Modern Mother of the Bride Dressing
It’s going to be 2020 before we know it, and somehow dressing for weddings as the mother of the Bride or Groom is one place where the “rules” seem stuck in the last century. All of the outdated ideas – you need something new “age-appropriate”, you should never wear black, you have to wear a floor-length dress or cover your arms – should be out the window!
Mothers of the Bride and Groom should wear something that reflects their personal style, in a color and style that flatters. It should be something versatile that will be a special event wardrobe workhorse and not a one-time purchase that takes up valuable wardrobe real estate.
When we dress clients for special events, we don’t redefine their personal style. Instead, we lean into their already established personal style to ensure that on their most special occasions they feel like the best version of themselves.
With my own Mother of the Bride moment just this past August, I have some tips gleaned from my own experience to share with our readers.
— Consult with the bride. Traditionally, the mother of the bride chooses her ensemble first. This then informs what the mother of the groom will wear. These days, the process doesn’t have to be so formal. Connect with the bride first. Then you will know if there is any need to connect with mother-of-the-groom or other mothers (sometimes stepmothers, etc.). Getting on the same page early on and opening up the lines of communication will benefit everyone with so you can stay in sync about color coordinating (or not), level of formality, and more. In my case, our bride gave us really clear direction so it was easy for all of us to start looking for outfits according to her specifications.
— Start early. This is not a moment for panic purchasing. You want to have your outfit and accessories decided well in advance so you can relax (and have time and energy to support your son/daughter in the run-up to the wedding). The Knot recommends looking 6-8 months beforehand. I started looking six months before the wedding. That gave me plenty of time for finding accessories, etc.
— Choose colors that flatter you. It’s always great if you can work with the color palette chosen for the wedding. But if you look your best in warm earth tones and the wedding colors are grey and pastel yellow, stick with a soft butterscotch that compliments your coloring and still nods at the color theme. Again, always keeping those lines of communication open with the bride and/or wedding party is key!
— Take into account time, location, and season of the wedding. An evening fall wedding has a different feel than a summer day wedding. A wedding that takes place in a church with a reception at a hotel is different than a country wedding outside. Keeping these details at the forefront as you shop will help narrow down your options. One client we had was attending an outdoor wedding where guests would be walking in grass. We selected a cocktail length dress and made sure she was in block heels that wouldn’t sink into the ground.
— Wear your best silhouette. If you always wear sleeveless, no reason to do anything different – show those arms! If a gown will leave you staring at the ground managing excess fabric, choose an elegant knee-length dress. You will enjoy looking at these photos for decades to come, so make sure you choose a style that makes you feel comfortable and you will shine in the pictures and radiate effortless comfort. This is not the time to go rogue with an experimental silhouette.
— Don’t limit yourself to just mother-of-the-bride dresses. Think outside the box. Don’t filter that online search for “mother of the bride.” This will limit your options. Shop boutiques for cocktail dresses or shop online for those dresses by designers/brands you love. I found my dress at a local boutique — TSALT.
— Comfortable shoes are a must. You will likely be on your feet for a long day and night and nothing ruins an event (or a picture) faster than the look of shoes that hurt that you can see on your face. There are lots of stylish and comfortable options that will keep your feet from aching. Suffering for style is so last century! Some brands we love that do comfortable dress shoes are Ron White; Corso Cormo, Naturalizer, and AGL at Nordstrom; Vaneli on Marmi; and Margaux for a custom fit (hello, they have an atelier for brides too!).
— Accessories matter. This is a day to ensure you have a functional and formal clutch. It should be large enough for all the touch-up essentials. A small comb/hairbrush, your phone, lipstick and powder, tissues, and breath mints will ensure you stay photo-ready at every moment. We recommend a formal box clutch. The oversize clutches (envelope clutches) are not dressy enough. They are better for date nights and brunches. It is also a day to consider a spectacular pair of earrings or a cuff bracelet that will not only look amazing with your wedding attire but also be a great reminder of the day when you wear them for years to come. Our favorite spots for special costume jewelry finds that will be go-tos beyond the wedding day are Anthropologie and Shopbop. Locally, we love DC-based Betsy Fisher and Alexandria’s The Shoe Hive/The Hive.
— No need for pantyhose. Unless you already love to wear them on special occasions, no need to start now. Bare legs are a perfectly acceptable modern choice even for weddings.