With so many different styles and silhouettes of dresses, sometimes it can get confusing, especially with the different names for each style. The name of each style typically refers to the way the skirt is cut or the way it fits on the body. Each silhouette is designed to highlight different aspects of the body, so knowing the characteristics of each style can help you find the perfect dress for any occasion. 

All dress bodices are designed to fit snugly to the body since this is where the majority of the support for the dress is.

Hopefully, this guide can help you better understand what each style is, what it looks like, and what term to use to ask for the style you want while shopping.


Starting with the most fitted of the silhouettes, the mermaid dress often looks similar to a mermaid’s tail. The skirt is fitted through the hips, most often down to the knees, then flares out or poofs out from the knee to the floor. Mermaid dresses are often quite structured, showing off an hourglass shape. In evening wear, we often interchange “mermaid” and “trumpet” as they have very similar silhouettes.

Fit n flare

A fit n flare dress is a more relaxed version of the mermaid dress. Fit n flare is sometimes cut similar to the mermaid style using a more relaxed fabric or fit, whereas other times it is fitted through the hips and then falls straight down from the knee to the floor. Most often, the fit n flare dress is cut from a relaxed or stretchy fabric, allowing for more movement while wearing this style.


A straight-cut dress still falls within the fitted range of dresses but is the least fitted of these three. A straight dress is fitted through to the middle to bottom of the hips then falls straight down from the bottom of the hip to the floor. The straight dress is cut with less curving and shaping than other fitted styles and often has the most relaxed fit, making it easy to wear while still showing off your curves.


Flowy dresses may be the most common silhouette for dresses. These dresses are fitted through the bodice with a skirt that flows out from the waist, falling straight to the floor. Flowy dresses are often cut in a similar way to the a-line dress but have no crinoline to poof the dress out. The flowy silhouette offers a more relaxed and boho vibe, and the gentle flowing and draping of the fabric creates a soft, romantic look that is universally flattering.


The a-line silhouette is the other most common dress style, and the second fullest and poofiest style of dress. The skirt on an a-line dress gradually widens towards the hem, creating an “A” shape. Another universally flattering style, this style is classic and timeless, accentuating your waist. The skirt may be fuller than the flowy dress, but the poof of the a-line is still easy to wear and move around in.


The ballgown silhouette is a go-to style for anyone who wants to feel like Cinderella on their special day. The skirt on a ballgown is full, voluminous, and the largest of all the styles, poofing out from the waist before falling to the floor. Often called the “princess dress,” the ballgown is a truly show-stopping style.

Final Notes

Now that you know the different dress styles and silhouettes, you can confidently shop for the style that suits you and your personal taste best. Whether you’re looking for something sleek and modern or romantic and whimsical, understanding these styles will help you find the perfect dress for your special day.