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Great Lengths: What Dress Length Will Best Suit You?
Gowns that just graze the floor are by far the most common style of wedding dress, but they’re certainly not the only option for the modern bride. Different lengths will suit different brides, so choose the dress that lets your personality shine through. From floor-length to mini, we’re here to help you pick the right hem to suit your height and your heels.
Can you tell a tea-length skirt from an intermission-length one? How about a street-length from a hi-low? If you’re in the yes category, then use these pictures for inspiration, if you’re in the no category, this is all you need to understand the difference between popular dress hems.
Full-length gowns are commonly picked for formal weddings, as they give brides both drama and elegance. The hem barely touches the floor, which gives the impression that you’re floating, and your shoes shouldn’t be seen when you’re standing still.
This style of dress is hemmed at the ankles, which gives you the elegance of a floor-length gown, without worrying about tripping over your hem. The bottom of the dress doesn’t touch the floor, which makes it a perfect option for an outdoor wedding, as it won’t get dirty and you won’t collect leaves as you walk.
This fun and flirty dress has a full skirt – often made from tulle – and a hem that sits just above the ankles. Brides in this dress no longer have to worry about guests accidentally stepping on their gowns, and the perk is that everyone gets to see your snazzy shoes. The style works well for a relaxed wedding.
This is also known as hi-low, where the hem at the front of the dress is usually at the knee, and it gradually becomes longer at the back. It’s an unusual style, which makes it appealing to trendy brides. The bigger the difference in length between the front and the back, the more dramatic the dress becomes.
This style manages to be both elegant and casual, and it has a definite vintage feel. The hem traditionally comes to the bottom of the calf, which draws attention to your legs and your shoes. It’s a popular choice as a second wedding dress, worn at your reception.
The hem of this skirt is somewhere between the knee and the ankle, usually mid-calf, and it’s also called a midi-length dress. A tall bride may find that a tea-length dress off the rack, will actually fall at intermission-length on her willowy frame. The real bonus about a shorter wedding dress, is that going to the toilet is something you’ll be able to do on your own (hurray!), rather than having to recruit a small team whenever your bladder is full.
This dress is slightly shorter than intermission-length, and the hem usually comes just below the knee. Rock this frock for a casual, outdoor wedding – during the warmer months – where you know you’ll be spending most of your time on the dance floor.
As the name suggests, this style falls to the knees. The general rule is that the shorter the dress, the less formal the wedding, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style. Find a fashionable and feminine outfit to wear that’s perfect for a cocktail wedding, and which will keep you cool if you’re saying I do during the peak summer months. Another advantage of a short dress is that it’s normally less expensive than a longer dress.
Mini-skirts end well above the knee, and they’re ideal for a beach wedding, or if you have Gisele Bündchen legs. This short style is fun, makes a statement and will definitely turn heads. Brides who feel it’s too casual for their wedding (but not their reception!) can opt for a convertible style, where this shorter, fitted skirt is under a fuller, removable skirt. Thigh-length dresses are also a breeze to carry with you to your destination wedding.
If you’re over 1,73m then you’re considered a tall bride, and your stately build is usually what wedding gowns are modelled on. Luckily for you, this allows you to almost pull of any style or shape dress. Often tall brides will wear flats, or a shorter heel, to not tower over their partner, but this really is up to you to decide. If you choose to wear high heels, or you’re really, really tall, you may need to order extra length for your hem.
DO: A short dress will show off your best assets – your legs – but don’t think this means you can’t wear a full-length gown that sweeps the floor. A simple sheath or column silhouette will hug your curves and flatter your statuesque height.
DON’T: Wearing an empire-style can make you look like you’re in a tent, rather than a dress.
With a height of 1,60m or less, you’re generally regarded as a petite bride. The unfortunate thing about bridal sizing, is that most gowns are constructed for tall brides, and so you’ll often have a significant amount of material to hem. If the bottom of the skirt has details, like a scalloped or lace edge, it will have to be removed, your dress shortened, and the edging reattached, and this could lead to very expensive alterations.
DO: A sheath, A-line or empire silhouette will give you the illusion of height, which appeals to many pint-sized brides. You can also pull off shorter styles which, counterintuitively, can make you look taller (depending on dress length) and which don’t swallow you up with layers of tulle. If you wear something short, go above the knees as it shows off your legs to the maximum, making you appear taller.
DON’T: Avoid ball gowns with full-length skirts, as these tend to make it look like the dress is wearing you, rather than you wearing the dress. Bad hems are those that are in-between lengths, like tea-length and ballerina, which bisect your legs and make you look shorter than you really are.
Heels And Hems
Yes, your shoes are important, but they should never dictate what dress you wear. Once you know what frock you’ll wear, find the shoes to complement the dress, and take them to your first fitting, because your dress will be hemmed according to the height of your shoes. Alterations are often far more expensive than you realise, so choose your heel height early and stick to it.
You’ll be spending most of your wedding day in these shoes, which makes comfort your biggest concern. If you never wear heels, choose flats, ballet slippers, sneakers, sandals or a very low heel. Most brides, however, will select a moderate heel as it gives you extra height, makes you stand up straighter and (if you’re not tottering on stripper heels!) make you look graceful when you walk. Just remember that if you wear stilettos down the aisle, and then swap then for flats during your reception, your dress will be dragging on the ground, and people will be standing on it.
Heels or no heels, when you wear a full-length skirt, your hem should be at least 1.3cm, but up to 2.5cm, off the ground. This stops your beautiful dress from dragging on the gravel, grass or dance floor, which will help to keep it clean.
How Much Shoe to Show
If you choose to wear a floor-length gown, your shoes will primarily be hidden, and only the tips will be visible when you walk or dance. On the other hand, shoe lovers will want to show off their individual style or quirky fashion sense, and so they should opt for a shorter-length dress, to flaunt their footwear.
Choosing The Right Dress Length
Still unsure what hem to have? Here are nine other things to consider when you decide on the perfect dress length:
- Formality: Wear a short, sassy number for a beach wedding, but an elegant, long gown for a black tie affair.
- Season: Longer dresses in heavier materials, are better for weddings in the cooler months
- Time: A breakfast wedding is less formal than an evening event
- Venue: A wedding in a place of worship will require you to dress more modestly
- Mobility: If you plan on spending more time on the dance floor than in your seat, consider a shorter dress, which gives you more freedom to move.
- Legs: Are these your best feature? Show them off in a shorter dress.
- Toilet breaks: These are a cinch without lots of layers of heavy fabric
- Personality: Your dress length must suit your individual sense of style
- Your partner: Unless you’re happy towering over your partner, try on several pairs of shoes to find the heel height that works for you both.
The length of your wedding gown plays a huge role in how flattering your dress looks on you. Try on a variety of styles and see what feels comfortable and looks gorgeous. You can’t go wrong when you pick the dress that is a reflection of who you are.