Wedding Dress Trains and Bustles – Which to Choose and Why

Wedding dress train styles

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Your wedding is probably the only time in your life when wearing a train wouldn’t look out of place. While some choose to have a modest sweep train extending just a little way from the hem of their dress, others like to go all out with a train extending meters behind.

The type of train you choose will contribute to the tone of the wedding. It needs to match with the overall theme and not look out of place. You wouldn’t want a cathedral train to wear to a barnyard wedding, would you?

Here’s a look at types of wedding dress trains (and bustles) and how to choose the right type for you.

What is a Wedding Dress Train?

Bride with wedding dress trains

A wedding train refers to the piece of fabric that extends behind the bride and follows her as she walks around. A train can range from six inches to 25 feet or more and can vary in style. Some popular options are:

  • Watteau style trains that attach to the dress at the shoulder and create a cape-like look
  • a detachable skirt overlay that connects at the waist or
  • the most common option – an extension of the fabric of your skirt  

Each of these has its own pros and cons and has to be chosen based on your personal preferences, the venue and the overall style and theme of your wedding.

What Do Real Brides Say?

Here’s what some real brides say about wedding trains:

Morgan: When I first went wedding shopping, I was against the idea of a train. But I ended up falling in love with the idea of a train for my wedding dress.

Katherine: Trains are gorgeous in pictures but they’re the most annoying thing to have trailing behind you during the reception. And bustles aren’t the most durable so you might end up having to hold your train the whole evening, which is what happened to me.

Marissa: Trains add a bit of drama as you walk down the aisle. If you can’t decide between a train or not, I say keep it for one reason –  How many times will you get to wear a train in your life?

Types of Wedding Dress Trains

There are numerous types of wedding dress trains out there, ranging in size and style. Here are the most popular options.

1- Watteau Train

Ideal For: Destination weddings, outdoor weddings, casual wedding dresses

Why: Detachable, adds formality to casual outfit, easy to wear and transport

Bride with watteau train

Watteau train style cape by Veils by Roxanne. See it here.

Pronounced wa-tow, this train is unique in that it falls from the shoulder rather than as an extension from the length of the dress.

It typically only extends as far as the hem of your wedding dress but can be extended for a more dramatic look. It’s the cross between a veil and a train, giving a modern twist to the traditional look.

The train attaches at the shoulders of your dress, similar to a cape and depending on how it’s designed, can be detachable. This gives you the added bonus of two looks with one dress.

2- Sweep Train

Ideal For: Mermaid, sheath and A-line dresses as well as bohemian styles

Why: Casual, comfortable and easy to wear

Bride wearing sweep train wedding dress

Trumpet style dress with sweep train by Sweet Juliet Studio. See it here.

The sweep train, sometimes called a brush train, gets its name from the fact that it sweeps the floor with the fabric without extending too much. It’s the shortest of the conventional dress trains and typically measures around 6 to 12 inches.

The sweep train doesn’t require a bustle (more on this later) and is practical and versatile for a range of different venues. The length in a sweep train comes from the extension of the hem.

3- Court Train

Ideal For: Mermaid, trumpet, sheath and A-line wedding dresses

Why: Comfortable and sophisticated

Bride wearing court train dress

Princess style dress with court train by Kuraje Wedding Dresses. See this here.

The court train is about the same length as a sweep train with the main difference between the two being that sweep trains extend from the hem of the dress, whereas court trains extends from the waist. It gives the dress an almost princessy look that’s ideal for a more formal, sophisticated style than the sweep train.

4- Chapel Train

Ideal For: Any style of wedding dress

Why: Noticeable yet not too over the top 

Bride wearing chapel train wedding dress

Vintage style dress with chapel train by Alesandra Paris. See it here.

The most popular length for wedding gown trains, the chapel train extends about 4.5 feet from the waist. It’s easy to see why this train length is the most popular – it effortlessly combines practical chic, sophistication and elegance in one simple step.

The chapel train adds a touch of formality to your wedding dress but it’s not too dramatic. It elevates the design from a ‘dress’ to a ‘wedding dress’ without sacrificing comfort.

5- Cathedral Train

Ideal For: Formal wedding gowns like ballgowns 

Why: Makes you feel like a princess

Bride wearing cathedral train wedding gown

Statement wedding dress with cathedral train by Weekend Wedding Dress. See it here.

Cathedral trains extend around six or seven feet from the waist and give the dress a very formal look. Wedding dresses with this length of train are perfect for formal, traditional ceremonies. It immediately elevates any gown to ball gown status, perfect for a princess out of a fairytale.

Although cathedral trains are stunning and make for a very dramatic look, they’re not ideal for all venues and they also require a lot of attention to ensure that you’re looking your best on your wedding day. The train needs to be kept in place to ensure it adds to, not detracts from, your look.

6- Royal or Monarch Train

Ideal For: Super formal weddings   

Why: For the most dramatic and statement look

Bride wearing monarch train wedding gown

Modern wedding dress with long train by Dioma Fashion. See it here.

This is not a highly popular option but it’s definitely one that most girls dream about when imagining their fairytale wedding.

The monarch or royal train is so called because it’s frequently seen on royal brides, such as Kate Middleton or Princess Diana, ideal for the most extravagant ceremonies.

Royal trains extend about 12 feet from the waist and can go on for as long as you want the train to be. Princess Diana’s train famously for 25 feet!

These kinds of trains are for the daring bride who wants to be at the center of attention on the day. It’s not easy to look after a royal train and you would need your bridal girls to help you keep the train looking perfect.

What is a Bustle and Do I Need One?

A bustle refers to a method in which the back of the dress is fixed in such a way so that you don’t step or trip on it during the reception. All that extra fabric from the train can be too much to worry about during the more relaxed atmosphere of the reception.

A bustle allows for more movement and dancing, without the fear of your dress being stepped on and damaged.

Bride wearing detachable train wedding dress

Detachable trains, like this one from Vestelli Dress, don’t require bustling. See this here.

Bustles are especially important for dresses where the train is long and restricts free movement – such as the cathedral train. Bustling styles can be elaborate and complicated, depending on the type used.

For shorter trains, simply buttoning or tying your dress at the back can reduce the length of the train. If your dress has a detachable train, you can simply take it off during this section of the reception, so you won’t need to worry about bustling.

There are several ways of bustling your dress:

American Bustle (a.k.a. over bustle)

Here the train is lifted and fixed to the waist of the dress to reduce its length and to give the dress a full look. This video shows you how it’s done.

French Bustle (a.k.a. under bustle)

The train is brought up underneath the skirt and ribbons or loops are used to tie the train in place. The ribbons are numbered and tied accordingly. The dress looks like it has a formal tuck at the back with added volume.

Bubble Bustle

This type of bustle has become very popular lately. Here, loops at the bottom edge of the train are tied to ribbons under the gown. It creates a very formal, princess like look without any tucks or ties visible from the outside. It simply brings the train to the same length as the rest of the skirt.  This is a more expensive bustle option but it looks amazing. This is our favorite bustle type as it doesn’t change the shape of the dress too much.

Pickup Bustle

This is an easy bustle style where strategically placed eyelets on the dress will be lifted and fixed to buttons, typically 1-3. It gives the dress a slight lift up without too much fuss. This is perfect for shorter trains.

What Style Train to Choose

When choosing your train, there are numerous factors to consider. These include:

  1. The venue – pick a train length that suits the venue and not one that works against it. For a formal venue, like a cathedral, you can opt for a longer, formal train. For more casual, laid back weddings, choose shorter, more comfortable train lengths.
  2. Your style – do you like dramatic statement looks or are you more of a minimalist? While this is the one day that you could wear a royal train and get away with it, consider if you would feel comfortable in one. If you don’t love the look and feel out of place in your dress, it will show. Choose something that suits your style and makes you feel comfortable.
  3. Your bridal party – if you want a long, dramatic train but you don’t want a bridal party, you might have difficulty keeping your train in place. Typically, a bridesmaid or the maid of honor would be allocated the job of ensuring that the bride looks lovely with nothing out of place. You would need to find someone else to do the job for you – like the mother of the bride.
  4. Price – a large train comes with added issues like creating bustles for the dress. This adds to the cost of your dress and can be expensive. Not ideal if you’re on a budget.
  5. Convenience – needless to say, a train-less dress is more convenient and easier to look after. Of course, it doesn’t have the dramatic look of a train, but consider if that’s worth the hassle for you.
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