Did you spot your dream dress in a magazine, only to find that the dress just didn’t look right when you tried it at the bridal shop?
Often when a wedding dress doesn’t work, it’s because of the neckline, so this topic is definitely worth exploring. Not only is the design of your wedding dress bodice a fashion statement and a personal expression – the right neckline can also amplify your natural features, help to camouflage a problem area, create a balanced silhouette and lay the foundation for amazing accessories.
Find out which wedding dress neckline is best for you, before you continue your wedding dress hunt! With our styling tips you’ll be equipped with how to use wedding dress design both creatively and to your advantage as means of highlighting, deflecting and adding drama in the right places.
Neckline and style advice according to body frame
Apple or Square body shape
Pear shape or Narrow Shoulder
Broad shoulders/ Athletic build
Neckline according to facial shape
Short/ wide neck
Long face/ long neck
Diamond or Heart
Neckline and wedding dress style advice for a Large bust
If you are blessed with a large bosom, open necklines that shows off decolletage and collar bones are going to make your torso more elongated, which is perfect if you have a big chest. With open necklines we mean those that expose skin over your upper chest, such as wide scoop, wide V neck, boat and straight across. These necklines are suitable for many body types and especially for women with big bust since they provide a frame to the upper torso without revealing too much cleavage.
V-necks are flattering on busty women because they lengthen the silhouette and direct the eyes past the bust down to the waist, at the same time highlighting the shoulders. But it is crucial to pay attention to the cut: very high V necklines can make a large bust look drooping, while a plunging V can be too revealing. Opting for a V neckline that begins an inch above the center of the bust is your safest option – in all cases, make sure to not reveal too much cleavage.
Scoop necklines will also work favorably for big bust as they highlight the décolletage and not the chest. A strapless bodice is theoretically a complementing style, but the problem here is practicality and your comfort – ideally you don’t spend your wedding worrying about your girls. Aim for a style with straps, then go for the neckline of your choosing. The ideal strap for a large bust is one with added cap sleeves, as it pulls attention away from the chest and upward/ out toward the shoulders.
A sweetheart neckline with overly pronounced rounded shapes will exaggerate the bust area, so it might be in your interest to go for something more angular or less defining, such as a straight across neckline, which should cut along only just above the cleavage to allow the area to visually shrink.
Perhaps it is counterintuitive, but do avoid necklines that cover too much skin on your décolletage and neck. High neck halter, high neck, jewel and other narrow necklines will all amplify a big bust. If you want coverage, choose a semi sheer or lace fabric, which still show some skin.
Don’t wear a cowl neck or loose fitted bodice, as it suggests even more volume. The secret is ultimately to find something that covers enough skin for your modesty levels, but not much more. If you feel like you want to cover up, use a shrug or cape – there are so many gorgeous style to choose from!
You could always draw attention away from the chest area by choosing a dress with sleeves, especially 3/4 sleeves, long sleeves, fairy sleeves, butterfly sleeves, flounce sleeves and bishops sleeves that are puffy around the wrist. As long as they are not off the shoulder, or puffy at your upper arm, as these create width at the same level as the bust.
If you are not keen on sleeves, use your shoulders, waist, and skirt as your playground to emphasize. Add details to your shoulder to draw attention upwards, and consider the benefits of a belt (ideally with a wider width) or other accessory at the waist to draw attention there.
Don’t let your bust size restrict what wedding dress silhouette you choose, as you can work either shape just by balancing with the right neckline and accessories, but the most favorable silhouettes are those with some expansion at the lower half – which means most, aside from Sheath.
Think it terms of lengthening, creating vertical flow and drawing attention to your face, waist and shoulders. Balance the bust with an expanding silhouette, shoulder details, and make sure to choose a dress that supports and feels comfortable.
Neckline and wedding dress Style advice for Small bust
Take advantage of your flat chest and wear styles that don’t require a bra, such as a gown with an open back, sheer sides, illusion fabric and plunging necklines. Daring necklines can’t be worn by all women, so why not take a flat chest in your stride as you can get away with these gorgeous styles? Women with flat chests that don’t need a bra, or just a stick on bra, can easily wear these type of gowns – so see it as a blessing in disguise!
When it comes to your neckline, think horizontally to create a sense of width. A wide scoop neck gives the appearance of a more rounded chest. A straight across neckline, exposed shoulders such as off the shoulder neckline, short sleeves, cap sleeves, sweet heart neckline and a square neckline creates horizontal expansion. A high neck, halter neck and a cowl neck increases the chest area upwards, and draws focus away from the bust to your face. Increase width at the chest area with off the shoulder sleeves, especially worth considering those with a wider band across your chest.
An empire waist also gives the illusion of a bigger chest, but if you are an otherwise petite person it might make you look juvenile, and if you are very tall, an empire waist will make you look even taller.
You can balance a small bust with an upper focal point such as a tiara, flower crown or statement head band. A big silhouette such as a ball gown can make the torso seem smaller, so rather opt for more fitted silhouettes such as Trumpet, Sheath, Mermaid and fit and flare to bring the illusion of curves to your bust line. Of course, you always have the possibility to fill it out a bit with a padded bra. A sweetheart neckline that covers more than needed, with extra roundness, will also give shape to the chest area. Another trick is to purchase a push-up bra that feels comfortable and gives your cleavage an enhancement, and ask your wedding dress designer to sew it in to your dress.
Sheer sides or panels with a different fabric texture at the waist will give the appearance of a narrower waist, thus making the chest seem wider. A skirt with a slit makes the lower part of your body seem tinner, thus making the top fuller.
Your aim is ultimately to create visual expansion sideways and upwards, thus increasing volume at the chest. Sleeves, ruffles, drama, texture and added architectural details will give you this effect. Rounded shapes will soften and increase the sense of curvature.
Neckline and style advice for Apple or Square body shape
If your tummy area is about the same size as your hips, with a little defined waist, stay away from Sheath and Mermaid silhouettes which follow the contour of the body from top to bottom.
The empire have long been the to-go to silhouette for Apple shapes, but what its main job has been to disguise, which can actually have the opposite effect! Your main objective should rather be to create the appearance of curves, so as opposed to hiding away, go for an Aline, drop waist or Trumpet silhouette that amplifies the hips and the female shape.
You can, contrary to popular belief, in other words wear a body skimming silhouette. A wide neckline, sleeves and a full flare fitted skirt (Fit and Flare for example) will actually shrink the waist. To enhance the effect, add an oversize bow to your look – bang on trend too!
Panels on the bodice is definitely something to take advantage of, especially open or illusion side panels that shows some skin, or those kinds the innovative designer added to create slimming lines and shape.
Textured details, strategically appliqué and seam lines create focal points around the hips are very beneficial for you, especially if they are rounded in shape.
Any neckline that seem to half your torso vertically is favorable, an example would of course be the deep V or plunging neckline. Showing a bit of cleavage is actually a great idea, as it has a slimming effect on the waist.
A visible corset or use of different fabrics will also “divide” the torso in sections. Aim to draw the eye upwards or downwards, but not horizontally across the torso. Horizontal is good for your skirt though – ruffles, tiers, peplum, pattern and texture are something you can take advantage of. Avoid a skirt with a leg slit, as they tend to make the lower half of your body more narrow.
Choosing a neckline with a bit of asymmetric ruching or a cross over wrap neckline will deflect from your belly, while a plain, sleeveless bodice with vertical seams will help to create vertical lines and a shapely bust. A halter neck or high neck with collar will draw attention up to your face and away from your tummy area. Try a cowl neck to deflect from a large waist, but make sure the looseness is positioned above the bust, and no further down.
Hiding away in a expansive ball gown which seem like the obvious trick, but if you want a flared skirt, an Aline, drop waist, Trumpet will actually work better for you. Why? They draw attention away from the center of your body, and create curves in the right place.
Avoid emphasizing your tummy by adding accessories like belts right on top of it. If you do want to wear a belt, place it higher than the natural waist. Don’t think a wide belt is gonna make the waist look more defined; choose a belt which is in a balanced proportion to the torso. Try wearing the belt asymmetrically, with the embellishment to one side as opposed to center. This will have a narrowing effect on the tummy area.
Add your main drama to the lower half. A flared silhouette, textured lace, an epic train, dreamy tulle, billowing chiffon or luxurious satin with large pleats. Placing the details and the focus here will draw all the attention away from your problem area.
With the exception of cap sleeves, avoid all sleeves as they tend to add width, but any kinds of straps will elongate. A neckline which highlights your bust and shoulders is great.
Think in terms of vertical lines at your upper half, which will lengthen the torso, and horizontal expansion from the hips and down. Adding definition to your hips and skirt will help to create fullness. Draw the attention to the center of your middle torso, as opposed to the side body. At the neckline and bodice, aim to divide your torso into lines going from the waist up towards your shoulders. A wide neckline with straps will make the waist seem smaller. Shoulder focus adds the appearance of triangularization. Defining the bust and décolletage side tracks attention from the waist.
Neckline and style advice for Pear shape and Narrow shoulders
A wider V or scoop neckline balances out pear shapes as it expands towards the shoulders, directing the eye from the hips upwards diagonally. A mid cleavage V neckline also makes the most of your waist, which is likely to be your best area and proportionally slimmer, so why not make the most of it?
The square, boat and off the shoulder neckline is beneficial for pear shapes and narrow shoulders as it helps to give the shoulders a broader look. If you go for off the shoulder, choose the wider kind of sleeve to maximize on the effect. But generally, you will not have a problem with the majority of necklines, although a very deep plunging neckline will make your upper body seem narrower as it tends to create the sense of two halves, which thus broadens the hips.
A high halter neck with bare shoulders might also make your upper body seem smaller. Rather go for straps and a mid-cleavage dip. If you want the plunging or high neck look, go for added sleeves.
Try a cowl neck or a Grecian style loose fitted bodice to create more volume, cap sleeve, short sleeve, off the shoulder and boat neck are advantageous as they draw the attention across the upper torso, thus balancing wider hips. If you have sculpted shoulders, toned arms and/or an alluring décolletage, definitely aim to make the most of your good areas.
Don’t feel limited to hide your hips by wearing A line or ball gown silhouettes, as you can definitely pull off fitted styles too. The ideal fitted style for you is a Sheath with a longer train: the reason being that it doesn’t hug too tightly over the hips, yet is super flattering to your gorgeous feminine shape and gives a similar effect as a more dramatic fitted and flared style.
Perhaps best to avoid drop waist and mermaid, but you can wear Trumpet and fit and flare especially when wearing the right necklines, sleeves and accessories. For example if you are set on a fitted style, balance it out with either of the suggestions above such as butterfly sleeves, a high neckline and a fabulous tiara.
If you want to wear a full silhouette, always aim to balance the width with a neckline with horizontal lines, texture or sleeves. Avoid wearing an oversize bow at the waist, even though yes, it is tempting! Rather add volume on your top and wear the bows on your shoulder instead, or a statement head piece.
This years puffy sleeve trend is great news for all Pear brides, but do opt for half or ¾ sleeves, as you want the “puff” to be positioned higher than the hips. The butterfly sleeve will work beautifully for you, especially combined with a leg slit as it will create a movement of upwards and outwards (the opposite direction from your body shape).
A wrap gown is perfect all around, as the vertical lines guide the eyes past the widest part of your body to the areas you should highlight: your enviable waist and beautiful décolletage.
A simple, medium flare A line, with a bodice with lace or a texture, a belt or ruching to highlight the waist will lightly disguise, draw attention upward and ultimately be super flattering. Avoid peplum styles or any skirt with too much 3D texture or drama around the hip area – aim to leave the silhouette clean, and rather place the focus at the top. If you want all over drama, work with the fabric pattern as it also helps to blur the lines out a bit.
Highlight the great features of your upper body by choosing a wide neckline with straps, sleeves or shoulder details. See your arms, shoulders and décolletage as areas to pull the main focus to. Adding upper body volume and diagonal flow through 3D texture, ruching, asymmetry, embellishments or loose fitting fabric gives impact to the torso, balancing the hips.
Neckline and style advice for Broad shoulders or Athletic build
Say no to tops with added details, cap sleeves or wide straps at the shoulders, and aim to balance the shoulders with a more voluminous silhouette. Wearing plunging necklines such as a sweetheart or v-neck pulls is great; the attention is stolen away from your shoulders, leading the eye down instead of from left to right. The benefit of a plunging neckline is that it draws attention to the center of your torso, directing the eye from the waist and to your face, bypassing the shoulders. For you, enhancing the bust area is not a bad idea – a bit of cleavage and rounded shapes will highlight your naturally feminine form.
Avoid boat neck, wide scoop necklines and short sleeves, as these emphasize broadness with horizontal lines.
Even though it seems like a risk, a shoulder exposing style such as off the shoulder or cold shoulder will draw the attention to the bust and across to the arms, deflecting attention from the shoulders themselves. A one shoulder style is a great idea; it will pull the attention in a diagonal as opposed to across the shoulder. Adding texture, embellishments and detailing on the bodice will naturally draw the eye there, especially if the pattern draws the eyes to the waist.
As your build is likely to be athletic, balance with feminine details such as textured florals and romantic accessories. If you want to avoid emphasizing the angular lines in your athletic stature, choose a dress with lightweight and floaty tulle or chiffon skirts which will soften, and stay away from fitted minimalist styles.
The width of your straps is important; a too thin strap will look too dainty, whereas a too thick strap will emphasize. The ideal width works in proportion to your shoulder, aim for between 1-2 inches but this depends on your height.
Avoid short sleeve and cap sleeve styles, but long, skinny sleeves can balance out the proportions of the torso.
There are more intricate tricks.. say for example your dream dress has a wide neckline or thicker strap, you could bypass the width by adding some details to the inside of the neckline such as pearls, beading, sequin, or a scalloped edge. The focus will be on the inside of the neckline as opposed on the width/ shoulder.
Ideal would be an one shoulder, or off the shoulder design with a puffy sleeve, worn with a belt or a dreamy Aline silhouette. If you are set on a minimal style, go for a gown with a full silhouette, with pleats or a bow, a halter neckline or off the shoulder sleeves, or a dramatic neckline.
You can add drama to your outfit from your chest and down, such as wearing a oversize bow at the waist, add a peplum skirt, removable ball gown skirt and graphic lace fabric with texture and pattern. A “busy” silhouette such as ruffles, handkerchief or tiers will draw attention down, whilst keeping the upper torso details simple, if any at all. Adding sparkle or 3D details around the waist and hip area is a good idea. If you want to wear a fitted silhouette, make sure there is drama somewhere on the dress, aside from on the shoulders of course.
Use vertical lines on the bodice to draw attention to the center of your torso, avoid anything that creates width at the level of your décolletage and shoulders. Think in terms of elongating your upper half, drawing attention to your face, centerline, and waist. Embellishments and interesting laces on the bodice will highlight your torso, and deflect from the shoulder. To balance the width on your upper body, add a sense of horizontal expansion from the waist down. Asymmetry works in your favor as it focuses the eye on one side at a time.
Necklines for your facial shape
Necklines which reflect the features of your face, round or angular, will work amplify the shape. When choosing a suitable neckline, you mainly need to look at the shape of your jawline – wearing a neckline with the same shape will accentuate, but opposing shapes to your facial features will balance if there is an unfavorable exaggeration.
Lower necklines accentuate length, whilst high necklines camouflage it, such as a plunging v-neck which will elongate your face and a high neck will shorten it.
Neckline for Short/ wide neck
A turtle neck, jewel neck or a short scoop or v neck is best avoided. What will balance a short or wide neck is to show off your décolletage and chest a bit more. Go for a plunging V neck, a wide scoop or wide mid-v neck or basically anything with a bit of cleavage. Straps will also help to bring the attention away from the neck out towards the shoulder. The on-trend asymmetric neckline or one sleeve style is perfect for you. Adding shoulder details such as removable sleeves, shoulder wings or a cape will give the same effect – the width at your shoulders will balance the proportions of the neck, but you also need to make sure that some elongating action is happening at the same time. Adding a scalloped edge or other embellishment to the inside of the neckline will also pull attention up and down.
When it comes to your wedding dress bodice, aim for a style with lengthening vertical lines; this could be princess seams, a bustier style, visible corset or an asymmetric wrap style neckline. Textures and drama such as graphic lace, embellishments and creative use of fabric will also draw attention along the centerline.
Neckline for Oval face
An oval face is elongated with a rounded jawline. An oval shape can wear all necklines generally speaking, but certain ones will make the most of your features. As a guideline, the necklines that will balance and those which create a sense of width across shoulders and collar bones. Angular lines will balance the oval shape, such as a V neckline. BUT if you have a long oval facial shape, best to avoid necklines that elongate vertically such as a plunging V. Off the shoulder necklines, high necklines and boat necklines are especially complementing, but as mentioned already, most necklines will work beautifully.
Neckline for a Long face shape
If you have a long, narrow face, a wider neckline helps offset the narrowness of your face, whereas a deep V or sweetheart, plunging neckline can make it appear longer. Therefore favor necklines such as boat, off the shoulder, strapless, straight across, a wide V neckline and a wide scoop, which all will balance a longer face. Necklines to avoid are those that create length, such as plunging necklines or a deep V neckline. A high halter neck or a high neck can look stunning and helps to shorten a long neck or face, but also consider that they sometimes also create the appearance of a longer torso.
Neckline for a Diamond/ heart face
A diamond or a heart shaped face has wide cheekbones and a pointy and narrow jawline. Choose styles with horizontal lines and width across the collarbones – these are square, boat, straight across, strapless and off the shoulders which all make the shape of your jawline more prominent. Avoid cold shoulder styles, a too plunging neckline and sweetheart with very rounded and deep curves. The v-neck or scoop neck will make the most of your cheekbones.
Neckline for a Round face
If you have a round face, a deeper neckline will help elongate. Creating contrast by wearing opposing necklines, in your case a v-neck or a pointy/ plunging sweetheart, will help camouflage a round jawline. A square or straight across neckline will also camouflage the roundness. A sweetheart or V neckline will draw attention vertically, which also helps to elongate. Avoid jewel, scoop and high necks, as it emphasize the round shape.
Neckline for a Square face
Just as for a round face, a plunging V neckline will create a sense of angle and length. The width of your neckline links to the width of your face and wearing a neckline that is wider than your face will make it appear wider than it is. Avoid all necklines with horizontal lines, such as square, boat, strapless, straight across, off the shoulder, a less defined sweet heart and very wide necklines. Rather opt for jewel, scoop, V necks, plunging or sweet heart with more defined curves; basically all necklines with rounded and pointy lines, and showing some cleavage will also be beneficial!
The reason why we have so many different wedding dress styles and necklines, is simply because there are so many kinds of women to dress, and its not only features to take into consideration, but more importantly, personal preferences. The beauty of fashion design is that there is options for all, and with the understanding that you should always aim to highlight what you are most proud of with your face and body, you’ll minimize the imagined need to “cover up” your least favorite areas.
Whilst these fashion tricks above are proven to be advantageous for the listed circumstances, the most crucial aspect of your dress to take into account is -and always should be- that you feel great wearing it, it is comfortable to wear and fits with your budget. As long as you love what you see in the mirror, the other aspects will also fall into place!
In the end of your day, confidence is what matters the most. So what we are really saying is, these guidelines are provided as a general “map” around necklines, but when you are out wedding dress shopping, let your heart be the strongest indication of what is right for you. You are guaranteed to find the perfect dress this way!