A Girl's Glossary of Wedding Dress Terms


Dress Features
Pick the basic dress style and then choose its components.
Pick the basic dress style and then choose its components.
©iStockphoto/Cafaphotos

Once you've chosen a basic dress style, the components, like the neckline, sleeves and hem length may vary.

Bodice and Neckline

  • Boat neck -- This style rests along the shoulder points, revealing the collar bone. It's also known as a bateau.
  • Cowl neck -- Loosely draped fabric, styled either high or low at the neck and bust characterize this component
  • Drop shoulder -- A look consisting of bands or sleeves that start below the curve of the upper arm
  • Halter -- The top is angled at a diagonal along the outer bust and neck to fasten behind the neck
  • Jewel -- A neckline that follows the curve at the base of the neck and does not include a collar
  • Portrait collar -- This drop-shouldered look consists of a folded, sometimes exaggerated collar
  • Sabrina -- This style is characterized by a straight neckline beginning well inside the curve of the shoulder
  • Scoop neck -- This neckline can be daring or modest with this component but ends in a curve instead of a point.
  • Spaghetti straps -- A neckline characterized by very slender, supportive straps at the shoulder
  • Square neck -- This neckline has a horizontal line across the front of the bodice terminating in sheer vertical straps or shaping on either side. Viewed from the front, it looks like a cutout in the shape of a square or rectangle.
  • Strapless -- As the name implies, this look leaves the shoulders bare. This style is supported by the structure of the bodice.
  • Sweetheart -- A component characterized by a curve over each breast to dip into a shallow or deep V like the top of a Valentine's heart.
  • V-neck -- This neckline is defined by the shape of a plunging or shallow letter V.

Hem Length

  • Ballerina -- At or just above the ankle
  • Floor -- Brushing the floor or slightly above
  • Hi-lo -- Also called an intermission hem, it hits at mid-calf in front and is floor length in back
  • Mini -- Above the knee
  • Street -- Just covering the knee
  • Tea -- Terminating a few inches above the ankle

Sleeves

  • Bell -- Snug to the elbow and then flaring to the wrist
  • Capped -- Very short, closely fitted and slightly rounded
  • Dolman -- Joined to the bodice above the elbow and tapering to the wrist. Also called a bat sleeve
  • Kimono -- Sleeves extending into the main column of the dress and lengthening deep and wide to the wrist
  • Puff -- Gathered or pleated at the shoulder. Depending on the amount of volume involved, can include: Juliet, bishop, leg-of-mutton, balloon, poet and pouf
  • Three-quarter length -- Terminating between the elbow and wrist
  • Tulip -- Overlapping fabric that creates a series of petal shapes