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!

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  1. Anne wrote:

    I love the idea of the convertible dress. It is lovely for the wedding and then instead of being tucked away or hopefully reused the dress can be worn to future weddings or anniversary celebrations.

    Posted 11.28.20 Reply
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Congrats on your engagement, Jean!

    Have you tried looking at pre-owned dresses like this romantic lace trumpet style gown by Monique Lhuillier. It's petite figure flattering.

    Enjoy the planning process and savor every moment during the big day because it goes by fast!

    Posted 4.23.15 Reply
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    I am fairly petite (5'3'') and went with fit and flare / trumpet. Made me feel and look taller in my opinion, very flattering! Ball gown style didn't appeal to me, but if it does to you, why not – only so many opportunities in life to go that route! Short dresses are cute and different, but I think go all out on your wedding – you can wear a short cocktail dress anytime. All look great on you!

    Posted 3.19.15 Reply
  4. Joy wrote:

    Love this post, Jean! You look beautiful in all the gowns. As someone who is also planning a wedding, it's fantastic seeing posts of your process. I don't know if the rest of your audience would be interested, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on more than just the dress shopping! It all gets a little overwhelming sometimes!

    Posted 3.14.15 Reply
  5. I'm a bride-to-be and tried on all three of those styles recently: convertible ball gown, sheath, and fit and flare. I actually found the convertible ball gown to be my favorite! It looks similar to yours (designed by wtoo) but the full skirt has more tierd ruflles? So much fun!!!

    I actually felt a little uncomfortable in the fit and flare/sheath because I'm shorter I didn't find it lengthening for me!


    Posted 3.10.15 Reply
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    I didn't have a white wedding but if I had to choose one for me based on these three, I'd choose #2, the subtle sexy one!

    The last one looks more glamorous to me! You look beautiful in all three.

    Posted 3.10.15 Reply
  7. All three are beautiful choices! I thought I wanted a short dress – I loved the idea of looking a little '60s retro for the day. And then I tried on at least 40 dresses and ended up with…a ball gown! Completely surprised me and I thought there was no way it would work with a mountain venue, but somehow it did. I think the secret is a really happy bride 🙂

    Have fun!


    Posted 3.10.15 Reply
  8. wtiger9 wrote:

    I ended up going with a ballgown style which shocked me because I was dead sure that I wanted a sheath. I passed up "my dress" over and over until I was running out of options. When I finally gave into urging and tried it on, it was love at first sight. Ha ha, so definitely don't listen to what others tell you and sometimes don't even listen to yourself because what you think you want, might not end up looking so great in reality.

    Posted 3.6.15 Reply
  9. 9racie wrote:

    The first dress looks both grand and airy, the second dress sexy and exceptionally elegant on you. The last dress could perhaps be taken in more to bring out your marvellous waistline. My personal thought is the last dress does seem a little heavy and overwhelming on your frame, and there were too many horizontal details at the tail which cut off the vertical line of your frame. But all in all, you look great in all the silhouettes and maybe its just a question of fabric and detailing. 🙂 Have fun trying every dress till you find the one you "kust know" its you.

    Posted 3.5.15 Reply
  10. IYL wrote:

    Just looking at this I know you're going to look amazing on your wedding day. I loved the second one!

    Posted 3.4.15 Reply
  11. you look amazing in all the gowns but that last one is divine! you look like a goddess!
    love, liz

    Posted 3.3.15 Reply
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    Cool! You have many Fans in China!! I am your fan, too��

    Posted 3.3.15 Reply
  13. S Haines wrote:

    At the end of the day, forget any "rules" and go with what you feel amazing in. You know yourself best and you know when an outfit "just works".

    As a petite 5'1", I thought a simplistic sheath would be perfect for my "no-drama" style. But each one I tried on just wasn't right. It just didn't feel "right". Then, my friend grabbed a dress that I would NEVER have chosen. It was too much…beading, train, shimmery satin…completely over the top for my normal taste (on the hanger). You guessed it, it ended up being perfect. I put it on and just thought, "Yes! This works!" I couldn't stop smiling. I felt amazing in it and comfortable, like I could wear it for days! I couldn't tell you why it did since it was so contrary to what I would normally chose.

    My advice is to go in with your ideas but be open minded. You will know it looks great when it does.

    Here are a few pics of my dress (from 2006). Use password "wedding dress"

    Posted 3.3.15 Reply
  14. Jean wrote:

    No, this is me! I've been learning how to write in Chinese.

    Posted 3.3.15 Reply
  15. So incredibly beautiful! Love the 3rd option the most <3

    Posted 3.3.15 Reply

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