Wedding gown silhouettes – the (convertible) ballgown, sheath, and fit + flare

I hope each of you are having a relaxing weekend & staying warm! I had been meaning to share more wedding-related posts, but planning fell to the back burner for a while. Recently, the gals at Style Me Pretty asked me to do a guest post on popular wedding gown silhouettes and I happily obliged. You can read the post here, or I’ve re-shared it down below. I’ve mentioned before that to my dismay, most bridal shops don’t allow photography, but the team at JLM Couture kindly let me take these in their studio. They own a range of bridal brands suitable for various budgets, including Lazaro which has been one of my favorites throughout the dress search process.

I often hear “rules” that petites should go for certain cuts and steer clear of others that make you look shorter, etc etc, but I sure hope all brides-to-be try on dresses with an open mind, and choose what makes you yourself feel the most beautiful! Please note that in all of these photos, I’m trying on sample sizes with excess fabric clipped back, so the proportions and bust cups are not how they would look in the proper size. In a few weeks, I plan to share details about my ordering + fitting experience, including the confusing world of bridal sizing (which typically runs 1-2 sizes smaller than regular clothing) and size/proportion customization options.
convertible tara keely lace dress

The first style I tried on was the (convertible) ballgown – I love how ballgown silhouettes flatter the waistline by drawing eyes inward to a narrow point, contrasted against a full skirt. You guys know I’m a sucker for versatility, so it should be no surprise that I thought this option by Tara Keely (style #2210) was super fun. It converts from a dramatic gown for the ceremony to a sultry little lace sheath for dancing, so you can have a bit of both worlds! It’s similar to a 2-pc dress I’ve tried on before, except actually designed for two different, full looks.
convertible tara keely lace dres

Here’s a closeup of the pretty lace…please excuse my awkward arms!

jim hjelm lace dress wedding gown
Next up was the sleek sheath – For the bride who wants understated elegance and iconic glamour. A sheath silhouette closely grazes your body and falls fairly straight down to the ground. I love a good surprise via a stunning backside design like the low dip and longer train on this one. I was told this particular style (Jim Hjelm style #8460) could be considered either a sheath or a slight A-line.
lazaro bridal gown fit flare dress copy
And lastly, a popular cut that I find to be universally flattering – the Fit & Flare. I love that this silhouette is mostly a close fit for showing off (even minimal) curves, but still has the option of volume in the lower skirt. Variations of the fit + flare can include the “mermaid” which begins flaring out at the knees, or the “trumpet”e which begins flaring out higher around mid-thigh. I liked how the layered organza skirt on this Lazaro (style #3400) adds an ethereal twist.

This last type of silhouette was my personal favorite, and one that I thought was most flattering for my own body type. Those of you who are married – I’d love to hear what silhouette you chose for your big day!

Leave a Comment

64 Comments

  1. Julie wrote:

    I love the first two dresses on you. Stunning! I love the tulle on the first one.

    Lifestyle by Joules

    Posted 3.3.15 Reply
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi Jean! Is this you? Do you come from China? I believ this is a fake of you!!!
    http://blog.sina.com.cn/extrapetite
    http://www.weibo.com/extrapetite#_rnd1425396598192

    Posted 3.3.15 Reply
  3. Alice wrote:

    Lovely post! I recently had a fellow petite friend try to find her dress, so I know first hand how difficult it is to be a 4'7" tall bride. All those dresses looked wonderful on you!

    xo, Alice

    http://houseinconnue.wordpress.com/

    Posted 3.3.15 Reply
  4. Jean, you look beautiful in them all. You are going to be a blushing bride.

    http://www.racheldinh.com

    Posted 3.2.15 Reply
  5. Kangana wrote:

    The open back, A-line sleek sheath is a total wowza!

    Posted 3.2.15 Reply
  6. I think the second one it's better for petites. I pick a gown similar to your first for my wedding, really pretty but I'd pick different now. We petites have less room to play with volume.

    Posted 3.2.15 Reply
  7. tiffpix wrote:

    You look great in all of them, although I agree that I like the fit & flare the best. I picked a trumpet style as well (La Sposa Fanal dress), which I felt best in silhouette-wise for my 5'1" frame (in 4" heels 😉 )

    Posted 3.2.15 Reply
  8. Paige Ma wrote:

    All are beautiful options! For my wedding I chose a dress most like the first one but with a long train. It had a bustle in the back, so I could hook up the train for the reception and dancing. With the bustle up it was actually very easy to move around in. I know whatever you pick will be gorgeous! 🙂

    Posted 3.2.15 Reply
  9. Gorgeous! I love that wide tulle skirt it is beautiful!!

    http://www.tailoredandtrue.wordpress.com

    Posted 3.2.15 Reply
  10. Paola wrote:

    Amazing!

    Posted 3.2.15 Reply
  11. Hi, I’m your blog follower, I found a picture on facebook page "DRD haircare", the girl in the picture looks like you, please check.
    By the way, you looks gorgeous!

    Posted 3.2.15 Reply
  12. Annie wrote:

    I chose a ballgown silhouette right from the get-go. I've never liked how mermaid/trumpet dresses are fitted over the belly and hips, not on me, at least! I considered the sheathe silhouette, but I liked the drama of the ballgown skirt, I think!

    Posted 3.2.15 Reply
  13. I tried on all the styles you listed too! It was fun to try on a variety since you never know what will end up looking just right on you! I ended up with a fit and flare one (Allure 2555), which was more of the trumpet/drop-waist style, since I thought the mermaid style was too hard for me to walk in/I looked a bit like a glorified mop 🙂

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  14. Absolutely love the a-line sheath(2nd one) on you..you look so elegant and perfect in that..love it!!!

    xo
    Hems
    http://agoldentulip.blogspot.com/

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  15. FW wrote:

    I loved my wedding dress which was an Alvina Valenta (style 9854). I found that the fit and flare style worked best for my petite frame.

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  16. Love the versatility of the first dress, would be so perfect for those who don't want to carry around a long train during the dance!
    The last dress looks really cute on you too! The mermaid cut is so classy!

    xx
    Yvonne
    http://tellmeyblog.com

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  17. Anonymous wrote:

    can you share the prices of these?

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  18. Olyvia wrote:

    oh btw, my recent blog post, I'm wearing a gown-y type dress with a less severe mermaid-y shape. I found it DOES look more flattering than other long dress shapes for my petite frame! Interesting! http://caramelcovered.blogspot.com/2015/03/floor-length-dress-review.html

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  19. Olyvia wrote:

    thanks for sharing and continuing to share your "petite" wedding gown adventures! I'm always figuring out ways to look taller and the wedding dress seems like a nightmare situation (like finding the perfect jeans that make the butt looks good, haha!). Most long dresses seems to make me look stumpy no matter what, haha! But I think it's a good idea to focus on the good parts of your figure…like small waist and nice butt, haha! I actually love the 2nd dress style (but wish the back cut-out wasn't so low), or the mermaid-ish style but with less less flaring on the bottom….Ah! Can't wait to see what you decide for your real wedding dress 🙂

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  20. Meant to write bad for short gals. Here's what I mean about a trumpet style: http://www.brides.com/wedding-dresses-style/liancarlo-2000000002467862

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  21. I think all the styles look great. Your point about the fit and flare – I actually find if the least flattering as it brings attention to the hips (bad for curvy gals) and cuts you off at the thighs (bad for shirt gals). Please try on a trumpet or bell dress. It's like a sheath but with some gradual fullness that starts from the thighs and down. It gives the same sheath/ball gown combo without that drastic cut. Good luck!

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  22. I love all of them on you! <3 Gorgeous!

    Easy, Frugal Style

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  23. Kathryn wrote:

    I went with a fit and flare that was more of a trumpet style!! Love everything you have in here, I can't wait to see what you choose 🙂

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  24. mybeautrip wrote:

    You are beautiful in everything but I prefer long dresses!
    xxx

    http://www.mybeautrip.com

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  25. You look beautiful in everything! On my wedding day I actually chose to wear two wedding gowns! I chose the balllgown during the day and the mermaid during the evening reception! I think depending on the way you plan your wedding day you can definitely fit more than one dress if you can't decide like me! Can't wait to see what you choose!

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  26. Anonymous wrote:

    That ball gown is gorgeous and exiting when you change it taking the skirt away. Beautiful, practical and you're like a princess. –Anu from Finland.

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  27. Sophia W wrote:

    Love the last one, the details and layering of the fabric at so delicate and feminine – stunning craftsmanship! xx

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  28. Anonymous wrote:

    the ball gown suits your best, jean.

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  29. Emily wrote:

    I opted for a ballgown fit for my wedding dress – there are only so many opportunities in my life to wear a ballgown!

    Jemily Life

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  30. You look beautiful in all the dresses. It depends on what makes you feel the most gorgeous and your location or theme you're going for. I'm 5'2 and I wore a fit and flare dress for my wedding. I don't think it made me look any shorter then and I am, but most importantly, I'd never felt more beautiful.

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  31. Audrey Lin wrote:

    I love the sleek sheath! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  32. Keri H wrote:

    So pretty! I love the one with the open back. I definitely want something like that for my wedding one day!
    Enclothed Cognition

    Posted 3.1.15 Reply
  33. Michelle wrote:

    I picked a dress that flared out at the natural waist to accent it 🙂 Not too full – I chose not to do a crinoline under, which would have made it more of a ballgown shape – but enough fabric that it swished and moved when I danced and twirled. 🙂 Can't wait to see the dress you eventually pick!

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  34. Mandy Huey wrote:

    You are absolutely stunning in these dresses! I especially love that open back one on you…just beautiful!

    Mandy | http://www.mandydreams.com

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  35. Anonymous wrote:

    I agree that the last one is the most flattering on you, but my vote goes to the first one. Not only is it versatile, it also highlights your glowing face, which is the focal point (of the bride) her wedding day. Of course, everyone will look at the dress, but the bride's beaming smile will show up in all the pictures. That is just my opinion. I am sure you will choose whatever makes you feel best. By the way, my wedding gown was similar to the second dress here. It was a sheath made of lace and had a dramatic back. Best wishes to you and your groom. 😉

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  36. they look stunning on you, love the one second to the last<3

    xoxo
    http://hilarynirvana.blogspot.com/

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  37. You look amazing in all the gowns, so gorgeous! My personal favorite will be the convertible one as it's more versatile and I chose a similar silhouette for my own wedding!

    Prudence
    http://www.prudencepetitestyle.wordpress.com

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  38. Mai Lowe wrote:

    Wow Jean you look gorgeous in all of them, per usual :). I personally love the 1st, but that's mainly bc it basically looks like my own wedding gown! I am a sucker for tulle and the ballgown shape, so the two together make me swoon! Ahhh, I wish I could wear it again! I could not agree more with you that you have to wear what YOU love and feel amazing and comfy in! Comfort and amazingness are not things you want to think about on your big day when you want to focus on your new hubby and all your friends and family! That said, amazingness, is probably never something you have to worry about 😀 :). Congrats again!!!

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  39. Sasa Zoe wrote:

    I have the say last one is my fav:P

    Shall We Sasa

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  40. You look amazing in all of these! For my wedding I chose a fit and flare (mermaid) lace gown with a sweetheart strapless design, and I think it flattered my straight up-and-down figure, even though it was figure hugging and I felt it looked so feminine (I was also 18weeks pregnant at the time!) I can't wait to see the dress you choose 🙂
    Carolyn

    http://stylishmemories.com

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  41. Carla Krae wrote:

    The A-line sheath is really wow on you, at least from the back.

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  42. Anonymous wrote:

    I am petite myself (5'2, 100 lb) and chose a fit-and-flare dress for my wedding last summer. Both mermaid and trumpet styles looked good on me, but I opted for a trumpet in the end as I wanted to be able to also dance in my dress (which is almost impossible in a mermaid dress). One other aspect to take into consideration when choosing your wedding gown is the expected temperature at your wedding location. Because of the multiple layers of fabric in the bottom, ballgown dresses tend to be extremely warm, which makes it very difficult to wear such a dress for a summer wedding in a warm country.

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  43. Jean wrote:

    I appreciate your opinion on my behalf, but the last silhouette is my favorite : ) I know I often share tips on how to look taller, but I certainly don't think that is the be-all end-all element to dressing!

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  44. Kate wrote:

    These picks are gorgeous! I love the convertible ball gown, it's so practical! My dress was a gown similar to the ballgown and I wish that I could have shortened it for the reception. All of these options are amazing though, good luck!
    Kate
    myteacherstyle.blogspot.com

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  45. You look so beautiful in all of these! I'm starting my wedding dress shopping soon so I'm looking forward to your upcoming posts!

    xx Gretchen

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  46. Anonymous wrote:

    1st one for you Jean. Last one is gorgeous but will shorten the height

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  47. Suzie Q wrote:

    The convertible wedding dress is so ingenius! It takes away the hassle of dress shopping for a second dress if you want to change into something more moveable for dancing (which I went through). All of these are absolutely gorgeous, I can't decide which one is my favorite, but the fit and flare silhouette complements you very well! I'm excited to see which dress you choose for your big day!

    xo, Suzie Q
    StyleCueBySuzieQ.com

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  48. i loved the first one…..you are too gorgeous…

    Anie

    http://progressivepanache.blogspot.com/

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply
  49. My favourite shape is also the last shape! Personally I find it very difficult to choose the right shape for a wedding gown and therefore I made it simply for me and married in a white silk Traditional Bavarian Costume 🙂
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena http://www.dressedwithsoul.com

    Posted 2.28.15 Reply

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