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Wedding Gown Terminology Defined

Holly Bowe

Wedding dress shopping should be fun and exciting, however if you don't know the terminology it can be a bit overwhelming.  The designers have their own language and as an outsider, it can be uncomfortable coming in as a newly engaged bride to a bridal store and understanding what the bridal consultant is saying. To avoid being overwhelmed, here are a few key terms that will make you feel like an expert at your bridal appointment.

Wedding Gown Silhouette

  • Ball gown: fitted waist and bodice, full skirt.
  • A-Line: A smaller version of the ballgown, this silhouette cinches the waist while gradually flowing  out to the hem
  • Modified A-Line: Fitted through the bodice and hips and gradually flares to the hem.  The skirt of a modified A-line gown fits closer to the body than a traditional A-line
  • Mermaid: Narrow shape that hugs your body to just above the knees and then flares out
  • Sheath: A narrow shape gown that flows straight down to the hem

Wedding Dress Necklines

  • High: high band collar; fits close to neck.
  • Sabrina/Bateau: gently follows the curve of the collarbone, almost to the tip of the shoulders.
  • Portrait: off-the-shoulder; extra fabric framing the neckline.
  • Jewel: round neckline at base of throat.
  • Queen Anne: rises high at the back of the neck; sculpts low to outline a bare yoke.
  • Sweetheart: shaped like the top half of a heart.

Gown Lengths & Trains

  • Short: above-the-knee length.
  • Knee-length: hem just covers the knees.
  • High-low: hem falls from slightly below the knee to ankle in the front; ankle to train-length in back.
  • Midcalf/ballet-length: hem reaches to center of the calf to ankle length.
  • Floor-length: hem fully skims the floor.
  • Sweep train: shortest train; extends back 8 to 12 inches after touching floor.
  • Chapel train: trails 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet from waist.
  • Semicathedral train: extends 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet from waist.
  • Cathedral: flows 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 feet from waist.
  • Extended cathedral/Monarch train: cascades 12 feet from waist.

At the end of the day this guide of wedding dress terms will hopefully help you walk into your bridal appointment with the ultimate level of confidence. You’re going to have a much better experience asking to try on an A-line gown with chapel train, than pointing to a sea of wedding gowns and asking to “try that gown in the corner”.