Of all the important decisions to make before the wedding day, choosing the perfect wedding dress is right up there with “finding the right person to marry.” Some women even know the type of wedding gown they want to wear before they choose their partner. But with so many options, how do you even start shopping for the right fit? If you’re looking for a way to narrow down the limitless sea of contenders, the first step is to choose dress styles by body type.
That’s not to say that you need to wear a certain type of dress to flatter your body, of course. There are exceptions to every rule, and you can certainly wear any style of dress you like. (It’s your wedding, after all–the one day where you and your partner are expected to call the shots!) But if you’re a little overwhelmed by all the shopping options, choosing categories of dresses that will flatter your body type is an easy way to shrink the amount of time it takes you to find the perfect fit.
Slender Upper Body; Generous Lower Body
You hear this body type described in many ways: The “triangle,” the “pear,” or the “cone.” But regardless of the label you give it, your body shape means you’re slender on top and you have amazing hips.
Since your lower body already has feminine curves that any dress will flatter, focus instead on drawing attention to the upper half of your body. Look for dresses with intricate or uniquely shaped necklines like one-shoulder or asymmetrical fashions. Wide-open necklines and strapless fashions are especially flattering. Bodices with lace or bead detailing will also show off your upper body. Your neck and shoulders are also great places to display bridal jewelry like ornate necklaces and dangling earrings.
If you feel too bottom-heavy when you look in a mirror, add some layers to the top half of your outfit. Think about cropped bridal cardigans, shawls, or wraps to complete your fashion statement; even if they’re not heavy, the added texture will balance your wedding day look.
Generous Upper Body; Slender Lower Body
Call it the “inverse triangle” or the “strawberry”; your body type shows off a muscular or well-endowed upper half. To draw people’s eyes to the other half of your body, look for wedding dresses with full, intricate skirts. V-shaped necklines help keep the line of sight moving across your whole body.
Wide bridal dresses with ruffled layers are perfect if you like the “princess for a day” bridal look. Otherwise, choose dresses with remarkable features near the bottom, like brightly colored or patterned fabric detailing. Keep the top half of your gown simple; your physical assets will show themselves off without too much help. Instead, if you want to get creative with accessories, look for the perfect, attention-catching pair of shoes.
Generous All-Around Body
The “circle”; the “apple”; the “full figure”; call it what you will, your body shape is round and graceful. If your first instinct is to cover as much skin as possible, realize that you have many more fashion options. Generous bodies look stunning when their best features are put on display. If you’re proud of your shapely calves, choose a dress that ends just below the knee and wear your favorite heels. If you love the curve of your neck, show it off with a strapless or halter neckline.
Since your body already has soft, feminine curves in the right places, look for dresses that add visual structure. Straight lines, either horizontal in the neckline or vertical in a corset-type bodice, do the trick nicely. A-line, empire waist, and strapless gowns all flatter a generous body.
Slender All-Around Body
Some folks call you a “rectangle,” a “ruler,” or even a “banana.” You’re slim and athletic looking with an all-around slender build. Since many designer dresses are designed for tall, thin supermodels, you’re starting with an advantage if you want to shop straight from the runway. While many dresses can swallow up your subtle curves, however, you might want to look for a dress that accentuates them.
Look for wedding dresses with round curves like sweetheart necklines, off-the-shoulder sleeves, and full skirts. High waists and mermaid cuts will give you a curvier silhouette. While you can show off your body nicely with a fitted sheath dress, you might want to accentuate any dress that’s too simple by adding some delicate details like lace trim or artistic jewelry.
If you’re one of the women who falls into the “hourglass” body category (generous chest and hips with a slender waist), you already know that most dresses look great on you; after all, most of them are designed with your curves in mind. However, a well-endowed chest can quickly become a pain in the try-on room. Look for dresses with sleeves or wide straps for support; otherwise, your bodice could sag and make you look like you have bad posture.
Stay away from dresses that are too tight or revealing. Even though you may be tempted to show off your body on your special day, you won’t have as much fun if you’re constantly worried about hiking up your neckline and sucking in your belly. Weddings are about creating beautiful memories with your friends and family; you can always wear something a little more risqué for your boudoir photo session.
Of course, even if your body is shaped like the Empire State Building (complete with King Kong hanging off the side), you don’t have to let it limit your bridal gown options. When you find a dress that makes you feel great, disregard all of the advice you’ve heard and take the gown home. Ultimately, wedding dress shopping is a lot like dating: there’s no shortage of rule books and advice out there (and a fair bit of it conflicting, too), but in the end only you can know for sure that you’ve finally found the one.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.