviable cleavage, but also emphasise the definition between your waist and your shoulders and create the illusion of bigger hips. A dress featuring a princess line will help to balance your upper body without overly emphasising the waist, and an empire line top will create a beautifully, elegant silhouette. A dress with a column profile will maximise your natural shape.
Don’ts: A dress with a bias cut profile is probably not your best choice.
Characteristics: Athletic with bust and hips of approximately the same width. You have little or no waist definition. Any weight gain is distributed evenly throughout your frame. Because of your wide waist you might appear heavier on top than you really are, even if your stomach is flat.
Famous Folk: Cameron Diaz, Nicole Kidman, Hilary Duff, Sheryl Crow, Rachel Hunter to name but a few!
Do’s: Your main goal should be to create the illusion of a waist on your figure and add more width to your upper and lower parts, thus transforming your body into an hourglass shape. A fitted bodice and a fairytale or princess line dress will achieve this perfectly. Enhance your toned arms and shoulders by opting for a v-neck or halter neck that will elongate your torso at the same time.
Don’ts: An empire-line, column or sheath dress will only emphasise your straight-up-and-down figure so be sure to avoid these at all costs.
TIP: If you’re struggling to attribute your shape to one of those detailed above, you may want to consider speaking to an image consultant who will be able to help ‘categorise’ you. This service is normally offered alongside colour consultancy (great if you can’t decide between white and ivory), so why not make a day of it with the girls and get some invaluable advice that will last long after your big day!
Once you’ve established your body type, the next thing to decide on is the overall profile. The profile is the silhouette or outline of your dress and there are only a few main types:
Fitted through the bodice with an a-line skirt.
This is the most popular style of dress because its suits everyone and flatters women of all body shapes. It hugs the waist, so it creates the illusion of a slimmer waistline. If you have wider hips, a princess dress will hide them effectively and if you have narrower hips the defined waistline and the flare of the skirt combine to give you shape.
Although the princess dress flatters the bustline, if you are a little smaller up top it will be more flattering if you add a little padding to balance the look. This can be with secretive padding (á la the trusty chicken fillet) or a good bra. A heavy bust will need decent support - often this is already built in to the bodice, but if not then a boned corset is a must.
BIG! Lots of volume and a fitted bodice. Think Cinderella at the ball. (Hence why it’s also known as the ballgown!)
If you’re lucky enough to have slim-hips and a big bust then, the fullness of the skirt will balance top and bottom perfectly, giving you that "fairytale bride" look. This and the princess are generally thought of as the most romantic shapes. But be warned the fairytale certainly comes with its fair share of challenges. Let’s just say you’d better be really close to your bridesmaids because you’re gonna need some help tending to your bodily functions throughout your big day, and hauling the weight of the dress around will be exhausting!
Avoid the Fairytale dress if you have a small bust, as you will only look smaller. Petite ladies should avoid this option too because you will disappear into the dress! This style dress will only emphasise wide hips, so pear-shaped ladies should opt for the princess style instead.
Fitted bodice with a virtually straight skirt. This style can be soft and floaty (think Grecian goddess) or quite structured. (Also known as the sheath.)
The column dress hugs the figure and looks great if you are tall and slim. However it also works well on more petite women. If executed correctly this dress will give you that just-stepped-off-the-catwalk look!
The column shape sits quite close to the body, and will tend to emphasise wider hips. Some styles can be quite clingy so choose your under garments carefully – lumps, bumps and the dreaded VPL are never a good look!
Empire Line Dress
Fitted under the bust with an unstructured waist so that it falls virtually straight to the ground or flares slightly into an a-line style.
A more informal and romantic style popular for beach weddings. The body of the dress falls from beneath the bustline, which is perfect for those with a small bust and broad waist. The overall effect makes petite brides look taller.
But... tall brides will look even taller. Avoid this dress if you are busty as you will only look larger and unbalanced.
Tightly fitted through the body and flared from the mid thigh or knee. (Also known as the fishtail.)
The mermaid shape is ideal for curvy hourglass ladies. If you have balanced hip and bust measurements - this dress will bring out the Marilyn Monroe in you. If you are after Hollywood glamour, this is dress nails it!
Be careful if you are slightly fuller through the hips and bottom as this style will only emphasise the ‘junk in your trunk’. Avoid the mermaid completely if you have a rectangle, apple, or pear-shaped figure.
TIP: Make sure you can sit down in your dress before you walk down the aisle, you don’t want to spill out of it during the reception!
Now your body type and preferred silhouette is sorted, you can choose your neckline.
The most popular style, this is the perfect look for the right girl.
Flatters: this is a pretty and romantic neckline, forming a natural heart shape and giving you a sweet and innocent look. It also works with larger busts as a sexier style, showing a hint of cleavage.
Falters: the sweetheart style exposes a central panel of neck, so if this is not your best feature, you may want to look at alternatives such as a halterneck. Alternatively, a sweetheart can lend you the romantic look you seek, with a pretty item of jewellery as an accessory to improve the look of your neck.
This is probably second-most popular after sweetheart.
Flatters: a long neck, good shoulders and well-toned arms. A strapless dress is the perfect opportunity to display beautiful jewellery. Strapless looks good with a medium bust.
Falters: don't leave everything uncovered unless it looks great - there are plenty of other styles to hide shorter necks, square shoulders or full arms. If you have a very full bust, strapless may not be able to give you the support you will need throughout the day.
A strapless shaped curve, but not as low cut as the sweetheart and is good for hiding fleshy underarms if cut quite high.
Flatters: any bust size; bigger girls can enjoy a low cut without showing too much cleavage providing that it is not too tight, and smaller busts are flattered by the soft curved shape.
Falters: larger busted ladies may require additional support and will need to avoid boobs spilling out of the top, but otherwise this is a great all-rounder.
Assymetrical or one-shoulder
Increasingly popular, the assymetrical dress offers a twist on the more common strapless varieties.
Flatters: beautiful shoulders and slender toned arms. Can provide subtle (and reassuring) support for a slightly larger bust.
Falters: very full busts should avoid this style, much the same as they should avoid the strapless options. If your neck, shoulders and arms are not your best feature this style will only accentuate them.
Halter neck dresses are less common but can look fantastic.
Flatters: beautiful shoulders and well-toned arms, while the elongated neck line makes you look taller if you are petite. There are many different variations of the halterneck style; collar with straps, single strap wrapping round the back of the neck, covered or exposed V to the bust. A halterneck style can also hide that little underarm "pouch" that we are sometimes prone to!
Falters: a halterneck top may over-emphasise your upper body if you have a larger bust, (but on a positive note it will provide good support). It will also emphasise your hips - so if you have larger ones, avoid this style.
Stunning if you have a little cleavage to flaunt, and provides an opportunity to emphasise pretty jewellery.
Flatters: particularly complimentary if you have a larger bust and would like a little (tasteful) cleavage. Smaller to medium busts can be uplifted and padded, so make sure you have a good bra to emphasise what you have (or haven’t) got. The angle of the v-line varies and may be on or off the shoulder, so expose beautiful shoulders but cover them up if they are angular.
Falters: very small busts, as it may draw attention to this.
Spaghetti straps create a frame for a pretty neck and minimise big shoulders.
Flatters: well-toned arms, and beautiful shoulders and neck. These have a young and modern look and are very attractive. Use a strapless or stick-on bra so there are no distractions.
Falters: angular shoulders or large arms – so keep them covered up. Spaghetti straps also emphasise the neck, so be sure it looks good if you choose them. You can also use a necklace effectively to compliment the straps. If you are heavy busted then opt for a thicker strap as thin ones can create an unsightly red mark.
With a pretty neck and collarbones this can be truly gorgeous!
Flatters: well-defined collarbones and a beautiful neck. Also good for narrow shoulders. This style was made popular by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Falters: if your neck is not your best feature, the Boat may not show you in your best light. If your shoulders are broad, keep away from the Boat as it will draw attention to them. If your bust is large, the Boat neckline will make it look bigger.