YOU WANT TO FIND THE DRESS—the one that makes you look and feel like everything you’ve ever imagined. Heck, the average woman spends approximately $1,200 on her wedding dress (and many, many women spend much, much more than that!), making this not only a huge investment in a piece of clothing, but also, for many women, a large chunk of the wedding budget. Needless to say, it’s important to get this right!
While flipping through magazines is a great way to garner inspiration, just as jeans and blouses may look great on mannequins in store windows, but not quite right on your body, wedding dresses, too, may look beautiful on a model in a magazine or on a hanger in a store, yet not on your body. It’s all about finding the right dress for you—your body, your skin tone, your taste, your budget, and your personality. Here are the most popular wedding dress silhouettes to help you navigate an overly saturated wedding dress market that can be overwhelming at best and panic-attack provoking at its worst.
But just remember, these are only guidelines, so take it all with a grain of salt as you tap into your inner seven-year-old and relish in playing dress-up. You’ll know you’ve found your perfect dress when you try it on and feel like a million bucks. Here, Alexis Wolfer in her new book Radiant Bride (2016: Running Press; $22) breaks down the different wedding gowns silhouettes and helps you find a shape that best suits you:
With a flare beginning at your natural waist line, this universally flattering style slightly hugs your torso before flaring out in a shape reminiscent of the letter A. It’s especially great for women who don’t want a full-on ball gown but nevertheless want to slightly conceal their hips/thighs/bum, while still showing off their upper body. If you feel overwhelmed with the options or lost as to what you want, this is a pretty safe place to start your search.
Celebrity Inspiration: Kate Middleton, Jennifer Lopez, Ivanka Trump, Jewel
If you want to show off your chest or really conceal your waist, try an empire style. With a fitted chest and a skirt that begins to flare from right under the bustline, this is not only one of the most forgiving dress styles, but also one of the most customizable since the shape of the flare can vary from relatively straight to A-line, allowing you to control how much of a gown you’re up for. This is also the ideal style if you’re pregnant since it easily accommodates a growing bump.
Celebrity Inspiration: Liv Tyler, Jennifer Garner
With a bodice fitted like the A-line but paired with a very full, dramatic skirt, this style is ideal if you’re self-conscious about your large bust, since it not only draws the eye down, but also bal-ances out typically top-heavy proportions. It’s also great for women really wanting to have their princess moment.
Celebrity Inspiration: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Kim Kardashian
If you have curves and don’t want to hide them (you shouldn’t!), the mermaid dress is for you. Fitted throughout the bodice and flaring out at the knee (or lower), the mermaid dress is form-fitting throughout and oh so sexy. It’s not, however, very forgiving. If you’re on the shorter side, have the flare begin just above the knee to elongate your silhouette.
Celebrity Inspiration: Brooklyn Decker, Mariah Carey, Hilary Duff
Similar in shape to the mermaid, but both less dramatic and more flattering for many, the trumpet gown shows off your chest, waist, and hips with a body-skimming shape, before flaring out just below the hips.
Celebrity Inspiration: Fergie, Beyoncé
This slim, straight style typically skims the body from chest to hips before falling straight to the floor. This is especially flattering for women with an athletic build or those not feeling the princess look.
Celebrity Inspiration: Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Kate Moss
For brides getting married beachside, a short dress can be the practical choice, although it’s also great for brides getting hitched in-land looking for more dancing freedom (or just to show off those toned legs!). It’s also become a popular choice for brides looking to change their outfits either between the ceremony and the reception or between the reception and the after party. Just be sure two dresses are really in your budget before getting your heart set on a midnight outfit change.
Celebrity Inspiration: Cindy Crawford, Yoko Ono, Keira Knightley
Yup, I said it: Just because everyone is telling you to wear a wedding gown, they’re not for everyone and your wedding is yours! Hate dresses? Don’t wear one! For a still bride-like-look, wear wide leg pants in white or ivory or take inspiration from Olivia Palermo and wear tailored shorts with a sheer skirt overlay.
Celebrity Inspiration: Ellen DeGeneres, Olivia Palermo
ALEXIS WOLFER is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular online women’s magazine TheBeautyBean.com as well as a beauty, fashion, and lifestyle expert. Alexis’s unique and effective beauty secrets led Access Hollywood to dub her the “Female Beauty MacGyver” and People Stylewatch to call her “The DIY Beauty Queen.” She is also a certified holistic health coach and the author of The Recipe For Radiance: Discover Beauty’s Best-Kept Secrets In Your Kitchen. She currently lives in Los Angeles.