I like to think of the skirt component as the one in which some of the most critical movement takes place. The skirt goes into motion when you put one foot in front of the other and make your way down the aisle or dance with your groom. And because the skirt is an action piece, it has a certain ‘living quality’ once you start moving around in it. Added embellishments like beads and crystals reflect light a different way every step you take; back slits reveal sexy legs and bustling can transform a gown one moment from elegance, the next to poetry and romanticism. Consider once you start really moving around, your skirt, your dress as a whole is constantly changing with you in it.
Since most gown silhouettes are based on the skirt proportion of a sheath, ball gown or A-line, let’s look at a few details within those categories. Skirt details vary and are filled with special treatments like pleats, overlays and drapes. For instance, ruffles are a design detail that can add length; deep inverted pleats can add fullness without bulk to the waist or hips. Zeroing in on which of these treatments you want is going to be one of your most important decisions.

Judd Waddell

Draped or bustled-Can be applied to sheaths, A-lines or ball gowns. A drape is a wrap of fabric pleated or gathered to the side or back seams of the skirt adding fullness. They can be integrated into the original pattern or added on in a contrasting fabric. Imagine a 1930s evening gown in a lightweight crepe, asymmetrically draped front to back. In heavier fabrics like faille and peau, swathes of draping lend a more sculpted, architectural look to the gown giving it that Goddess on a Pedestal quality.
Flounce-A ruffle or pleating of any width around the bottom of the skirt. Seen nowadays mostly as a bit of flounce peaking out of a skirt overlay.
Tiers-Can be one or up to even twenty layers of tiering in a range of lengths and fabrics like the dress below.
Lela Rose

Lela Rose

Ines di Santo

Graduated Hemline(s)-Again think Spanish Dancer. Hem tapers from a high to low point. Can be applied as one or more skirts.
Trumpet-Form of princess line with two vertical seams up front and back with godets (triangular pieces sewn into the seams) adding fullness around the knees.
Over skirt-Most are detachable and worn over a sheath or A-line. Could be considered a detachable train if it’s elongated in back.
Overlay-Like the over skirt, the overlay is placed over an existing skirt. Some employ special effects like being cut asymmetrically or short in front, long in back. The difference between the over skirt and overlay is the latter is generally incorporated into the pattern when the gown is made.
Circular-Full skirt completely on the bias. Typically fitted onto a natural or dropped waist with a sweeping, flowing hem. Takes on totally diverse characteristics according to what fabric is used. In lightweight silk crepe its fluid; wool crepe heavily fluid. In heavier satins its very structured and needs well thought out under structure.
When you think of pleated skirts do schoolgirl uniforms and classic plaids come to mind? Think again. Couture bridal gowns can have some of the most pleated skirts you’ll find and deserve a special section all their own. Many A-line and princess styles in heavier fabrics like satin and moiré incorporate deep (sometimes very deep) box or inverted pleats instead of gathers in the skirt. Why use a pleat instead of a gather? Pleats are designed to fall flat in folds through the waist and/or hip area (where the skirt is joined) and not bunch up like gathering would. The result is a well-fitting, uninterrupted line up the bodice with a beautiful and even fullness in the skirt. Here are a few of the different types of pleats.
Accordion-Narrow pressed pleats. Mostly seen in light to mid-weight fabrics and more informal bridal wear.
Flat pleat-Simplest pleat formed by a single fold of fabric. Like knife pleats this one works best with mid and lighter weight fabrics. Used sometimes in hem and border treatments; peaking out of an overlay or on trains.
Box Pleat-Double pleat made by two facing folds joined to the center. Many gowns with full skirts have this application
Inverted Pleat-Reversed box pleat where folds meet and are stitched up top. Another much used application.
Knife Pleat-Flat pleats all going in the same direction. Mostly used on mid-weight fabrics like linen, and lighter weight woolens and taffeta.
Fortuny Pleat-More of a fabric treatment than pleat. Very narrow all over pleats. Fabric comes pre-pleated and as a result, entire gowns—bodice, sleeves, skirt are all over pleats. Named after Italian designer Mariano Fortuny who innovated an exclusive pleating method that never changed.
Believe it or not, your hemline and fiancée’s tie are still two factors that determine your wedding’s formality or lack thereof. This originates from standards set by invitations that read, White-Tie only and Black Tie optional. Say a wedding is a white or black tie only event. This means formal and typically more formal weddings call for a floor length gown. Issue a Black tie optional invite and things loosen up, especially when it comes to dressing the bride. It still means there’s a certain formality expected but you have the carte blanche to scale down some. Here’s a guideline: you’re going semi-formal so your hemline can be anywhere from mid-calf to floor. An informal wedding dress is typically knee-length to mini. Typically. Overall it’s what you feel best in and can carry off; your gown’s proportion and hemline do create some of the ambiance in sync with the occasion. Just focus on scale, atmosphere, how you want to come across and you’ll do fine.
-Great legs are nice but not an absolute must for wearing this length. The mini is still a radical statement maker just as it was circa 1966. It says more about who you are than what you look like in it. It says, “I’m whimsical, I’m different, I’m individualistic!” Minis are typically an informal wedding choice. If you want to add a little formality for the ceremony, wear a detachable floor-length overskirt. You’ll look tres a la mode before and after it comes off for the reception
Just Above the Knee-Popular length for the casual or youthful bride who’s not ready to take a crack at the mini. Ideal for suits and cocktail dresses.
Gallit Levi for Designer Loft
Romona Keveza

Just Below the Knee-Like the Romona Keveza dress above, this is another great length for a suit or cocktail dress. The additional few inches here add refinement and sophistication. Flatters many figure types and a range of ages.
Midi-Falls between knee and mid-calf
Ballet Length-Straight, flared or full skirt falling just above the ankles. Full skirts look awesome worn over layers of crinoline petticoats. A dress this length can go formal as well as semi and informal depending on the materials and workmanship.Asymmetrical- Irregular hemline falling diagonally.
Handkerchief-Another irregular hemline that falls to a point. More a treatment than length as the longest point usually falls anywhere from the knee down. Typically handkerchief drops are made in sheer fabrics like chiffon. Popular with chemise style 1920s gowns.Ankle length-an inch or two above the floor.
Floor Length-Yes, this is a good choice for the formal, semi-formal— even informal wedding (for informal you don’t go too far over the top). Again, think scale. Ideal for the bride getting married in a cathedral whereas the bride in a chic restaurant donning a floor-length ball gown with a five-foot train is overkill. If the restaurant is you venue of choice instead picture yourself in a slip dress or tailored suit to the floor. Stunning!