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Your Perfect Guide to Everything Dresses

Dresses and Women's Attire

Updated on: Feb 24, 2024

If you aren’t someone who dresses up often, all the terms used to discuss dresses can be a bit intimidating. But don’t worry! We have compiled a guide to everything dresses with the essentials of wedding dress information so that you can navigate dress shopping with ease.

Guide to Everything Dresses: Finding Your Fabrics

Although it may seem like the most complicated part, the fabric is actually quite easy to get the hang of! Different fabrics are going to lay differently, so it’s important to know that the fabric used will vary depending on the shape of the dress.

Additionally, the temperature and location of the event may play a role in the fabric you choose. The lighter and more airy the fabric, the cooler you will feel. This can be great for warm weather, but not as great for cold temperatures. Now that you have an idea of what makes fabric important, here are the main dress fabrics:

1. Satin

Satin is the shiny material many women prefer for their wedding dresses and prom dresses because it is sexy and eloquent. It is a type of thick, glossy, and shimmering silk, but is usually much cheaper than silk. Keep in mind that satin does tend to shrink, so it may not be best for hot or humid weather.

2. Silk

Silk as mentioned above is a more expensive material. It is also a preferred fabric used for bridal dresses and is often used in a blend with other materials. These blends often include charmeuse and organza, as well as the previously mentioned satin. Each blend varies in value and shine.

3. Chiffon

Chiffon is a light and flowing fabric. One layer of chiffon is see-through, so it is often layered. This material is both stylish and comfortable, so it’s a great fabric for evening gowns. Chiffon and lace wedding dresses are beautiful gowns.

4. Lace

Lace is often used as decoration on the neckline or sleeves, so it probably won’t be the sole fabric in a gown. Occasionally, lace is used as a dress train or an embellishment on the veil. Lace can add a very vintage and classy feel to the dress.

5. Tulle

Tulle is a transparent mesh fabric typically found on veils and is also used to fluff up the skirt of a gown. In order to create the bell shape Princess-style dresses, the skirt is designed with a large amount of tulle underneath.

Guide to Everything Dresses: Learning the Lingo

Now that you know the various fabrics, you will most likely have some questions about other common dress terms. This is not an exhaustive list, but it contains some of the most important ones!

6. Mermaid

Mermaid style refers to a tight dress that hugs the body until it flares out at the knee. It is form-fitting and gorgeous. Sleeves or no sleeves, everything goes. This style offers a beautiful silhouette for photos.

7. Trumpet

A similar style of dress design that flares out gradually starting from mid-hip to hem is known as the trumpet style.

8. Drop Waist

The dress is styled so that the waist appears lower than it actually is. Typically, these wedding dresses or evening gowns have a waistline that actually stops at mid-thigh to make you appear longer-bodied. It’s also taken in a bit at your natural waistline to show the contours of your body. Mermaid and trumpet are two styles of drop-waist dresses.

9. Sheath

Sheath is a tightly fitting dress that hugs your body without clinging to it. Typically, it’s straight-lined so that it will fit more body types.

10. Empire

Empire refers to a high waistline that is right below the bust line. The rest of the dress flows down from there to the hem.

11. A-Line

A-line is fitted from the shoulders to the hips, where it widens to the hem. No pockets or slits are usually designed on this dress style as it could affect the drape of the dress. Such a beautiful and comfortable dress to wear. Sweetheart, A-line lace wedding dresses are a beautiful way to show off the shoulders and neck lines.

12. Ballerina

Ballerina refers to dresses that open up at the end just above the ankle line.

13. Basque Waist

Common to ballerina-style dresses and ball gowns, the basque waist is typically a V shape, though it can also be a U. This is where the bodice ends to make room for the skirt, which is usually a different material. Many times this will be a corset with its boning frame design.

14. Dolman

The Dolman also called bat sleeve, this sleeve type is traditionally attached to the bodice until the elbow and tapers down to the wrist. Now, it also refers to open, flowing sleeves, such as the sleeves in the photo below.

15. Bell Sleeves

Bell sleeves are Renaissance-style sleeves that fit tightly until the elbow and then flare out to the wrist.

Guide to Everything Dresses: Know Your Necklines

The neckline of a dress can have a big difference in your overall look. There are plenty of necklines to choose from, so finding the one that looks best on you might be a difficult task. This list will help you familiarize yourself with different necklines before you even try them on. Save yourself some time while shopping by taking note of which ones you’d love to try or which ones you’d rather avoid.

16. Strapless

These dresses have no straps and can come in a sweetheart shape, a scoop, or straight across. This neckline is great if you want to show off your shoulders, and they pair great with a statement necklace.

17. V-Neck

The well-known V-neck refers to one with a neckline that dips into a “V” shape. These are easy to find, and they’re great for when you don’t want too much attention on your bust line. They’ll show more cleavage, but they have a great shape.

18. Scoop

The scoop is a U-shaped neckline. It will look great on a bride and a flower girl alike, and you’ll be able to find this classic shape in any bridal salon. The scoop can give the illusion of being larger chested.

19. Halter

A halter neckline has straps that meet behind the neck instead of on the back of the dress. Halter necklines usually have an open back, which can help to show off your shoulders but also offset the look of broader shoulders.

20. Off The Shoulder

Off-the-shoulder dresses have straps that go around the sides of the shoulders instead of over the shoulders. They’re great for highlighting your neck and collarbones.

21. Bateau (Boat Neck)

The Bateau neckline beautifully enunciates the line of the collarbone to gently cover the tops of each shoulder. It is a higher collar that usually shows only a glimpse of the collarbone

Guide to Everything Dresses: Try it on for Size

When you start trying on dresses, the most important thing you want to do is find a dress that makes you shine. One of the ways in which people do this is to pick a traditionally flattering dress for their body type.

We have included a list of tips on how to pick a dress based upon body type—however, the dress you choose is completely up to you! These are only assistance ideas and tips to provide you a place to start. Finding a dress you love is your only goal!

22. Pear-Shaped

If you have a more pear-shaped body, any A-line dress will help to emphasize your natural waist while bringing attention up towards your face. Adornments on the bodice of the dress will also help to draw the eye upward and make you look stunning all at once.

23. Apple-Shaped

While a trumpet or mermaid style dress will draw attention to the widest parts of an apple-shaped body, an empire or A-line waist dress can smooth out your natural waistline and create the appearance of a longer torso. Additionally, V-shaped necklines are a great choice as they draw attention inward for a narrower look.

24. Petite or Small Bust

Empire waistlines give the effect of being taller and longer bodied and trumpet dresses can accentuate your natural slimness. If you’re after a curvier look, opt for a ruched neckline over a deep neckline to create a curvier shape.

25. Big-Busted/Curvy

If you’re curvy and blessed with a larger chest, flaunt it with a scooped neckline or a V-neck to draw the eye to your bust. If you’re looking to draw attention away from your chest, an A-line dress will be your best bet.

Guide to Everything Dresses: How to Have the Best Wedding Dress Shopping Experience

Engaged with the person of your dreams?! Check! Started to plan your wedding?! Check! Found a wedding dress?! No check? If you have yet to find a wedding dress or do not know where to start looking for a dress, don’t stress! Easy Event Planning has provided tips on how to have the best wedding dress shopping experience and what questions to ask when scheduling your appointment.

The tips below consist of things you can do before you begin shopping at physical wedding dress stores, such as research to do about dresses and questions to ask bridal salons. The more information you can gather about wedding dress styles and the salons you are considering shopping at, the smoother your appointment will go! We want to make finding the dress of your dreams an enjoyable and memorable experience!

Plan Ahead

Allow yourself time! It would be best if you planned to start looking for wedding dresses at bridal salons at least six months before your wedding. You need to allow time for not only the dress to come in but time for alterations.

After initial adjustments, you may need to come in a few more times to make sure everything fits perfectly! This means that you should start researching gowns online or looking at bridal magazines prior to six months. It is never too early to begin doing this! Research should include looking at what local or non-local bridal salons you want to shop at, too!

Look at the different styles of wedding dresses when researching them! Ball gowns are dresses with tight bodices, defined waistlines, and a full skirt. Princess dresses have a defined waistline under the bust that flows outwards into a skirt.

Empire dresses fit close to the body until the hip where it flows straightly; sheath dresses fit close to the body; mermaid dresses fit close to the body until the knee where it flows outward. Trumpet gowns are suited close to the body until the mid-thigh, where it flows outward. Look into these bridal dress styles that you like the most!

It will help your consultant if you bring in pictures of a dress that you either like or can imagine yourself wearing! This will help them to narrow down a great variety. You can find these pictures online or in magazines. Purchase one copy or subscription of bridal magazines soon after you get engaged. This will give you ample time to decide what styles and dresses you like for yourself!

Make your bridal appointment early in the day! It is best to make an appointment at bridal shops early in the day so that you have a consultant who has plenty of time to devote to you. Knowing you have most of the day reduces the stress of feeling rushed to find your dress!

Guide to Everything Dresses: Questions to Ask When Scheduling Your Appointment

Do you offer any type of discounts or promotions?

Many bridal shops and boutiques will offer deals if you purchase accessories from the salon to go along with the dress. There also might be some sales going on for dresses! If you are on a budget, looking at the dresses on the sale rack is a great idea.

Do you carry dresses and formal attire for bridesmaids, flower girls, for the mothers of the bride and groom?

Why not get it all in one place? Most bridal salons should be able to provide you with options for evening gowns and other types of formal attire for women. If the salon does have these dresses, make sure you schedule appointments for these dresses on a different day and time than shopping for your wedding dress! Shopping for your wedding dress should be a day devoted to just you!

What major brand of wedding dresses do you have?

Find out ahead of time if the salons you are considering shopping at carry the designer that you love! This could make or break the salon you choose to shop for dresses at.

Does the salon do dress alterations? If so, what is the fee?

Find out if alterations are available through the store or if the store recommends someone who does revisions. Asking about the prices of adjustments, if the salon does do them, is also essential! We know affordability plays a huge role in finding your perfect wedding dress, including alterations.

How many guests are allowed to accompany me to a fitting?

Even if the tailor shop does not have a limit to the number of guests you can bring with you, it may be a good idea to only bring a few family members, friends, etc. for the fitting. You do not want to have too many people giving you too much feedback, so bring people whose opinions matter to you!

What is your cancellation policy?

Sometimes situations happen where you cannot make your appointment or do not want the dress you will purchase from a salon. Make sure you know what your shop’s cancellation policies are before you decide to make any decisions!

Dresses and Women's Attire: Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed our guide to everything dresses and that you now feel more confident to take on this shopping experience! Trying on wedding gowns should be fun! Having the feeling of knowing a dress you try on is the one that will make all the research and time spent on finding the perfect dress all worth it! If you need insight on anything else involving planning your wedding, check out more of Easy Event Planning’s blogs! Check out our articles to help you find vendors whether you are dress shopping online, bridesmaid dresses, women's attire, dress codes, flower girl dresses, and many more!

Written by Brittney Casad, Annette Girloin, Lauren Hendricks, Emily Palermo, Vanessa Marsocci, Natalie Davidson and Anna Wertman; Contributors: Amy Chiang, Amber N. Vachon and June Park