VEILS 101: Lengths, Styles and Fabrics

    Wearing a veil dates back to ancient times and most cultures.  The bridal veil in particular has been a symbol of purity as well as mystery in many traditions.  Since Biblical times every era it seems has put it’s own spin on “the veil” and how it’s worn.   Fourteenth century brides wore hoods of silk netting.  Victorians donned yards of handmade laces passed on to daughters and granddaughters.  60s brides popularized the pouf veil still stylish today.

   The good news is, there’s no rule anymore what length veil  goes with a particular style gown.  Whatever guidelines exist have more to do with following your proportions and sense of style.  So, veil lengths can vary from jazzy net bows to yards of tulle trailing the hemline.
Photos by S1 Studios


Short Veils

The shorter ‘fashionista' veil has gone trendy the past few years. Why? Short veils seemed out of the ordinary –very outside the traditional bridal box till a few vintage designers brought them back. There's still  something chic, even edgy about a bride sporting one. As early as the 1990s, Vera Wang paired up short, pouf veils with very formal gowns. Whether she wanted to show off the extraordinary back details of her gowns or usher in a new look, I don’t know; I only know the juxtaposition this duo created worked.

Brides say the best thing about wearing a shorter veil is, not having to do any adjusting in that switch from the solemnity of ceremony to big time partying hearty. Short veils are easy to maneuver around in and stay put whether you’re exchanging vowels, cutting cake or dancing,

Bird Cage or Net Pouf-Left: These have gone trendy the past few years thanks to vintage designers. Made of either netting or tulle, this veil falls above the shoulder line.  Since it’s a shorter style, it tends to look structured, more hybrid of headpiece and veil.  Great for fashionistas.   


Blusher or Flyaway-Pictured below left, a fly away is typically attached to the back while the blusher is a short veil worn over the face during the ceremony.  Can also be worn shoulder length in layers.  Although considered informal, this is the choice of some chic, formal-gowned brides.

Long Veils

If I were to define the quintessential  bride, she'd definitely be sporting a long veil on her wedding day.  To explain what’s considered long in veil chic, I’d start at the elbow and work all the way down to the twenty-five foot cathedral trail. Long veils convey a romantic mood by way of all that added gossamer sheer.

Elbow-Extends to the elbow or a couple inches below.

Fingertip-Most popular length; can be worn by nearly every figure type with most silhouettes.
Waltz-Falls anywhere between knee and ankle.
Chapel-Considered formal.  Extends about  two feet beyond the hemline.
Cathedral-Most formal.  Extends three feet or more beyond the hem.
Double Tier-Two layers, typically the shorter one a blusher but not always.


Pouf-Width of veil is gathered at the crown and can be attached to a headpiece.  Generally made out of tulle or English netting.
-  Yes, actually dropped onto the head in a single layer of tulle or lace; often bordered with lace or ribbon.  A Mantilla is a type of dropped veil.
Long Scarf-Considered more an option in headwear than veil depending on the length of chiffon or silk gauze used to create it.  A 5-yard length
wrapped around the head framing the face creates a long band of train that works as an extraordinary veil.  Perfect for
Mosque weddings.


    Typically tulle is the most common fabric used though chiffon, silk gauze and different types of nettings are sometimes worn.  Remember Julie Andrew’s wedding in The Sound of Music?  Her veil was silk organza . . . a stunning choice.  Another stunning choice—my favorite—is silk gauze.  Though it’s not as transparent or springy as tulle, it has all the opposite characteristics: an opaqueness; it floats whenever you walk or the breeze blows.


Most brides wait till the gown is ordered before making a decision.  In addition to complimenting your dress, you’ll need to consider your body type.  Petite brides want to create the impression of height.  They can wear pouf veils as long as the volume up top doesn’t imitate an Indian-headdress, dwarfing rather than extending height.  Also if you’re short, a cathedral length veil isn’t the best choice—even a dropped version with zero density.  You can get the drama and extension you need by scaling down to a waltz or chapel length to fit your proportion.  Heavier and/or thick-waisted brides look best in a one layer dropped veil tacked onto a bun, falling in a swirl down the back.  Try keeping your lines back and delicate, avoiding elbow length veils with lots of volume.  Ditto veils edged in ribbon; they can form lines across the waist, creating width.  If you’re tall you’ll want to keep the poise of your height intact without going over the edge.  Go ahead and wear that cathedral veil with your long-trained ballgown.  But realize even tall, sylph-like women have limitations.  Princess Diana who was a stunning 5’10”, over-volumized her height her wedding day when she piled layers of tulle atop a dress already screaming of über-pouf.  Face it, we all have to work on getting the symmetry right.

Generally, more ornamental gowns look best with simple veils, like one layer of tulle with narrow edging or no edging at all; whereas all over lace veils or ones edged with wide borders require a simple gown with little adornment.  Your dress might have some exquisite back details you want to show off.  If this is the case select a shorter veil like a fly away or net pouf.  Want a more romantic look?  Try a layer of tulle— preferably in a dropped style that doesn’t fall in creases and folds across your back.  Tulle is the best fabric for this; it’s transparent enough without being so opaque to fog detail.  If your gown has no train, wearing a chapel or cathedral length veil can create one—especially elegant when bordered in wide-edged lace or there’s a concentration of lacework on the train portion.


  If you’re in a long veil and want to remove part of it for the reception, have your salon work out the fastening system with you and whoever is helping you.  Taking off the entire veil?  Exactly when during the reception is up to you; it depends on whether you want to be veiled in photos cutting cake, toasting, dancing, etc.  Some brides wear their veil the entire day.  And I suppose this is because there is nothing quite like a white veil that says . . .  Today is the only day I will ever be a Bride.

   Photo Credits

Top three photos: clockwise-Header photo by S1 Studio/Pouf veil photo by Dominic Colacchio Photography/Cage veil photo by Bill Smoot

Photos by Piximage

Second to last photo by Bride Chic 2010