The neckline of the bride’s dress is one of the most prominent visual features, as the human eye is naturally drawn from one’s head and face to the shoulder and upper chest region or décolletage. While this can reflect one’s personality, it’s also common for brides to step outside the boundaries of their everyday style, slipping seamlessly, for example, into a one-shoulder design which someone has never worn before.
While a “gown” is defined as a “long, formal dress for a special event,” there are no rules on the length of a wedding dress. The venue, body shape, budget and personal preferences factor into the decision.
The Top Line
V-neck. No longer just an Ivy League sweater classic, the V-neck offers comfortable fashion for a sensual bodice with tasteful cleavage. The lower point on the V naturally introduces the rest of wedding dress to the waist and on down. The wedding gown with a V-neck is the perfect conduit for an exquisite pendant, locket, precious gemstone or heirloom jewelry.
Strapless. The gown held up by the bodice alone connotes risk and sensuality while embracing glamour and elegance. These can be straight across or incorporate a slight V-neck or sweetheart details along the top.
Sweetheart. Gentle arcs across the middle or upper chest above the bust line characterize the charming sweetheart neckline. There may be just two arcs portraying the top of a heart, and this one can be sleeveless or incorporate sleeves, short or long.
Square. The bodice straps – narrow, wide or medium width – rest at right angles to the straight, horizontal top line for a clean, geometric accent.
One Shoulder. Smooth and sexy is the enchanting allure of one shoulder crossing to the opposite underarm.
Off the Shoulder. Straps rest off the shoulders high on the arms and especially accentuate the collar bone and décolletage.
Scoop. This classic U-shape flatters any bust and can rest high, plunge low or offer a lovely frame for nicely shaped cleavage.
High Neck. Featuring fabric that hugs the neck, this style is classy for its enclosure around the neck, emphasizing the elegance of the neck on the human body.
Bateau. From the French word for “boat”, this neckline is akin to a rowboat as viewed from the side and often found in catalogs like L.L. Bean in tee shirt fabric.
Sheer. This neckline comes in multiple styles just above the bust line and displays a sweet lace or sheer fabric above the dress top.
Several considerations are in play for the neckline with jewelry being one. The high neck, sheer and one shoulder may not offer the best open collarbone area for sporting a necklace. The neckline may also be dictated by birthmarks or flaws you wish to keep out of photos. Trying on wedding dresses, even ones that don’t immediately catch your eye, is the best way to evaluate how a neckline fits and looks.
The Bottom Line
SHORT ~ You can raise the bar on sassy, sexy and saucy by raising the hem. New lines of short ‘n chic wedding dresses portray stylish sophistication. The short gown is great for beach and outdoor weddings. There’s no worry about dragging the hemline in the sand, on the grass, picking up mulch tidbits on a pathway or ruining the bottom of your dress. It’s chic with a bang and shows off not only your legs, but dreamy shoes, snazzy sandals, new or already-worn-in faves for cowboy boots or any footwear you like. One way to ramp up interest throughout the Big Day is to change your shoes a few times.
The hemline itself can be an interesting focal point for an asymmetrical line, a lace or fringe edge or an uneven hemline dubbed “up-and-down” in fashion circles. From a form-fitting sheath or A-line to the full circle skirt in the dance finale in “Dirty Dancing”, your shortness on the wedding gown hem carries an attitude of confidence and independence, maybe a spot of rebellion. They are also less expensive.
MIDI ~ The tea length or midi gown comes from the turn of the 20th century [before the roaring ’20s short styles] when hemlines went up a few inches for afternoon tea and in-home semi-formal day time events. This calf-grazing wedding gown has an allure all its own for being undeniably attractive while offering practicality, especially for an outdoor wedding. Again, shoes are more visible, and the flash of leg is haltingly sexy.
Audrey Hepburn exuded Hollywood glamour in a midi in the 1954 movie “Roman Holiday,” and you can capture star quality as well. With the midi, a bride is not sacrificing the wedding gown angle, while loving the convenience of dancing unencumbered barefoot.
LONG ~ You simply cannot top the long gown for classic, timeless elegance and the total princess look and feel. Body type, budget and dreams come into play with myriad gowns between the flashy, long sheath like Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang “Happy Birthday, President” and the regal, full ballroom gown of Princess Diana. The űber elegance of a long wedding gown radiates gracefulness and enchantment.
When trying on wedding gowns of any style, move your arms, walk around, dance, pick up an imaginary champagne glass, sit in a chair, pretend to eat cake, and twirl like you own the world. Pay attention to the neckline — does it scrunch? stretch? jab? need adjustment? Will the hemline work where you will be walking and dancing? Consider accessories like scarves, capes, sweaters, jewelry, hats, veils, trains and fancy footwear.
The real bottom line in choosing what you wear for your wedding is that it fits – you, of course, and your budget, your style, your spirit and your dream for this Big Day.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson