Groom Duties

The Groom’s Guide to Wedding Dresses

Brocade for the bros, k?

Why does a groom need to know about wedding dresses? The simplest answer is that knowledge is power and one never knows when such information could come in handy or even perhaps save a life. Wedding dresses, lace wedding dresses, mermaid wedding dresses, it’s a ton of stuff to get straight in your head. Do I expect that knowing the difference between a sheath and a column style dress will save a person’s life? No, no I don’t. But I also can not predict the future. Now, back to the question at hand, why should a groom learn about wedding dresses?

On the day of your wedding, guests will be focused on your epic and glorious love story third, the food second, and first—the dress, always the dress. Whether fashion interests you or not, as a groom participating in the wedding, you are sharing a spotlight with the star of the show, a wedding dress. Because of this, it could come in handy to know a thing or two about wedding dresses. Moreover, with the emotion and stakes often placed on a wedding dress, it would be nice of you to be able to hold a conversation about it with the bride to be.

So now you’re in wedding prep mode—your fiancé will begin dress shopping, you might get asked questions, or be used as a sounding board, so educate yourself. Don’t be the guy humoring your fiancee and blindly agreeing to whatever she’s considerin, therefore,e leading her to her to the lifelong regret of deciding upon capped sleeves, the horror. So man up, educate yourself, and get an opinion on sweetheart necklines or GTFO.

First

Something to remember as your lady begins her wedding dress journey is that traditional wedding dresses are expensive, this is not the fault of your fiancé, this is not her champagne tastes negating the agreed upon beer budget. This is the fault of the wedding industrial complex that prays off the patriarchal insistence that a women’s most important moment in her life will be as a bride, and doubles down on the common practice of over charging for traditionally feminine products (see: pink tax), and is then re-enforced by the media. Didn’t think there would be quite this much feminism in this a groom’s wedding dress guide, did you? Well, you thought wrong. The point is, if the dress is white and fancy, the price skyrockets—so make peace with that. Now let’s learn about what styles your bride may shell out the big bucks for.

Style Overview

When it comes to knowing about dress styles, the first decision a bride will likely encounter is silhouette — this is, essentially, the shape of the dress, is it puffy, sexy, simple, short, long? Next, any of the aforementioned shapes could be paired with a number of sleeve or strap options, options such as: strapless, sleeveless, short sleeved, long sleeved, spaghetti straps, cap sleeves, and on and on. Then there’s neckline, which have options such as: plunging, scooped, sweetheart, square, one shouldered, and more. And finally, there’s details like beads, brocade, lace, and trains. These are the basic elements that make up a wedding dress, certain combinations of these elements are what can cause a dress to look romantic, bohemian, sleek, sexy, bad, or bad like in the way that means dope. These options will be what your bride considers when shopping.

Likely, the biggest decision will be the silhouette, this is because it reflects the style and personality of the bride and the wedding. If your gal is pretty laid back, she likely won’t want to spend this special day in a big dress that makes her feel like a cupcake, if your wedding is in an upscale reception hall, a shorter hem may feel out of place, and if you’re with a woman with provocative proclivities who likes to start a conversation simply with her presence, a classic A Line will likely not make an appearance down the aisle. What’s an A Line you ask? Well, read on, player.

Traditional Silhouettes

These are the more classic, and the more commonly seen dress shapes. These are for more standard and upscale weddings. Truly the diamond rings of dresses.

A Line

Perhaps the most classic style is an A Line, universally flattering, this style is slim on top with a skirt that gradually flairs. The A Line dress is a nice Italian restaurant for date night, it’s “At Last” by Etta James, it’s Johnny Walker — it’s the absolute time-honored crowd pleaser that won’t let you down. There’s also a modified A Line, that reads a little more modern because the skirt is a bit tighter in the area right before it flares, for a little more wiggle wiggle…classy wiggle wiggle that is.

Ballgown

A ball gown has a fitted bodice with a dramatic skirt, think: Disney Princess. If your beloved has spoken of a “fairytale wedding”, this might be what you’ll see coming down the aisle. This is a dress that demands attention, brings drama, and owns a room—it’s usually purchased by a woman that demands attention, brings drama, and owns a room. If your bride wears a ballgown then by god man, swirl her across that dance floor, she needs that swirl!

Sheath

In stark opposition to a ballgown, is the clean and minimal sheath. This is a slim cut dress that follows the body’s natural shape. It’s simple, and usually a little bit sexy. This is for a woman who, in her day to day life, dresses purely to amplify her natural charms. It is truly the sparkling white wine of dresses, clean, simple, with a little fizzle, and like a white wine which can be sweet, dry, fruity, or crisp, the sheath can really be transformed through added details, like beads, lace or accessories, or simply left pure. Like that wine bit? Here’s another: I like my brides like I like my wine…with legs. There’s also a column style dress which is similar, but are a little more structured and a little less body hugging

Mermaid

This one’s not hard to guess gentleman, think about a mermaid. No, your bride will not be wearing a bikini top and a tail, nor will she sell her voice for a chance at true love to a sassy sea witch whose character was actually drawn to look like famed drag queen: Divine. Actually, maybe she will, I don’t know your fiancee, I can’t predict the future. Anyway, a mermaid style means that the dress is slim through the bodice and hips, then the skirt flares out around the knees, similar to the style of a mermaid tail. This dress is glamorous in an old Hollywood, Billie Holiday sings the blues kind of way, while simultaneously invoking the sex appeal of a Sofia Vergara-type. There’s also a trumpet style dress which is somewhere between a modified A Line and a mermaid, meaning the skirt flares at the mid thigh rather than at the knee.

Empire-Waisted

Having little to do with wasted empires like the Roman Empire (because they drank a lot…wasted empire…you get it), this dress means that the waist line is higher than most other dress styles, being nipped in just below the bust-line, causing the skirt to start flow from higher up. This silhouette is very popular for maternity dresses (though not exclusively), so if you’re having the ever popular shotgun style wedding, this could be very flattering for your bride. Or if your bride plans to eat a food baby amount of cake at the reception, this will also work.

Tea-Length

A tea-length dress has a skirt that hits just below the knees, because, as I’m sure you guessed, you wouldn’t wear a floor length dress to tea, that’d be nuts—but why am I telling you things you already know? This style tends to have a retro feel to it, it’s a bit of a quirky choice, that can read unique without a big fuss or statement. If your lady is into the tea-length look, I wouldn’t be surprised if you had say, met her at a She and Him concert, or hey, maybe she loves the vibes of the early 60s (the fashion, not the racism), or maybe her calves constantly overheat and she needs to air them out, no judgement, cool those calves babe.

Modern Silhouettes

A bride with more contemporary leanings may be be more inclined to stray outside the box of common bridal wear, this type of bride may also have a lot of thoughts on the wedding industrial complex and will have appreciated my earlier paragraph alluding to pink taxes and the patriarchy.

The Jumpsuit

A jumpsuit is like a dress, only the bottom is pants. Easy peasy. The wedding jumpsuit is a growing trend among young hip brides, see: Solange Knowles. This is for the cool offbeat bride who believes looking chill and funky fresh is worth the struggle it will take to pee after every flute of champagne, (or whatever it is that cool jumpsuit girls drink at weddings). If your first dance is to something very indie (not First Day of Your Life, that’s super not indie anymore), expect the jumpsuit. If your wedding is in Prospect Park, expect the jumpsuit. If your first date was at a movie theater that served cocktails themed to the movie playing, and all the movies at the theater featured Timothee Chalamet, expect the jumpsuit. And finally, if her sister is Beyonce, EXPECT THAT JUMPSUIT.

Separates

Separates are multiple pieces, like a shirt and skirt, or a suit. Separates, like the jumpsuit, are a growing trend, this is also a popular look if the style of the wedding is more casual. Separates could be a lot of different looks, a top and a long skirt, a three piece suit, a skirt, top and cape, the possibilities go on and on. Therefore this could be for a bride who just wants to keep her look and the ceremony low key, or this is for a bride who wants to stay unexpected, and surprising. Either way, If your girl’s style icon is Tilda Swinton, and her club jam is “Picasso Baby”, then you may want to be prepared for separates. It’s a look that’s both low maintenance and attention grabbing.

Short/Mini

This style is a skirt that is shorter than a tea length, it falls above the knee. Again, this is likely for a more casual ceremony, and it also most likely means that your bride has great legs and she needs to show ‘em. So tell her to Naomi Campbell down that aisle, STRUT GIRL, STRUT.

Necklines, Sleeves and All the Rest

Most necklines are fairly self explanatory, (i.e. scoop, square, one shoulder), however, there are a few types where the explanation is not immediately obvious. A Sweetheart neckline goes across the chest then dips at the center of the bust to form a heart-like shape. A Queen Anne neckline refers to a high collar in the back, with a scoop or v neck in the front of the dress. A Bateau neckline follows the curve of the collar bone almost to the tip of the shoulders, and is cut straight across. A Jewel neckline is rounded just below the collarbone. A Halter has straps that wrap around the back of the neck with a deep arm hole. An Illusion neckline means that a piece of sheer fabric, sometimes embellished, covers the chest when the main fabric of the dress has a lower neckline. A plunging neckline, plunges, boy howdy does it plunge.

As with necklines, there are sleeve choices that explain themselves quite easily,( long, short, sleeveless), but there are other styles you may not know. A Cap sleeve is a very short sleeve that hangs from the shoulder but has no fabric under the arm. A Flutter sleeve has a ruffled effect or the fabric falls in folds over the upper arm. A Bell sleeve is a full sleeve that opens and flares at the cuff, and is bell-like in shape. An Illusion sleeve, like the illusion neckline, uses sheer fabric rather than the fabric the majority of the dress consists of. A bishop sleeve is full through the arm, then cuffs at the wrist. A puff sleeve is a short sleeved style that puffs at the shoulder, however, if the sleeve is long with a puff at the shoulder it is called a Juliette sleeve.

Now that you know more than you’ll likely ever need to know about silhouette, neckline and sleeves, there are also different types of embellishments. Now more than ever clean and embellishment free dresses are very popular, chalk it up to millennials loving minimalism—look at Meghan Markle’s dress. The popular details for wedding dresses could be lace, ruffles, appliqué flowers, beads, and brocade (a rich fabric, usually silk, woven with a raised pattern). And of course, there are the extras, the very wedding specific details of trains (the fabric that trails behind longer gowns) and veils, the delicate fabric headpiece sometimes used to cover the face.

-Carly Silverman

Bottom Line

The key things to remember when it comes time for your partner to start shopping are that you should be supporting your bride in her dress hunt, and celebrating a choice that’s true to her and the wedding. 

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