Designing and Customizing My Own Wedding Gown?  

04 JULY 2016

Articles By Luna Bianca -Graceful Image Bridal Boutique

In the previous article, we discussed about different body shape matching different gown silhouettes.  This article will focus on the gown itself, and elaborate on the basic and common technical terms used when it comes to understanding wedding gown design.  It will serve as an introduction for a bride who wants to design her own wedding gown. 

Let’s divide the gown appreciation into 8 parts:

1. Silhouette (overall)
2. Neckline (bodice)
3. Back (back of the gown)
4. Waistline
5. Skirt (lower half of the gown)
6. Tail
7. Sleeves
8. Lace and accessories

First and foremost, there are 6 basic gown silhouettes available. Each silhouette has its strengths and weakness.  (For more detail, refer to article III)   

I. Ball Gown
II. A-Line
III. Empire
IV. Sheath
V. Trumpet
VI. Mermaid 

It is important to have an overall vision of what the final gown should look like.  First step is to review and narrow down to 2 or 3 silhouettes that you like your gown to be.
A-Line being the silhouette that matches most of the body shape, often fall into the brides’ consideration list.  However, sheath seems less formal as compared to other silhouettes.

The empire gown is feminine and sweet.  The ball gown is classically elegant; the fitted bodice creates a slim figure with a beautiful full skirt.  The mermaid gown is a sleek and sexy gown that hugs your curves.

The right silhouette helps to hide the ungainly parts of your figure and gives an overall balance to the body, but it is the detail designs of the gown that takes care of the “challenging zone” such as the arms, thighs, and tummy or failed to flatter the well define bust and bottom.  

The neckline forms an important part of the bodice of a gown. Here’s a list of neckline design available for wedding gown.  

Neckline with bare shoulder:

  • Sweetheart: flatters a bride with well define bust and cleavage
  • Straight-across: it is equally feminine for brides with less-defined bust
  • Dipped: slight curve but not as deep as sweetheart cut
  • Spaghetti strap: Having very thin straps, giving a bare shoulder effect.

This set of neckline designs are universal and timeless, they are simple and at the same time, bring out the feminine side of the bride.

Neckline with different shoulder strap:

  • Scoop, V-neck, Square: U, V, Square shaped neckline with varying depth
  • Plunging: A deep V-neck, suitable for brides that dare to flaunt her cleavage. 
  • Halter Strap: Similar to Spaghetti strap, instead of over the shoulder, it runs around the neck.
  • Off Shoulder: the straps drop on the side of the arm, display the bare shoulder

Scoop and Square necklines may look casual, however, if the neckline is designed to go below the normal level, displaying significant amounts of cleavage, or having an elaborate embroidery, such necklines can really stand up out and make a difference to the overall gown.

Close neckline gown: 

  • Jewel: Rounded neckline, slightly revealing a bit of the collarbone.
  • High neck: Covers around the neck and chest area
  • Halter: Strap runs from the front of the garment around the back of the bride's neck.  It comes in various styles.
  • Bateau: Neckline that cut across the collarbone.  Horizontally front and back.
  • Sabrina: Tighter neckline version of bateau, covering the collarbone.

These neckline designs fully cover the bride’s chest, perfect for brides who are shy to flatter their cleavage and allow the focus on the shoulder instead.  Brides don’t have to have broad shoulders; petite frame bride will look equally great in such neckline designs.

More unique gown neckline 

  • Asymmetric: Single sided shoulder strap with diagonal bodice design
  • Grecian: Neckline forms from the centre of the bodice that opens to surround the neck.
  • Cowl: Bodice is designed with loose-fitting turnover neckline resting softly around the chest area.
  • Queen Anne:  Part of the neckline is raised, usually free standing leading to a partially open front and chest.  
  • Illusion: A separate transparent fabric or lace to cover the chest to the neck.

Among these necklines, Queen Anne and Illusion are the more common designs for wedding gowns.  Such necklines add a more sophisticated and intriguing look to the gown.  

  • Back (back of the gown) 
  • Respective to the illustration below (from left to right):
  • Open Back
  • X-cross Back
  • Closed Back
  • U-Shape Back
  • V-Shape Back
  • Bare Back

The design of the back is very dependent on the front design of the bodice.  Brides might like to play with a more conservative look from the front of the gown and surprise the guest with a low-cut “Bare” back.

Usually, a U-shape or a V-Shape back design will match with the front U-neck or V-neck neckline.  X-cross Back and Open Back are pretty popular, it allows brides to show off her back without feeling too exposed.

The position of the waistline and their extent, it actually defines the silhouette of the gown.

U-shape, V-shape and Natural Waists are usually found in A-Line, Ball Gown and Sheath.  While Dropped Waist form the Trumpet gown and waistline just below the bust forms the Empire gown.

Skirt (lower half of the gown)
Respective to the illustration below (from left to right):

  • Flounce
  • Overskirt
  • Draping
  • Pleated
  • Tiered
  • Bustle
  • Bubble
  • Mermaid
  • Fanback or Fishtail

There are basically three ways to form a “tail”

  • Train
  • Cape
  • Panel

Among the tail, “Train” is the more common design in wedding gown.  Skirt length that touches the floor slightly is known as “Brush or Sweep” while the 10 feet long train is known as “Royal train” perfect for grand walk-in (march-in).

If you intend to have beach wedding ceremony, probably a “Sweep” train matches the theme, instead of a long train dragging all the sand as you walk down the aisle.

In between there are certain naming conventions to represent certain train lengths:

  • “Court” train (1 foot)
  • “Chapel” train (3 feet)
  • “Cathedral” train (6 feet)

There are many sleeves design available in the fashion world, just to name a few “Bell”, “Bishop”, “Circular Cap”, “French”, “Marie”, “Poet”, “Peasant”, etc.  

However, for wedding gown, it is either:
(a) Sleeveless


(b) Simple Sleeve with different length 
(cap sleeve, short sleeve, ¾ sleeve and long sleeve)

Lace and Embroidery

Lace has always been part of a wedding gown. Due to trend, at times, it may have been of little interest to some brides. But throughout history, lace has always be a key element in Western wedding gowns.  While, interesting embroidery is the key element in Asian wedding gown.

The differences between lace and embroidery… …

Lace can be seen as creating the fabric itself, stitching by hand.  A lace design / pattern is created by looping or knitting threads.

It comes in an amazing number of types and forms. Its history traces all the way back to ancient Egypt and China.  In the 15th century, Venice was the first lace capital, while Belgium, France and Holland provided Italian lace-makers with the finest linen.  At those times, all lace was made by hand and sometimes it took months of work to create a single piece.

Embroidery is about decorating a fabric or other material with needle and thread. 
Chinese Kwa is a perfect showcase of an embroidered gown.  Embroidery usually has more relief and various colour than lace. 

It is a two-piece gown, jacket and skirt in striking red, heavily embroidered with colourful threads, pearls, coloured sequins to symbolize luck and happiness. Embroidered with a dragon to represents the male while the phoenix represents the female. Having them side by side symbolizes the perfect balance of the bride and the groom. 

A degree in textiles or fashion will give a solid foundation to any bride who likes to design her own wedding gown. The good news, however, is that you don’t really have to have degree before venturing into the idea of designing your own gown.  With the above base understanding, you can still come out with a conceptual gown design of your own.  Select a bridal boutique that has the experience in gown design rather than a boutique that just stock multiple designer gowns.  Any good bridal boutique which is at least able to make minor design changes, alterations and fittings, can assist and turn your conceptual design into your actual dream gown to wear on the wedding day.

As always, I like to end my writing with the emphasis that the “perfect” gown is the gown that brings out the unique characteristic and personality of individual, the rest are secondary.

Helen Wang
Luna Bianca

Category : Wedding Gown

Designing-and-Customizing-My-Own-Wedding-Gown? Articles By Luna Bianca -Graceful Image Bridal BoutiqueIn the previous article we discussed about different body sh

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