Have you started wedding dress shopping, only to find out that you have no idea what on earth anyone’s talking about? Never fear! We’ve put together a bridal glossary to help you get to grips with wedding dress jargon…

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Silhouettes

A-line

A-line is one of the most popular wedding dress shapes, as it suits almost every body shape. It’s a classic style that has a fitted bodice, and a gently flared skirt – it’s so called because it resembles the shape of a capital letter A.

Ballgown

Ballgowns are true princess dresses, and the most formal of all the dress shapes. It has a closely-fitted bodice that comes in at the waist and then immediately flares out into a very full, voluminous skirt. Check out 20 of our favourite ballgown wedding dresses here!

Mermaid

The mermaid is the sexiest dress shape, as it hugs your curves and shows off your figure the most. It’s closely fitted, and is tight from the bodice, through the waist and hips and down to your knees, where the skirt flares out dramatically. You can find out the difference between a mermaid, a trumpet and a fit-and-flare gown in this article.

Column

The column is the simplest of all the wedding dress shapes – it’s fitted down to the waist and hips, and then has a straight skirt that flows to the floor. One example of a classic column dress is the Grecian-goddess style wedding gown. The column isn’t to be confused with a sheath dress, which is generally much tighter and more form-fitting, but without the pouf of the mermaid skirt.

Empire

The empire-line dress is similar to a column, but the skirt falls from directly below the bust, similar to a modern-day maxi dress. This makes it a great style for disguising bottom-heavy pear shapes.

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Fabrics

Brocade

This is a heavy woven fabric that’s best left to winter weddings. You’ll recognise it from its raised floral or ribbon design.

Charmeuse

This is a lightweight fabric that has a glossy, satin finish.

Chiffon

Chiffon is a popular choice for spring and summer weddings due to its extremely lightweight, sheer nature.

Crepe

This is a thin fabric that has a crinkled texture – think of the crepe paper you used in school, but in silk or polyester.

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Dupioni

Dupioni is a thick, shiny silken fabric that’s popular for bridesmaids’ dresses. Shantaung is a lighter version of this fabric.

English net

This is a softer, stretchier version of classic tulle netting.

Georgette

This is a lightweight, slightly textured fabric that’s less shiny than many other bridal fabrics.

Illusion netting

This fabric is used in wedding gowns for the sheer overlays on backs and necklines, or sometimes to add sheer sleeves.

Jersey

Jersey is a casual fabric that’s often made out of 100% cotton – think your high street t-shirts and you won’t be far wrong. It’s often worn at informal weddings.

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Organza

This is a popular fabric for the skirts on gowns, as it’s stiffer and heavier than chiffon, meaning it hangs nicely.

Satin

Satin is very smooth, shiny fabric usually woven from silk or polyester.

Silk

This is one of the most popular wedding dress fabrics, and is soft, smooth and and shiny.

Taffeta

Taffeta is a thick, woven fabric that rustles when you move in it. Its stiffness is useful for voluminous skirts.

Tulle

This is a semi-sheer netting, often used for petticoats and bridal veils.

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Necklines

Bateau or boatneck

This is a high-neck design that covers the chest, but has a gentle dip at the neck and the back. This style is also known as a Sabrina neckline.

Halter

The straps of this neckline tie behind the neck, like a bikini top. The halter neck looks best on girls with narrow shoulders and small to average size busts – as this style exposes a lot of flesh, top-heavy girls can often end up looking broader.

Off-the-shoulder

As its name suggests, this style shows off the decolletage, collarbone and shoulders, with the straps or sleeves resting on the upper arm.

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One-shoulder or asymmetric

This neckline is draped diagonally to leave one shoulder bare and one with a strap – think of a toga! It can also incorporate other necklines such as a sweetheart, with just one strap to add detail.

Scoop

This neckline is like a semi-circle, and dips low over the chest. A scoop neck is perfect for balancing out a big skirt, but also looks beautiful when combined with a draped column skirt.

Square

A square neck reveals a similar amount of skin to the scoop neck, but (as you might be able to tell from the name), the shape is less circular and more squared off. This style is great for girls with large busts, as it doesn’t cover the chest but also offers ample support.

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Sweetheart

One of the most popular and flattering necklines, the sweetheart neckline looks like the top part of a heart, with a V shape in the middle. This style suits both small and large busts – just make sure your bridal boutique knows whether you want to cover or emphasize!

V-neck

This triangular neckline forms a V-shape on the chest – how deep it goes is up to you! Those that show the most cleavage are often called plunge necklines.

Check out the latest wedding dress trends for 2015 here, or take a look at our Bridalwear section for more advice on dress shopping!