Barley 'sweeping' the floor, a sweep train is generally three to six inches longer than the front of the gown's hemline. During the design process, sweep trains generally coincide with gowns which are sleek and sexy in nature. A gown that 'hugs' a bride's curves creates enough star power that a dramatic train is not needed. A single layer of fabric, such as a delicate lace or a stretch satin, is perfect to pair with a simple, sweet and a no-fuss sweep train. Since a sweep train is so minimal, no bustle is needed; and really a bulky bustle is the last thing you should see on a sheath, slinky wedding gown.
Much like a sweep train, these are found on more fitted gowns. A court train, shown to the right, extends out two to three feet from the waist of the gown. Gowns that typically have this train are ones in which details on the back of the gown are not meant to be covered by a bustle. Also, since they extend out more than a sweep train, you will find more design aspects on the train, for instance, embellishments, lace appliques or a gorgeous lace scalloped hem shown also in the picture.
The difference design-wise between these two is where the train begins. In the first picture, you will notice a panel train starts from the waist of the gown while a Watteau train starts just below the shoulders on the highest part on the back of the gown. Designers often put these trains on gowns which they want to show movement. During a runway show, a designer also may use a panel or Watteau train to break up the monotony between the majority of their other gowns in which the train is just an extension of the gown, not its own complete piece of fabric. What can make these trains such a unique design detail on a gown is they are often removable. Underneath the panel train you will find a sweep train or none at all.
As you may have guessed, a chapel train is the most common train length found on gowns in the market today. This train extends about four feet from the waist of the gown and gives the effect of a fuller train without being so cumbersome. From a design aspect, chapel trains are found on wedding gowns where the skirt is fuller. The chapel train, and Cathedral train, are the types of trains where the aforementioned tossing of the train by the maid of honor give the largest effect.
Often a cathedral train is described as the most formal of the trains. The cathedral train truly creates a dramatic effect and from a design point of view, finding a way to not let the train overwhelm the entire gown can be a challenge. However, when done correctly, a cathedral train can make a gown truly unique and standout. Cathedral trains generally extend about 7 feet from the waistline. My favorites are those which have embellishments and details throughout the full length of the train. It is a mesmerizing sight as your eyes can not possibly take it all in during one short walk down an aisle.
Reem Acra , recently had their Spring 2014 Runway show and I saw two new design elements that were different in regards to trains. First, their opening model (shown to the right) was carrying an umbrella with a veil that hangs over the umbrella extending to the floor. The model is wearing a short gown underneath, however, the veil over the umbrella gives the effect of a chapel length train on a gown in which otherwise would not have one. This theme was repeated a couple times during the show. There were also a couple short dresses featured in which no train was there at all. Although not traditional, these really caught my eye. I look forward to observing how all designers can be creative with train lengths in the coming seasons.