When one starts looking at wedding dresses the terms used are like a foreign language and can become overwhelming to an unsuspecting bride.  I thought that my readers/brides would appreciate an explanation of common terms related to gowns. This glossary includes fabric and lace types, styles of sleeves, necklines, waistlines, trains, and silhouettes. As well as images showing that shape or fabric in use and what figures they complement.  Now you can pick a silhouette, neckline, waistline, sleeve, and train with confidence.

A little info you may want before you get started. When picking out dress details, it's helpful to consider the silhouette first, after that everything else falls into place.

A-Line Silhouette: The a-line or princess first came into fashion in the 1950s, when film star Grace Kelly
became Princess Grace of Monaco. An A-line dress features a shape that is fitted around the bodice and flows out to the ground, resembling the outline of an uppercase A. Due to its classic and simple style, the A-line dress is appropriate for any occasion, from a quiet backyard gathering to a traditional church ceremony.
It is recommended for petite figures because it can make a shorter bride appear taller and for full figured brides drawing attention away from their hips. The A-line, however, is not recommended for brides with a thick waist as the shape will draw attention there.
Recommended for: Petite, Full-Figured, Short Waist
Not recommended for: Thick Waist, Hourglass

Alencon Lace: It is a needle lace that originated in Alencon, France. It is sometimes called the "Queen of lace" and is made of linen or cotton thread. It has separate woven floral pattern motifs on a net background. Each motif is outlined with a heavy thread or cord. It is one of the more expensive laces available and is made by hand. Personally, I love the 'eyelashes' along the finished edge.

American or tradition bustle: The train of the gown is lifted up and attached to the outside of the back skirt of the gown by hooks or buttons. Also called an “over bustle.”

Ankle Length: Barely reveals the ankles, just a bit shorter than floor length.

Appliques: Fabric or lace cutouts sewn onto the dress.

Apron Overskirt: An overskirt which joins in the back of the gown at the waist, but not at the hem.

Asymmetrical  Hem: A hem that is uneven, either from side to side or front to back in varying degrees. 

Asymmetrical Neckline: A neckline that is uneven or differs from side to side, either in styles or a simple one shouldered design. 

Asymmetrical Waistline: This waistline starts on one side as a Raised or Empire Waistline, or a Natural
Waistline and falls to a Natural Waistline, or a Dropped Waistline. It has a wonderful slimming effect for full-figured or thick-waisted women. Those who are short should avoid this waistline; the long waist makes the legs appear shorter.

 Babydoll Style: A style that combines a sheath silhouette with an empire waistline. The figures that it flatters are the same as the sheath and empire waists.

Ballerina Length: Hemline falls to just above the ankles.

Ball Gown Silhouette:  The full-skirted bridal gown swept into fashion with Queen Victoria's wedding in 1840 and remains the favorite romantic silhouette. When girls dream of being a princess at their weddings this is the silhouette they see in their dreams. It's elegant look is composed of a form fitting bodice, that leads down to a very full, floor length skirt. While the necklines and sleeves may vary, the silhouette remains classic. Like the A-line, the Ball gown flatters most figures. It is especially good at hiding large hips or no hips.
This shape is not recommended for petite brides as the full skirt can overwhelm or take away from the appearance of the bride.
Recommended for: Thin figure, Full Figure, Med - Tall Heights, Pear Shaped Figure
Not recommended for: Petite Figure

Basque Waistline: The sides start at the Natural Waistline and drops down to a "V" in the front about two to three inches below the Natural Waistline. The Basque Waistline is usually very fitted and sometimes corseted. This is the most flattering of all Waistlines on most figures. It gives the impression of height and slenderness by reducing the width of the waist and hips and elongating the torso. Much like the ball gown silhouette, the basque waist plays down the hips.

Bateau Neckline:  Also called a Boat neck or Sabrina. This shape gently follows the curve of the collarbone, and can either reveal the shoulders or not. It may or may not dip slightly in the center. A bateau is great if you have a long neck, narrow face, small chest or sloped shoulders. It will draw the eye out to your shoulders so you appear more balanced and proportioned, shorten the neck, soften the facial features, and imply a more ample bust. It will widen the look of narrow shoulders, providing a nice balance for a pear shaped figure.
Recommended for: Small Busts, Long Necks, Narrow Faces, Pear Shaped Figures, Narrow or Sloped Shoulders
Not Recommended for: Large Busts, Short Necks, Wide Shoulders, or Round Faces

Battenburg Lace: A heavy lace made with patterns of linen braid and tape connected with decorative linen stitching.

Beading: Pieces of glass, crystal, gem, or other material sewn onto the gown.

Bell Sleeve: Bell sleeves come in either long or short and fit smoothly into the armhole then flaring out at the end.

Bias Cut: A bias cut makes a 45° angle across the lengthwise and crosswise grain. Fabric is cut on the bias for two reasons- to achieve a beautiful fluid look, using a soft draping fabric, or to achieve interesting design effects when using plaids, stripes, checks, or other patterns.   A bias cut tends to stretch and hug as it covers curves, it  will accentuate all your body's features, good and bad. It is not recommended for anyone who wishes to hide a stomach bulge or hips.

Bodice: The upper part of a dress.

Bouffant Skirt: A very, very full skirt.

Boning: Thin strips of nylon or metal spiral lengths inserted into the bodice to give it structure. Most commonly seen in corsets and bustiers.

Brocade: A satin weave that incorporates flowers and other images into a textured fabric.

Bubble Skirt: The skirt is attached to the lining at the hemline to create a very full  balloon effect.  May be used with any waist, can be any length, can even be a double-double.

Bustle: A bustle is a gathering together of the skirt back. It can be a design element on a dress or a way to lift a train so that it does not drag the floor.

Cap Sleeve: A cap sleeve is shorter than a traditional sleeve being only a few inches long. Covering just the shoulder.

Cathedral Train:  The cathedral train is grand and dramatic, perfect for very formal affairs and brides looking to make a huge statement walking the aisle. This train extends approximately 7 feet behind the waist. Take note that a train this size will require some special care and placement during photos and may some straightening after you walk the aisle.

Chantilly Lace: Chantilly is a handmade bobbin lace named after the city of Chantilly,  France. It is known for its fine ground, outlined pattern, and exquisite detail. The best Chantilly laces were made of silk or linen. Nowadays Chantilly can be made by machine and is difficult to distinguish from the handmade versions.

Chapel Train: A chapel length train measures 4 feet from the waistline. It is perfect for informal, semi-formal, or even formal weddings because it maintains the elegance and drama of a full length train without being overly cumbersome.

Charmeuse: Slinky, satiny fabric (think “old Hollywood”).

Chiffon: It a fine fabric, very light in weight and transparent. It is often used in evening gowns to give the garment a flowy feel. It is silkier and lighter than its counterpart Georgette.

Circular Skirt: Attached smoothly at the waist and falling to form a complete circle at the hemline.

Court Train: Slightly shorter than chapel length.

Crystals: Crystal beads are polished and faceted to give full-spectrum light. When sewn onto the gown it sparkles in the light.

Décolleté Neckline:  
 A Décolleté neckline is a very deep plunging V-neck or a low scoop. Usually showing the cleavage.
Recommended for: Nice Cleavage

Detachable Train: A train that is joined to the gown with hooks and eyes or Velcro.  Usually gathered or pleated at the top.

Dropped Waistline: This waistline falls three to five inches below the Natural Waistline, stopping at the hips. This waistline is good for full-figured, short-waisted, or wide-hipped women. Dropping the waist down pulls in the hips and elongates the waist. Because it creates the illusion of an hour-glass figure, it also works very well for a very slim figure. Those who are long-waisted may want to avoid this waistline. It has a tendency to elongate the waist even more, making the body appear disproportionately longer than the legs.  

Duchess Satin: Duchess satin is a heavy, luscious satin with a soft sheen. It is most often used in wedding or formal gowns. It is made of silk or polyester. My personal favorite of this weave is Peu de Soie or "skin of silk" in French.

Edging: A narrow decorative border of lace, embroidery, braid, or fringe used for trim to embellish a gown.

Embroidery: Fancy needlework or stitching on a gown done by hand or machine. It is sometimes embellished with beading or sequins.

Empire Waistline: An Empire waist is a raised waistline usually located anywhere from just under the bust to three to five inches above the waist. This waistline works well for full figures, wide hips, thick waist or belly, and even pregnancy by allowing the skirt to cover over lower body flaws. It gives the illusion of added height, so it looks great on anyone who is short. It also helps those who are small busted appear fuller since it draws attention to the neckline. On the flip side, those who have a large chest may want to avoid this waistline because of its natural tendency to draw the eyes up to the bust. Like the A-line, the empire style is very versatile and can accommodate a wide range of formality.

Recommended for: Petite, thick waist
Not recommended for: hourglass, Curvy figures, full figure

Fitted Sleeves: The most common sleeve variation with very little or no fullness. It is set into the arm hole and is smooth all the way around. It comes in many lengths as well, short, elbow, 3/4 sleeve, and long.

Floor Length: Hemline falls just 1/2 or 1 1/2 inches from the floor.

Flounce: A flounce is much like a ruffle, only it has no gathers. The unattached edge is usually very wavy.

French Bustle: The train of the gown is gathered under or inverted. The bustle is held in place by hooks, ties or buttons underneath the skirt of the gown.

Galloon Laces: A double edge lace with a usable border on both sides that can be separated for matching border trim.

Gathered Sleeves: Gathered sleeves are much like fitted sleeves, but with gathers most likely at the top of the sleeve.

Georgette: A silk or synthetic fabric that is light-weight and flowing but is also slightly crinkly. It has more body than chiffon and drapes better.

Guipure Lace: A heavy lace designed to show large patterns over a coarse mesh background.

Halter Neckline:The halter features straps that wrap around the back of the neck, or a high neck with deep armholes. This neckline also creates a beautiful open back. Although such necklines reveal a lot of shoulder, their converging lines make the shoulders seem smaller, so it looks great on wide shoulders. Well-toned shoulders and arms are great for this look. It is not so good for short or wide necks. This style is not the best for really big-breasted women either, it offers little support and - it will make you look huge! At the same time, not all halter necklines are kind to smaller busted women. The halter neckline has multiple subcategories that would further influence the face, bust and neck appearance:

~Scoop: Dips down in a curve. It can be shallow or deep.
~Straight: In between the two straps is straight across. Not Recommended for: Small Busts
~Sweetheart: Is actually shaped like the top half of a heart.
~V-Neck: The neckline dips down in the front in a V-shape.

 Juliet Sleeves: A long sleeve with a poufed top and fitted lower arm.

Leg-of-Mutton Sleeves: Very full puff at the shoulder with a fitted forearm.

Lifts or Pickups: A detail usually used on a skirt with the fabric tucked at irregular intervals throughout the skirt. There may be a flower or jewel inserted into the point of each tuck.

Mermaid Silhouette: Curvaceous and VERY form fitting, this wedding dress style is typically for the very
confident bride. Mermaid gowns hug the body rather tightly all the way down to your knees, where the dress flares out. It screams sophistication and elegance, yet can be chosen for a barefoot beach wedding or formal ball room affair. It has a distinctive diagonal cut on the skirt. For a bride wanting to accentuate her curvaceous figure, this dress is ideal.
Recommended for: Hourglass Figure
Not recommended for: Full Figure

Mini Length: Skirt ends above the knees.  Some designs include detachable overskirts which may be removed for the reception.

Natural Waistline: The narrowest part of the body between the ribs and the hips is where the natural waist
hits. A Natural Waistline creates balance. This waistline is great for those who have a natural hourglass figure. Those who are apple-shaped (the waist is wider than the hips) should avoid this waistline; it will only serve to accent the thickness of the waist.

Organza: Silk or synthetic fabric that is semi-sheer or translucent and crisper than chiffon.

Peplum: Peplums are most famous to the gowns of Disney princesses. They are gathered drapes on either side of the gown, usually Ball Gowns. It can also be a short ruffle or flounce at the waist.

Petticoat or Crinoline: A stiffened slip worn under the dress to give the skirt height or “poof”. 

Point Sleeve: Any long sleeve that ends below the wrist in a point of fabric or lace on the top of the hand.

Portrait Neckline: Just like the name implies, this neckline sits below the shoulders to showcase the bride's collar bone and shoulders. While this style is Super-flattering to medium- or full-breasted women, an off-the-shoulder neckline will look good on almost all figures. It's really great for pear shaped figures in balancing out their lower half, but not so good for inverted triangles. Unlike the bateau neckline, the portrait's wider neckline works for short and wide necks. If you have both a short and wide neck, go for a lower neckline in this style. This is also a good choice for small busted women, but if you have a long thin neck you may want to wear a nice sized necklace or your hair down to avoid looking too lean.Recommended for: Pear-shaped women, Narrow Shoulders
Not Recommended for: Broad Shoulders, Wide Backs, or Full Arms

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 V in front.

Royal Train: Very longest train length, extending more than 3 yards from the waist.

Ruching: The gathering of fabric into soft pleats. This is often used at the waist to make it appear slimmer.

Schiffli Lace: Intricate floral pattern (similar to Alenćon lace, but lighter) embroidered directly onto the gown.

Scoop Neckline: A U-shaped neckline, is the most versatile and kindest of necklines. It works well with every face shape and size, and looks good with busts of all sizes. The key is the scoop depth and width. A deep scoop will lengthen your neckline, balance wide shoulders, and flatters wide faces. Go for a shallower scoop neck if you are skinny, have a small bust, a narrow face, or a long neck.
Recommended for: Just about anyone

Sequins & Paillettes: Small, shiny, iridescent plastic discs sewn to fabric to add "twinkle"; sequins are secured flat in place, paillettes are larger and usually hang off of the fabric, adding movement as well as sparkle.

Shantung: Is a synthetic or silk woven fabric with a nubby surface due to the use of woven slubbed yarns.

Sheath Silhouette: Simple, sleek and elegant, a Sheath Style wedding gown can fall nearly straight down This is the most popular wedding dress style for beach weddings, as well as other destination weddings. Highly recommended for those brides with a tall, well proportioned (thin) figure.
(sometimes referred to as "Column") from the neckline to the hem, or it can hug your curves, accentuating your torso, waist and hips. A sheath dress features a straight skirt with no waist.
Recommended for: Thin Figure, Petite Figure
Not recommended for: Pear Shaped Figure, Full Figure

Shirred Waistline: Gathered fabric that creates a horizontal panel of 3 or more inches at the waist.

Square Neckline:  The square neckline, or straight,  has a straight horizontal bodice that meets with linear side edges which go straight up over the shoulder in a 90 degree angle. Whether it is a deep square or a shallow one, they all form a box around the neck. The crisp clean lines of the square neck works well with most figures, is flattering on most face shapes, and is great for anyone who wants to wear a normal bra with their gown. Depth and width is the key with a square neckline. A deep square will really flatter a round face, especially if you have a short neck and a large bust. It is an easy way for larger chested women to show off their curves without being vulgar. At the same time, a shallow square works better with a long thin neck. This neckline does not flatter small or petite women, the horizontal line across the chest will make a small bust look odd.
Recommended for: Large Busts
Not Recommended for: Small Busts

Strapless Neckline: The strapless neckline is a popular choice with lots of brides due to its classic and
sophisticated look. It works for just about every neck, although, long thin necks should wear it higher on the bust to avoid looking too stretched out. This is a great neckline for petite women as it will make the torso appear longer. As the name implies, this neckline doesn't have any straps, and has three subcategories that would further influence the face, bust and shoulder appearance:
~Straight: This neckline makes a straight line from one side to the other.
Recommended for: smaller-chested and small shouldered
Not Recommended for: large-chested, broad shoulders
~Sweetheart: The sweetheart neckline, which is actually shaped like the top half of a heart, is a wonderful option for almost any bust size. It can give smaller breasted women the appearance of a fuller breast.
Recommended for: Everyone
~Peaked: The neckline forms peaks over the bust area with either a scoop or a V in the middle. This follows the same recommendations as a Décolleté neckline.
Recommended for: Serious décolletage
Not Recommended for: The décolletage-impaired

~ Slight Curve: The neckline either slightly curves up or down adding a little bit more interest and focus on the neck area. If you have a special necklace you want to show-off, then this is the neckline for you!
Recommended for: larger chested, and girls with fun necklaces
Not Recommended for: narrow shoulder, small chested

Street Length: Hemline falls to just cover the knee.

Sweep Train(Brush Train): A sweep train is the shortest of the trains and sometimes called a brush train because it just brushes or sweeps the floor. The back hem is typically only a few inches lower than the front. Sweep trains are perfect for semi-formal weddings, outdoor nuptials, or anytime a bride doesn't want too much added fabric in the back of her gown.

Sweetheart Neckline: Follows similar lines to a square neckline, instead of a horizontal line, it is actually shaped like the top half of a heart. It's great with most neck types, but should be a deeper sweetheart for short or wide necks. It is a wonderful option for fuller-chested women because it accentuates the cleavage, although it's easy to go overboard if you are really busty. If you’re not well endowed, sweetheart necklines are great at creating the illusion of a bigger bust. It's usually good for women with an hourglass figure.
Recommended for: Everyone

Taffeta: A silk or synthetic fabric which is a plain weave and is the same on either side of the fabric. It is crisp, has a slight sheen and rustles when you move.

Tea Length: Hemline falls between the top of the knee and the top of the calf.

Tiered Skirt: A skirt that 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 Silhouette: Similar to the Mermaid in shape. Flares out higher on the leg. This silhouette is much easier to move in. Also called a Fit n Flare.
Recommended for: Hourglass Figure
Not recommended for: Full Figure

Tulle: Sheer netting used for veils and overskirts or Tutus. Illusion, or English netting are often used when Tulle is called for..

V Neckline: The name says it all, this neckline dips down in the shape
of a V-shape. The V-neck is versatile and will flatter most faces and figures. It is especially appropriate for those with round or square faces, as it will elongate the face and give it a narrower appearance. Like the scoop and square necklines, width is just as important as depth. It is also perfect for most cup sizes. If you have a smaller bust, a plunging V-neck can create the illusion of a larger bust, while a shallower V will look beautiful with larger busts, giving support as well as accentuating your curves. As with the scoop and square necklines, if you have small shoulders, choose a wider V-neck instead of a deep V-neck; the opposite is true for those with wide shoulders. This neckline does not work well with bony upper chests, or super long necks, it will elongate the neck further.
Recommended for: Any size Bust
Not Recommended for: Bony Upper Chests, Super Long Necks

Velvet: Is a type of woven tufted fabric in which the cut threads are evenly distributed, with a short dense pile, giving it a distinct luxurious feel.

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

Watteau: Train that is attached at the shoulders, rather than at the waist, of the gown.