Bridal Gown / Wedding Dress Glossary -
Choosing the dress of your dreams is difficult enough, and there are so many dresses to choose from, knowing the proper terminology is the key to narrowing down the selection and choosing what best suits your figure.  You can search the term either by categories or alphabetically.



A-line skirt Flat across the front and gradually widening to a full hem, generally gathering to a train in back.
Alen鏾n A delicate floral or leaf design on a fine net background, outlined with heavy threads to define the pattern and add more dimension.
Ankle length Barely reveals the ankles, just a bit shorter than floor length.
Antebellum waist Natural waistline that dips 2 or 2 1/2 inches to a point in the center front.
Appliqu? Decoration created by attaching pieces of fabric or lace to the gown.
Apron Overskirt which joins in the back of the gown at the waist, but not at the hem.
Asymmetrical waist Begins at the natural waistline and falls to one side.


Ballet skirt Full skirt that reveals the ankle.
Ball gown A natural, basque, or dropped waistline and very full skirt
Ballerina length Hemline falls to just above the ankles.
Balloon sleeve Very large poufed sleeve extending from the shoulder to as far as the wrist.
Basque waistline Elongated waist, approximately 2 inches below the natural waist.  May dip to a point in the center front.
Bateau (or boat) neckline Generally forms a straight line across the shoulders, often dipping a bit in front.  May or may not reveal the shoulders.  Usually trimmed with lace.
Battenberg A heavy lace made with patterns of linen braid and tape connected with decorative linen stitching.
Bell sleeve Narrow at top, the sleeve is wet into a normal-sized armhole that flares at its bottom edge like a bell.
Bertha collar Nine to 18 inches of fabric or lace attached all around neckline (or yoke).  May or may not reveal the shoulders.
Bird cage Stiff, wide-mesh veil pinned to the crown of the head, covering the face and ears to just below the chin.
Bishop sleeve Gathered and full to the cuff (which may be elongated), but not as full as a poet sleeve.
Blouson Fabric is gathered just at or below the waist, creating a oft fullness.
Blusher veil A short, single veil worn forward to cover the bride's face as she enters the ceremony and worn pushed back afterward, attached to a longer veils.
Bouffant skirt Very full.
Brush train The shortest train, just a bit of extra length that brushes the floor.
Bubble skirt Attached to the lining at the hemline to create a very full effect.  May be used with any waist, can be any length, can even be a double-double.
Bustle Exaggerated gathering of fabric, or a gathering of fabric caught up with detail, at the back of the gown.
Bustier A bodice style which has no straps or sleeves. Many religious sites do not allow them and you will need to buy a coordinating jacket for your service. Also known as a Strapless or Corset


Cap sleeve Short, fitted sleeve, perhaps of lace, that barely covers the top of the arm.
Cathedral train Extending a full 2 1/2 yards from the waist.
Chantilly A web-like floral pattern on a lace background outlined with silk threads; soft to the touch.
Chapel train Falling about 2 yards (75 inches) from the waist.
Circular skirt Attached smoothly at the waist and falling to form a a complete circle at the hemline.
Court train Slightly shorter than chapel length.
Cut-outs See-through effect created by lace appliqu閟 with the fabric cut out beneath.
D閏olletage Plunging neckline that reveals cleavage.
Detached train Joined to the gown with hooks and eyes or velcro.  Usually full at top.
Details Small ornaments to the gown, such as bows, special beading or embroidery.
Dolman sleeve Joined with the bodice above the elbow.  Fullness tapers down to a fitted forearm.
Drop Waist A good waistline to help add height, this straight waistline falls 3 to 5 inches below the Natural Waist
Effect Term that describes impression created by designer's use of various details.
Empire A high waist that starts just beneath a fitted bodice and a slim skirt.
Empire waistline Skirt attached to the bodice just below the bustline.
Fingertip veil This term describes a tier of veiling that is approximately 29" to 42" in length.  It comes to your fingertips.
Fitted bodice Designed to hug the body. (Can be very restrictive and uncomfortable)
Fitted sleeve Traditional long sleeve with very little or no fullness.
Floor length Hemline falls just 1/2 or 1 1/2 inches from the floor.
Flounce A wide piece of fabric or lace, gathered and attached at the hem.
Fly-away Multi-layers that brush the shoulders, usually worn with an informal dress.
Full skirt Slightly less full than bouffant.


Gauntlet Wrist and arm covering of lace or fabric that replaces gloves.
Gibson sleeve Full at the shoulder, although more controlled that leg-o'-mutton, and fitted at the wrist.
Godet Triangular piece of fabric inserted into a seam to give fullness or shape.
Guipure A heavy lace designed to show large patterns over a coarse mesh background.


Half hat A small hat covering half or less of the crown.
Halo headpiece A fabric-and-wire band that circles the forehead (may be decorated with pearls, sequins, or flowers).
Halter neckline Fastens at the back of the neck, plunging down into a V-front, leaving the back bare.
Handkerchief hem A tea length skirt made of panels which end in points at the hem.


Illusion neckline A transparent panel or yoke attached to the bodice that extends from the bust to the collar; constructed of tulle, net, or lace.
Intermission or HI-LO Hemline falls to the mid-calf in front, floor length in back.


Jewel neckline Circles the natural neckline, usually not trimmed with lace.
Juliet cap A small cap that hugs the back of the head.
Juliet sleeve A long sleeve with a poufed top and fitted lower arm.


Leg-of-Mutton Sleeve Very full puff at the shoulder with a fitted forearm.
Lyon An intricate, ornamental design delicately stitched onto a net background; the pattern is outlined in silk or cotton.


Mantilla Lace-trimmed veiling that frames the face and is usually secured with a comb or hairpins.
Mermaid A body-hugging style with a skirt that flares at or just below the knee.
Mini length Skirt ends above the knees.  Some designs include detachable overskirts which may be removed for the reception.


Natural waistline Bodice and skirt of the gown join at the natural waist.


Panniers Exaggerated gathers, possibly supported by a cage, worn over the hips with a flat front.
Peek-a-boo sleeve Puff sleeve with different fabrics or skin showing through from beneath.
Peplum A short overskirt or flounce attached at the waist.
Picture hat A wide-brimmed hat usually decorated with lace, pearls, or sequins.
Pillbox A round, structured, brimless hat worn on the top of the head.
Poet sleeve Pleated at the shoulder line with fullness through the sleeve to the cuff.
Point D'esprit Oval or square dots woven in a pattern on net fabric.
Point sleeve Any long sleeve that ends below the wrist in a point of fabric or lace on the top of the hand.
Pouf Fabric of an overskirt caught up with lace, beading or ribbons.
Pouf veil Short, gathered veiling attached to a headpiece, usually worn with an informal dress.
Pouf sleeve A short, full and gathered sleeve; can be worn on or off the shoulder.
Portrait neckline Wraps around the shoulders leaving them completely bare.
Princess Fitted, multiple vertical panels extending in an A-line from the bust or shoulders to the hem with no defined waistline.
Profile headpiece A floral comb worn asymmetrically on one side of the head and adorned with lace, pearls, or crystals.
Puff sleeve Very full, short sleeve that ends above elbow.  May be worn on or off the shoulder.


Queen Anne neckline Higher on the sides and back of neck, open to the bra strap line, and ending in a sweetheart shape.
Queen Elizabeth neckline High portrait collar that stands up in the back and closes in a vee in front.


Raised waistline Approximately 1 inch above the natural waistline.
Royal train Very longest train length, extending more than 3 yards from the waist.


Sabrina neckline Straight neckline that begins 2 inches inside the shoulder line, often trimmed with lace.
Schiffli Intricate floral pattern (similar to Alen鏾n lace, but lighter) embroidered directly onto the gown.
Scoop neckline A rounded, low neckline, dipping from the shoulders to just above the bustline.
Sheath Straight, fitted gown , often floor length.  May be worn with a detachable train.
Shirred waistline Gathered fabric that creates a horizontal panel of 3 or more inches at the waist.
Snood Netting (may be decorated with pearls, sequins, or flowers) worn at the nape of the neck to cover the hair (usually in a chignon).
Square neckline A half-Square or rectangle shaped neckline.
Strapless A bodice style which has no straps or sleeves. Many religious sites do not allow them and you will need to buy a coordinating jacket for your service. Also known as a Bustier or Corset
Strapless neckline Reveals the shoulders and usually has a matching cover-up to be worn during the wedding service.
Street Hemline falls to just cover the knee.
Sweep train Just longer than a brush train.
Sweetheart neckline Open neckline that begins 2 inches inside the shoulder line and shaped like a heart.


Tea length Hemline falls several inches above the ankles.
Tiara Ornamental crown of pearls, crystals, rhinestones, or lace worn on top of the head.
Tiered skirt Falls in a series of multiple layers of graduated length.
Tulip sleeve A set-in sleeve with overlapping fabric that curves into a petal-like shape.
Train Fabric of the gown that trails behind the bride.
Trumpet (or mermaid) skirt Flares at or below the knee.


Venise Heavy floral or leaf pattern in needle point with motifs connected in lines.


Waistline Point at which the bodice and skirt are joined
Watteau Train that is attached at the shoulders, rather than at the waist, of the gown.