Before embarking on the search for your wedding gown, you should familiarise yourself with the various terms to maximise your time in the bridal boutiques.



White, floor length, ruffled mermaid dress by the Marchesa Mermaid dress by Marchesa

A figure-hugging silhouette which flares just below the knee and is flattering to the female figure, this style is considered quite glamourous. Best suited to hourglass or rectangle shapes, this style gown hugs your figure.

Ball Gown

Tiered, white, floor length ball gown by Monique Lhuillier Ball gown by Monique Lhuillier

The most traditional of styles, the ball gown features a tight bodice which flares out into a full skirt. The skirt can often be quite heavy with layers of material, such as tulle, underneath to help give the gown shape.


Sleek white, minimalist sheath dress by Stephanie Allin Sheath dress by Stephanie Allin

Also known as the column dress, these dresses are usually made from lighter fabrics such as chiffon or satin and hug your figure. Sleek and sexy, this style can help to elongate the figure.


Off shoulder white, floor length A-line dress by Jenny Packham A-line dress by Jenny Packham

Flattering to the majority of shapes, this style features a fitted bodice which flares out just below the waist, creating an A shape. Typically made with heavier fabrics to maintain the A shape.



Floor length light blush tulle dress by Elie Saab Tulle dress by Elie Saab

Lightweight and designed to bulk out a gown, tulle is a fine netting which can be used as an accent or to create a full skirt. This is most common in ballgown styles.


White floor length, off the shoulder satin dress by Caroline Castigliano Satin dress by Caroline Castigliano

A shiny fabric, satin is extremely popular in wedding dress designs. Heavier than silk but still smooth and bright, satin gives slightly more structure than a silk design. Different varieties are available including Poly Duchess Satin, Crepe Back Satin, and Charmeuse.


Fitted, floor length, white silk dress with lace cape sleeves by Anna Campbell Silk dress by Anna Campbell

Soft and smooth, silk is one of the most desired fabrics and often the most expensive also. Lavish and exquisite, it is available in a variety of different textures such as raw or Mikado.


Fitted, semi sheer, white, floor length lace dress by Zuhair Murad Lace dress by Zuhair Murad

Undeniably elegant and popular throughout time, lace lends a certain grace and romance to any dress. Available in a multitude of variations including Chantilly, Guipere or Alencon to name a few, the options are endless.



White Tea-length with keyhole back dress Alex Veil Bridal Tea-length dress Alex Veil Bridal

The ideal length for shoe lovers, tea-length gowns should just skim your shins and are the perfect excuse for a pair of show-stopper shoes. This is the perfect length for brides hoping for a vintage touch.


White, lace, plunge neckline floor-length dress by Limor Rosen Floor-length dress by Limor Rosen

The most popular length for wedding gowns, the hem falls to the ground on each side of the skirt. Perfect for both column style gowns and those with a fuller skirt, the floor-length gown is flattering for all shapes and sizes.


White knee-length dress with tulle ruffle bottom by Rime Arodaky, a white jacket is worn open over the dress Knee-length dress by Rime Arodaky

For brides who want to show a bit of leg, knee-length is ideal for weddings abroad or perfect for you ladies with a killer set of pins. Slightly more casual, this is the perfect length for those who dare to bare.


Silver beaded, Midi-length dress by Naeem Khan Midi-length dress by Naeem Khan

If the big white wedding isn’t your thing, the midi length which falls just below your knees is the perfect solution for a chic and sleek bride. This is ideal for those who want something less restricting for dancing at their reception.



White, floor length fitted dress with ruffled bustle by Ines di Santo Ruffled dress by Ines di Santo

Romantic and elegant, layers of cascading ruffles add a feminine touch to any gown. Girlish and gorgeous, ruffles add that extra dimension to your wedding dress giving that beautiful swishing movement as you walk.


White, floor length, tiered dress with red, blue, purple and green floral embroidery on the bodice by Monique Lhuillier Embroidered dress by Monique Lhuillier

Adding a new element of design to bridal gowns, colourful embroidery or stitching offers a cute alternative to traditional styles. This popular trend was seen everywhere in collections this year from Monique Lhuillier and Marchesa to Stephanie Allin.


Floor length, sleeveless, powder pink dress, with right leg slit and plunge neckline by Marchesa Coloured dress by Marchesa

Although still popular, the traditional white wedding is being upstaged by an assortment of pretty colours. From understated blush tones to pretty blues and greens, inject some colour into your wedding day for a modern take on your gown. Look to bridal powerhouse Vera Wang for inspiration here.


White, floor-length dress with silver circular embellishments and sweetheart neckline by Naeem Khan Embellished dress by Naeem Khan

For a dramatic effect, opt for sparkling appliques to dazzle your guests. From delicate beading to iridescent sequins, embellishments lend a glamourous touch. For an embellished gown, choose simple accessories to ensure they don’t compete with each other.


Cowl Neck

White, figure hugging, floor-length dress with cowl neck accentuating the back by Sabrina Motesem Cowl dress by Sabrina Motesem

An alternative to the halter neck, the cowl neck is a fresh approach which is flattering to a multitude of body shapes and bust sizes. This was the style worn by Pippa Middleton at the royal wedding where she first catapulted into the spotlight in her role of bridesmaid.

Back Detailing

White, floor-length dress with large bustles back detail and deep back v by Carolina Herrera Back detail dress by Carolina Herrera

Providing that “wow” moment when brides walk down the aisle, the detail in the back of a gown is increasingly becoming equally as important as the front. When exchanging your vows, a detailed back ensures something special to dazzle your guests. Princess Eugenie made many a headline at her nuptials last year when her dress was designed to show off her scoliosis scars from a back operation she underwent as a child.

Off the Shoulder

White, floor-length, satin, off the shoulder dress with knotted bodice details by Carolina Herrera Off the shoulder dress by Carolina Herrera

Perfect for showing off the décolletage, an off the shoulder design is pretty and feminine. The ideal option for the bold bride, an off the shoulder design is understated yet sensual and remains a constant throughout the collections.

Long Sleeves

White, fitted, floor-length dress with lace embellishments, plunge neckline and long sleeves by Rosa Clara Long sleeve dress by Rosa Clara

From lace to sheer, full-length sleeves bring a certain sophistication to wedding gowns without appearing frumpy. They also provide that extra bit of warmth for Irish brides on a cold winters day. From Pronovias to Oscar de la Renta, long sleeves were a prominent feature in this year’s collections.

Sweetheart Neckline

White, floor-length dress with petal embellishments, off the shoulder straps and a sweetheart neckline by Stephanie Allin Sweetheart dress by Stephanie Allin

Shaped like the top half of a heart, could there be a more romantic shape to incorporate into your gown? This particular neckline gives the illusion of a longer torso and an elongated neckline making it a flattering choice for many brides.

Plunging Necklines

White, fitted, lace floor-length dress with deep plunging neckline and plunging armpit slits by Limor Rosen Plunging neckline dress by Limor Rosen

The ever so bold v neckline is a popular choice in collections of late. When offset with a full skirt, the plunging neckline provides a lengthening effect as it draws the eye down, instantly giving the illusion of added height.


White, lace, floor-length, fitted dress with large circular train and spaghetti straps by Berta Train dress by Berta

This is the trailing part of the dress which traditionally is held by the bride’s attendants. This comes in an array of sizes from brush being the shortest, and then growing in length to court, chapel, cathedral and finally, royal. Royal trains extend eight metres and are reserved for the most formal of weddings as the vast aisle of the church or cathedral is required to accommodate the additional fabric.

Drop Waist

White, floor-length silk dress with deep sweetheart neckline, ruffled details and drop waist by Oscar de la Renta Drop waist dress by Oscar de la Renta

Creating a waistline at the mid hip, a drop waist is perfect for highlighting the figure of those who are tall and well proportioned. Petite brides are advised to steer clear of these designs as it will throw off your proportions.

Additional Terms

Bias Cut

White, floor-length simplistic dress, bias-cut by Suzanne Neville Bias-cut dress by Suzanne Neville

This is the technique used where fabric is cut on the diagonal, providing a more flattering silhouette. By cutting along the diagonal, the fabric utilizes the natural stretch in the material which allows the gown to emphasise the natural lines and curves of the body. It also prevents any seams in unwanted places which can draw attention to particular areas such as the stomach.



White, floor-length dress with deep plunging neckline, silver beaded details and bustle hook by Berta Bustle dress by Berta

A bustle is useful for brides who choose a long train on their dress. The train is scooped up and pinned to a hidden hook on the back of the gown so it doesn’t trail along the ground for the reception or get trampled on on the dancefloor. There are a variety of different bustles available to choose from to match your style of gown.

Illusion back/ neckline

White, floor-length floral applique dress with nude illusion keyhole back and tulle train at the small of the back by Oscar de la Renta Illusion dress by Oscar de la Renta

A popular design in gowns in recent years, an illusion neckline or back involves a sheer panel of fabric, often complete with delicate stitching or embellishments of some description.



White, sleeveless, shallow plunge corset dress with boning for structure by Suzanne Neville Boning dress by Suzanne Neville

This is a sturdy substance such as plastic which is stitched into some gowns, particularly strapless styles, to provide additional support and avoid the gown drooping. The corset-like design provides a snugger fit to give a more flattering look overall.