From A-line To Mermaid: 13 Popular Dress Silhouettes

From A-line To Mermaid: 13 Popular Dress Silhouettes

January 13, 2022
By Meg Rose

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Ever try finding the perfect dress only to be so confused by all the different cuts and styles that you can’t pick anything? Trust us, we’ve been there too. So we’ve done our very best to put together the most comprehensive list of silhouettes on the market. Follow us down the rabbit hole as we dive deeeeeep into the popular dress styles and what they can offer your silhouette.

All the Curves

The first major silhouette that we need to discuss is the hip-hugging, showing off every part of your shape silhouette. It encompasses a few styles of dress, but they all offer the same major effect: your shape will be on display.

If the likes of Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are your style icons then read carefully for the next few sections because these are the dresses for you.

1. Mermaid Gown

Mermaid gowns are the most shapely dress silhouette on the market. It will hug every curve of your body down through to your knees where it finally flares out just a bit to give you a little volume at the bottom quarter of the dress.

This style of gown will give you the same shape you could see on Jessica Rabbit, all va va va voom from your bustline to your feet. If you’re confident in your voluptuous figure and want to flaunt your curves then this is the style for you. On the flip side, if you have more of an athletic body type this silhouette will give you curves where you don’t really have them naturally.

Nina Dobrev and Selena Gomez use this style as a glamor staple, it gives them more exaggerated curves than they have and adds drama to their outfit for those celebrity events. Similarly, Scarlett Johansen can be seen wearing this style regularly as it helps to flaunt all the natural curves she has in just the right way.

Try these trendy mermaid looks:

2. Trumpet

Trumpet-style gowns are one step up from the most curve-flattering silhouette of a mermaid gown. They hug the curves of your body in all the same places, but this silhouette will flare around mid-thigh instead of the knee.

This style will be similar to a mermaid in that it will show off all the shapes of your body, but will offer more drama in the lower portion of the dress, and will catch the eye more. Because of this, if you have a more shapely figure, this silhouette will draw less attention to your hips and butt than a mermaid gown will.

Both Khloe and Kim Kardashian wore a trumpet style gown for their weddings; the silhouette flattered their curvy figures but offered a slimming effect that wouldn’t have happened with a mermaid gown.

Check out these beautiful trumpet dresses:

3. Fit and Flare

The next step down in fitted styles is the fit and flare. It is a tight silhouette from the top through the higher thigh area and then it flares out in a subtle way to give volume to the skirt without being full. This style is great for anyone looking to show off their curves but have more drama and volume in their dress.

Shay Mitchell stepped out in a metallic low cut fit and flare style and it was a showstopper. The straps emphasized her shoulders while the dress hugged just under her butt to push the eye to her hips and make her seem curvier than she naturally is. The flare on the thigh made the dress seem effortless, so she was comfortable in her gown and looked like she just rolled out of bed this amazing (we totally believe she did).

Take a look at these super flattering fit and flare dresses:

4. Dropped Waist

The argument could be made that a dropped waist gown is in between a trumpet and fit and flare, but we think differently. There is less of your shape on display in a dropped waist gown, as the style makes you look a little fuller up top while giving you a perfectly cinched waist and the most drama in the fuller look of the skirt.

This is a great option for someone that has more of a pear shape, but wants to give the illusion of an apple shape; basically, someone that would like to emphasize the bustline they don’t have while slimming the hips and booty they do.

At the 2011 Golden Globes, Mandy Moore utilized this style to balance out her figure. Her hips seemed smaller and her bust fuller than her natural shape allows so the look was sexy but in an understated way.

Try these dropped waist dresses at your next event:

Pretty Princesses

The next silhouette group is the one with the fuller skirt. These styles of dresses group together cuts that show off very little of your natural shape, and all the focal points lie in the full, dramatic skirt options. There are a few options that utilize this silhouette and we will break them down for you.

5. Ball Gown

Ok, so we have to start with ball gowns, as this is the most full skirt silhouette on the market. It is the quintessential princess dress, the stuff of dreams for any girl who wants a Cinderella moment. It is a silhouette that will feature a tight bodice, so your top half will show off every curve, then the dress will billow out from the waist to the ground.

The silhouette here will be the most exaggerated skirt while still showing off any curves in the bust. It will, however, cinch your waist beautifully so if your midsection is an area you want to camouflage, this is a great way to do it.

Cardi B is a huge fan of ball gowns and wears them regularly to red carpet events. She has a very full bust and doesn’t mind drawing attention to it. Add in the ball gown to the tight bodice and you get the illusion of a tiny waist with a full overstated skirt. It’s a look with a lot of drama and if extra is your thing, we fully support you.

Make an entrance in these ball gowns:

6. One Shoulder Ball Gown

We know it doesn’t seem like enough of a difference to be a different silhouette, but hear us out. A one-shoulder ball gown will give you the same shape from the waist down as a traditional ball gown, but the one-shoulder design will change the shape of your bustline.

Women with athletic figures or smaller busts will put that feature on display in a traditional ball gown. Because the bodice is fitted, without a fuller bust, the bodice won’t have any shape on your body to attach to, so there just won’t be any.

Amal Clooney wears a lot of dresses and gowns with a one-shoulder detail. She’s beautiful and tall, but she has an athletic body type with a smaller bustline. The one-shoulder detail draws attention with an illusion of depth to her chest, appearing fuller than it is.

Kick up the drama with these one-shoulder ball gowns:

7. Balloon or Bubble Skirt

Bubble, or balloon, skirts are ball gowns that bunch up underneath the skirt, which hits either at or just below the knee. The skirt really does look a bit like a balloon, it flares out very dramatically at the waist and is the fullest skirt option.

This style will give you the smallest waist of all the tight-bodice styles. Because the skirt billows out so wide from the hips and a lot of leg is exposed, you will look longer than you are while also narrowing your waist dramatically. These can also be seen in some high-low dress styles.

This is a great option for someone looking for a unique style; balloon skirts aren’t the most popular silhouette on the market, many women are intimidated by the design, but are stylish and fun. If you are confident in your legs and want to show them off and slim your waist at the same time then this is the silhouette for you.

Check out these fun balloon skirt dresses:

8. A-line

If a full dramatic skirt is a little too much for you but you want that princess feeling, try an A-line gown. It’s called as such because the waist is cinched and the structured skirt flares out in a diagonal shape, like the letter A.

This is a great silhouette for all body types; the skirt gives movement and shape, so if you want to camouflage your hip area this is a great way to do it. The skirt does offer enough movement that if you have less ample hips you will create the illusion of a shapelier figure without having to wear something really tight like a mermaid gown. It will cinch your waist creating the illusion of a slimmer waistline regardless of your size.

A-line silhouettes appear casually elegant. The design of the gown is fit for a formal affair but seems to be effortlessly chic so you will be perfectly dressed and everyone will be jealous of how just naturally perfect you look in a full gown.

For some shorter girls out there, try a two-piece A-line silhouette, it will give you the illusion of appearing taller by breaking up the fabric and pulling attention to your mid-section. Taylor Swift did just this at the Grammy’s with a two-piece crop and A-line skirt.

The crop top was short enough that most of her waist and stomach were exposed and the long skirt sat perfectly on her hips, creating an elongated torso and a high slit that showed off enough leg to really make her look feet taller than she is. It’s a great fashion trick that you can use with confidence.

Rock these classic A-Line looks:

Less Is More

There is a third very popular silhouette that has a ton of options on the market: the silhouette without your curves. Yes, we know this sounds weird, but there are a few styles out there that aren’t meant to hug your hips or be tight around the bustline and these styles are flawless without trying too hard.

9. Sheath Dress

A sheath dress is a style of gown that is designed to give your body less shape but still will be cut in a way that the silhouette alludes to your curves. Sheath dresses will be fitted to the waistline and then the material will fall straight down to the floor, hanging just on your hips where the fabric can catch your natural shape.

It’s a great style for petite and curvier women. The way the fabric drapes on the hips will appear to slim those with wider hips and those without hips will be able to dress with some movement but won’t be overwhelmed by a huge skirt.

This is a great option for short and long dresses, and there will be structure without being rigid. For longer dresses, your skirt will move when you move and provide organic flow. For shorter options, your dress will camouflage your waist area, so if this is a focal point you would like to divert the eye from, then you are in good hands.

Duchess Kate Middleton wore a long-sleeved white sheath dress on a red carpet and it was the perfect style for her petite frame. The skirt offered movement and the waist area showed off her slim figure without being tight and too constricting.

Try out these adorable sheath dresses:

10. Shift Dress

A shift dress is a step down from the sheath, offering less shape and more movement in the dress. It’s a great option for a woman that wants to camouflage all her curves, or might not have many and doesn’t want to draw attention to that fact.

They are cute styles that are great for a casual Sunday outing but can sometimes come off as too casual for more formal affairs. A mini shift dress came into style in the ’60s so if you want to be trendy, try pairing this style with some vintage-inspired accessories.

Step out in style with these trendy shift dresses:

Shoulder Love

There are quite a few designers out there right now that are utilizing the shoulders as the focal point for their dresses. A shoulder detail will elongate the body by drawing your eye up to the top first before giving attention to the rest of the dress.

11. Caped Dress

Cape dresses are gaining serious momentum right now in fashion. It is typically seen on a fit and flare or subtle mermaid style gown, something that hugs the body, and the cape is a strong shoulder statement with a cloaking fabric that will generally be the same length as the dress.

It is a strong silhouette and the style demands attention. The strong shoulder it creates is a beautiful feature and you will walk into the room with a graceful and powerful look. Lupita Nyong’o worked this look in a red off-the-shoulder gown at the Golden Globes. The off the shoulder detail was a subtle stray from the traditional design so it provided an elongated neck and less of a strong shoulder.

It became an iconic look that was copied over and over afterward. The gown is usually a very feminine silhouette so the cape offers a geometric shape to the shoulder which is a beautiful masculine balance.

If you want to work this look in a more traditional design, look at the blush pink gown that Meranda Kerr wore while pregnant. The strong shoulder in a soft pink was a great way to mix strong and soft vibes and she looked fierce. It’s an empowering look that every woman should consider rocking.

Check out these awesome cape dresses:

12. Strong Shoulder

Capes might not be your thing, but you can still rock a fit with a strong shoulder. Many designs are hitting the market that emphasizes the shoulder by adding an 80’s-esque blazer style shoulder. It creates a bold look to any tight or mini dress style so you still have a great balance between masculine and feminine silhouettes.

There are also styles that create a puff effect on the shoulder instead of a straight line. This style will come off softer but still bring the focal point to the neckline, creating a statement that emphasizes less of your shape.

However you slice it, designers are starting to create more styles that emphasize the shoulders, and we love the look!

Go bold with these strong shoulder dresses:

13. Off the Shoulder

Off-the-shoulder gowns come in all cuts and silhouettes but provide the illusion of broader shoulders. Women in all shapes and sizes can utilize an off-the-shoulder look to elongate their neck and broaden to appear taller and emphasize a bustline that is either ample or small.

Emma Watson, a more athletically shaped woman, gives off the illusion of strong shoulders and a fuller bust in an off-the-shoulder gown. On the flip side, Scarlett Johansson will utilize off-the-shoulder silhouettes to draw attention to the bust and soften her shoulders.

Try these elegant off-the-shoulder styles:

Have We Said Too Much?

We know this was a lot to take in, but these style points will last a lifetime. Don’t be afraid to come back again and again if you need a little refresher, Queenly always has your back!

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