Choo-Choo!: Train Styles
There are several train styles you can choose from for your dress, although some dress shapes don’t support all train styles. More modern styles seem to shy away from trains, though it is possible fo find one if you look hard enough. For instance, because the mermaid skirt is so fitted down through the knee, it is very rare to find one with any kind of train on it. While I’m sure I’ll miss some, here are the more common styles and names you may see.
The sweep train is the shortest of the styles and isn’t typically what you picture when you think of a train. Dress with this type of train barely touch the ground and “sweep” along, sometimes trailing maybe a foot or so behind you. This type of train originates at about the back of the knee and is similar to the court train. By default fan-back and some fishtail (fishtails float between this and the next two categories) dresses fall into this category. This is also sometimes called a brush train. This is a no-fuss style that doesn’t require any bustling.
The court train follows the same sweeping principle as the sweep train, but extends out from the waist instead. Because it starts further up the dress, it has more room to move and flow than the sweep train, but that also means that is the harder one to maneuver of the two. You can find this type of train on almost any dress style that can support a train. Think of this as the A-line dress of the trains: it’s nothing overly dramatic and looks good on everybody. This is another style where you can most likely get away without a bustle.
This is probably the most traditional train option. Like the court train, it extends back from the waist of the dress. Chapel length trains trail out between 3 and 5 feet behind you. They are named such because of their use in weddings in smaller churches that had shorter aisles. Because this style does have a little drag to it and you can easily trip on it, I recommend getting a bustle of some kind to pick the extra fabric up off the floor. An under-bustle works well with this style (the extra fabric is just looped under and tacked to the inside of the dress).
Cathedral trains are the a very formal option, extending out from the waist some 5 to 8 feet. These trains are designed to take up more space in the longer aisles of cathedral style churches. This style will most definitely require a bustle if you don’t want to break your ankle while attempting to dance. Which style of bustle you use will depend on your exact dress style, so talk with your seamstress about what your options are. The most common bustle for a dress of this size is an over-bustle, but if you have thin, light layers of fabric you may be able to do something different.
The longest of the train styles, this one extends out around 12 feet behind the bride and typically requires attendants known as pages (usually young boys; think older than ring bearers but younger than ushers or groomsmen) to hold up the train as you walk down the aisle. This is also called a royal train. Think Princess Diana dress. This style of train has too much fabric and a bustle is nearly impossible (and impossible to walk with if you manage to pull it off), so if you’re bent on a monarch style train, you may want to consider having a second “reception dress” to change into.
If you like the idea of a train but want a dress style that doesn’t typically come with one, this is a good option to consider. The watteau train actually attaches at the shoulders of the dress (so no strapless dresses here) and falls down loosely to the hem of the dress. It doesn’t typically drag on the floor behind you too much, so it acts as a sweep or court train in that regard, but because it is only attached at the shoulder it does flow out behind you as you walk (just, you know, not on the floor). This is usually removable for the sake of the reception. If you are doing an outdoor wedding I recommend against this simply because of how easily it will catch a breeze and can take on a life of its own.
The panel train is another option for a dress style that doesn’t typically come with a train. Like the watteau it attaches in one spot and flows out unrestricted from there, but the panel usually connects at the waist. It is usually about a foot wide (quite literally a panel) and can come in lengths varying from court to chapel (much longer and the weight pulling on the seam becomes an issue). This one is also usually detachable, but if you like the look of it you can also bustle it (either with the dress as a whole or on its own). If you like the idea of a train like this and the dress you choose doesn’t come with one, since it is just a simple panel of fabric, it may be possible to add one (if you’re dead set on it, check before you order the dress; the way the seams are constructed may make it difficult to add this without causing other problems).
When considering what kind of train you might like (or just which ones you don’t like), remember that the longer the train, the more bustle work will need to be done before the reception (unless of course you’re going the two dress route). That also means more weight you have to carry around with you. If you like the idea of a long train, but not so much the idea of dealing with it while dancing, consider looking for a dress that has a removable skirt. There are some dresses out there made in two pieces, where the large skirt with the train can actually be detached after the ceremony, leaving you with a lighter, less extensive skirt for the reception.
Still yet to come are posts about dress fabrics, other miscellaneous dress terms, and the salons I visited in my quest for the perfect dress. Stay tuned!