Back in the Middle Ages when fabric was in short supply, the length of one’s train conveyed a person’s wealth and standing. For Victorians, bustling the train was considered an art form with all kind of intricate floral and lace treatments. Today a gown with a train still suggests formality; typically the longer the train, the more formal the wedding. So what is a train exactly? A train is that extension in the back of the skirt that follows when you move. There are two types of trains: built-in and detachable. Built-ins are integrated in the actual skirt pattern when the dress is made. These are the kind that are pulled up and bustled after the ceremony. A detachable train is a separate component, not integrated in the skirt pattern. Detachables are usually removed after the ceremony, although I’ve seen them bustled every so often when brides want to keep that certain “Gigi” look going for the party.
Above: Header Photo: A bustled taffeta train//Directly Above: A chapel length train in layers of tulle  on The ANGELIQUE Dress////Grace Kathryn Photography


Sweep-Typically extends a foot or so past the hemline.

Chapel-Considered formal. Extends about 2 feet beyond the hemline. Tres chic right now.

Cathedral-Formal. Generally a 3 foot extension from the hemline. Needs bustling treatment post ceremony.

Royal-Very long. Diana Spencer’s was twenty-five feet! Ultra-formal look for big churches and cathedral ceremonies.
Above: A long, detachable train on a fitted sheath///Strotz Photography


Watteau-Named after the eighteenth century painter who popularized his models wearing them; attached at the shoulder and falls to the hemline or beyond.

Panel Train-A long strip or A-line shape of fabric. Typically attached to the waist; though sometimes fastened to the back or shoulders.

Bouffant Panel-A sort of semi-skirt gathered onto a band at the back waist sometimes extending the hip area. Popular accent with sheath and A-line silhouettes. Check out Audrey Hepburn’s party dress in Sabrina, its a good example.

Overskirt- gathered or fitted onto a belt that can be unhooked for the reception. May be made of solid fabric like duchesse satin or something transparent like organza.

Fishtail-Either a built-in extension or godet (triangle of fabric inserted in the seam).

 Above:  A tulle overskirt  on The SABRINA Dress///Grace Kathryn Photography//Directly Above: A Fishtail godet train on The BIANCA Dress///SE Photography

If your heart’s set on an ultra- formal gown and you’re petite, concentrate on exquisite fabric or embroidery rather than extension. A sweep train and/or chapel veil is about as far as you can go and stay in proportion. Heavier? Go any length but keep in mind thick, textured, adorned fabrics aren’t your best option. Lucky you if you’re tall and slender. Go any length you like in any fabric without over embellishing.

Evening gown silhouettes in lightweight fabrics come with both built-in and detachable trains; sheath silhouettes, the latter unless they have fishtail treatments. If you’re looking for an A-line or ball gown in medium to heavyweight fabrics like Duchesse and Peau de Soie, your train will probably be a built-in chapel or cathedral length. These are the more formal gowns and when you visit a salon, you won’t find them displayed out in the open as much. If you do see one, or a sales consultant brings one out, observe how the gown keeps its shape on the hanger or dress form. If it’s hanging up, it will probably be on a molded form-hanger, bustled and/or displayed at least a foot apart from other gowns similar in silhouette. A dress form is the next best thing to you wearing it, and will show it off to its best advantage.


Bustling is the gathering and tacking up of the train so that the bride can move around freely post ceremony. Once a gown is bustled it goes through a kind of metamorphosis as does the bride in it. There are two kinds of bustling techniques: overbustles and underbustles (French). Usually, bustling is secured with hooks and/or ribbons (narrow strips of grosgrain). Over bustling is the easiest and consists of picking up and tacking the skirt to the waist for chapel and cathedral lengths; or behind the knee for sweeps. Underbustling goes the other way—down and under, fastening to points on the under slip. Longer trains can take a combination of both over and under bustling all at once and the results can be stunning. Additional or custom bustling is done after the bodice fitting is completed. How many (more) bustle points you chose is up to you and the estimation of your alterations person.

Keep in mind not every dress bustles well. Examples include ball gowns with skirts in lightweight layers like tulle or organza. The amount of layered skirts present problems. The bustling is done layer by layer which is time consuming and expensive, and you’d have to absolutely love the result to go through all that hassle. Also some gowns with sweep trains, godets or fishtails don’t bustle well.
Overall, most dresses do bustle beautifully and are a joy to wear. A bustled train remains one of the most elegant and romantic elements of the wedding gown . . . .

All dresses by Amy Jo Tatum