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One of the major items on your wedding checklist is finding the dress. Shopping for a bridal gown is a bit like learning a foreign language. You have silhouettes to learn, necklines to choose and what feels like hundreds of variations of white. As you start flipping through images of dresses, take some time to learn the basics. Here's a comprehensive summary of each of the standard gown silhouettes: 

This shape is easy to remember because its name says it all. This style dress will start with a bodice top, then flare out from the natural waist to form the shape of an uppercase A. One variation on this is the modified A-line. The flare begins at the hips rather than the waist, but the shape is maintained. This dress is popular because it flatters every body type. 

Ball gown
When you think of a fairy tale princess dress, this is what you are imagining. Ball gowns hug the bodice and poof out at the waist, creating a very full skirt. This dress is standard as it complements most body types. However, petites should choose another style, as the ball gown may be too much for a small frame. Ball gowns are perfect for the bride who wants a traditional wedding. 

Wedding dress silhouettes 101

As you get a hang of these dress silhouettes, you'll start to notice that their names are very informative. A mermaid gown fits the body from the neckline down to the knees. From there it flares outward to the hem, just like a mermaid's tail. This dress is great for hourglass figures as it shows off your natural curves in a dramatic way. 

The trumpet dress is similar in shape to the mermaid, but with a few differences. Instead of flaring at the knee, it opens at about mid-hip. When you look at the silhouette, it is akin to the mouth of a trumpet instrument. This cut is somewhere between the modified A-line and the mermaid. Trumpet dresses accentuate the waist and hips and thus looks great on both hourglass and petite figures.

This is the simplest of dress silhouettes, as it has a straight skirt and no waistline. It fits snuggly against the body and is good for women who like to show off their frames. Generally, a sheath dress is flattering on slim figures such as petites and athletic builds. This dress frequently comes in soft silky fabrics and is great for destination weddings.