Wedding Dresses & Wedding Dress Jargon

Finding it hard to translate bridal gown/ wedding dress terminology? Who thought it would be so difficult! Check out our list to help you speak fluently with your wedding dressmaker or designer…


Brocade: An intricately woven heavier fabric with raised designs.

Charmeuse: Lightweight, semi-lustrous soft fabric.

Chiffon: Delicate, sheer, and transparent — made from silk or rayon, with a soft finish — often layered because of its transparency.

Damask: Similar to brocade with raised designs, but lighter weight.

Illusion: Fine net fabric; used on sleeves or necklines.

Linen: Very light, easily wrinkles.

Organza: Crisp and sheer like chiffon, but with a stiff texture.

Satin: Smooth, tightly woven fabric with a high sheen on one side. Very common in bridal gowns.

Silk: A traditionally more expensive fabric. Strong, elegant, now available in less expensive blends

Shantung: Similar to raw silk, it has a rough texture with irregular “nubbies” throughout fabric.

Taffeta: Crisp and smooth, with a small crosswise rib; often made from manmade fabrics

Tulle: Open-weave net made of silk, nylon, or rayon, this is used primarily for underskirts and veils (think ballerina tutus).

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They’re often used on the dress itself, as well as on the veil or headpiece. There are tons to choose from, but here are some of the most popular:

Alencon: Needlepoint lace with designs in deep relief on sheer net.

Chantilly: Scrolls and floral designs on fine mesh, often with scalloped edges.

Duchesse: Floral designs with a lot of raised work; has an all-over effect, with irregularly shaped spaces between designs.

Honiton: An English lace similar to Duchesse.

Schiffli: Delicate floral embroidery; machine-made.

Venise: Heavy needlepoint lace with floral sprays, foliage, or geometric designs.

Spanish: A flat design of roses on a net background; used to make mantilla veils.

Venetian point: Heavy needlepoint lace with floral sprays or foliage.

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Ankle length: Barely reveals the ankles, slightly shorter than floor length.

Floor length: Hemline falls 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches from the floor.

Tea length : Hemline falls several inches above the ankles.

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Silhouette refers to the outline of the dress, or the overall style.

A-Line: Fits many body types as the waist isn’t as severe as a ball gown silhouette. Two vertical seams follow the A shape, starting from the shoulders and falling to the skirt which then flares out.

Ball gown: A tight, fitted bodice and definite waistline with a very full skirt. When you think bridal gown, this is probably what you think of.

Empire: Characterized by a very high waist (right under the bust); the skirt is fairly slim.

Mermaid: A very slim-fitting dress that ends in a little fishtail skirt.

Sheath: Not unlike the mermaid, this very modern style is form-fitting, often ending with a flare at the bottom

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An extension of the wedding dress that starts at the waist. Some dresses come with trains that are detachable.

Sweep: The shortest train, it extends back 8 to 12 inches after touching the floor.

Chapel: Extends 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet from the waist.

Semi-cathedral: Extends 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet from the waist.

Cathedral: Extends 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 feet from the waist.

Extended Cathedral/Monarch: Extends 12 feet (or more) from the waist. (Think Princess Di whose train was 25 feet!)

Note: If your dress does not have a detachable train, you will need to bustle it so you can move around freely at the reception. This entails pulling the train up and attaching it to your dress by tiny hooks sewn into the back of the gown and the train.

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Usually made from such fabrics as tulle or lace, veils may or may not have a section to cover the face.

Blusher: A short veil worn over the face. After the ceremony, it is turned back over the headpiece. The blusher can often be attached to a longer veil or a hat.

Fly-away: Multiple layers of veiling that brush the shoulders; usually worn with informal, ankle-length dresses, but this style is becoming more and more popular with all kinds of gowns.

Fingertip: Several layers of veiling that extend to the fingertips.

Ballet/Waltz: Falls to the ankles; this is also becoming popular, in simple, multiple layers.

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Cap: The shortest of sleeves, it traditionally covers the shoulder only. However, off-the-shoulder dresses will often incorporate a small cap sleeve.

Fitted: Very close to the arm, no excess material.

Juliet fitted: A tightly fitted sleeve with a small pouf at the shoulder.

Leg o’ Mutton: Very full at the shoulder, the sleeve remains full until it narrows to become very fitted at the forearm.

Poet: A very, very full, pleated sleeve.

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There are many variations of these necklines, however, these are the basics.

Boat (bateau): Straight across shoulders with a slight dip in front

Band: Like a mock turtleneck, this high neckline circles the neck.

Decolletage: A revealing, deep, plunging neckline.

Halter: A la Marilyn Monroe, the neckline scoops in front and ties behind the neck, leaving your arms bare.

Jewel: A high neckline which follows the natural shape of your shoulders and neck.

Square: Forms a half-square around the neck.

Sweetheart: Heart shaped, often seen on strapless gowns; there are many variations of this look.