Rebelling against Mother of the Bride drag

There's hardly a more dispiriting selection for 50+ women than "Mother (or Grandmother) of the Bride".

On every site, frumpy jacketed dresses in upholstery-weight fabrics. I guess many designers figure all the money's been spent on the bride's dress, otherwise, why the sea of poly-satin?
Dresses that make us look like Mrs. Doubtfire hit a prom.

The dress should of course echo the formality and tone of the occasion. If you're in a place of workshop for the ceremony, you'll want some respectful cover, which can be substantial as an eve
ning coat or as whispy as a chiffon stole.

I set out to find some dresses that avoid the tired jacket-over-long-dress formula.
For a formal evening wedding, I liked these:

Ossie Clark dress in an opulent soft umber (which I took from Linda Grant's The Thoughtful Dresser blog), on sale now for £299.

dashi twisted metallic dress in "smoked pearl", a subtle, sensuous shade, $410 at Neiman Marcus.

Both flatter the midsection with soft draping and draw the eye toward the neckline.

I'd also consider
vintage, because the fabric quality will be so much higher for your budget, and many evening gowns were not worn hard.

Look at this Dior 50's greenish bronze silk crysanthemum-pattern evening gown with matching wrap (lined in "purplish gray" velvet). It sold for $1395 from Vintageous.

A good vintage boutique will
listen to your needs, e-mail photos, or send a few items for you to consider.

For a less formal evening or afternoon wedding, I'd go slightly
flou. The dress should be as joyful as the occasion.

Barbara Tfank coat and dress, from the Resort '09 collection is the essence of understated elegance.

Yeohlee's Spring '09 dress is the one I'd choose if 'the kids' are having a casual wedding, perhaps on a rooftop garden.

If you'd like more colour, from Barneys, a Martin Grant silk crepe shift, $1, 446 in ebullient turquoise.

The subtle blush-coloured Milly silk blend shift (below, left) say
s "spring" and the lurex-striped pencil skirt is sexy yet refined. $445 at Net-a-porter.

Vintage again: an alluring (now sold) 1990s YSL chiffon dress. I'd feel like Catherine Deneuve, with of course diamond earrings. From Swank Vintage.

Another idea is to find a style you love, and have it made by a skilled dressmaker.

My friend Harriet found exactly one dress, by Armani, that didn't make her look, as she said, like her grandmother, but at $5,000 could not bring herself to buy.

She had the design, exactly like this Jacques Heim 1960s pattern ($60 at Sewing Palette) made with a sheer silk velv
et devoré skirt in soft spring shades, simple satin bodice and a double-layered chiffon stole that echoed the skirt's pink and soft greens. (I guess Mr. Armani looks through archives too.)

The gown emphasized her trim waist and fit perfectly at the bodice. For about $800, she has a dress she will wear with pleasure many times. After the wedding Harriet shortened it, like the far-right illustration.


Susan B said…
Mrs. Doubtfire hit a prom

Best. Description. Ever.

I dread ever being invited to a formal occasion, because of the dearth of stylish dresses that aren't sleeveles/ see-through/ cut-down-to-there. But then I could probably find something to rent from the place I rented my bridal gown. I like the choices you've shown here.
WendyB said…
Nice choices -- especially the Ossie, of course!
Frugal Scholar said…
Here's hoping that my children get married like I did: at the courthouse. Otherwise, I'll be giving you a call!
It annoys the crap out of me (apologies for the language) that it's very hard to buy a lovely dress that is modern, that has some sleeves (I know very few women of any age who want to show off their upper arms).

The best choice is a dress or outfit that suits your personality and colouring and makes the most of your body, whilst still being appropriate for the occassion.
Anonymous said…
Now this is a 'cut out and keep' post - thanks Duchesse!
Beautiful outfits!

Where on EARTH do people get that kind of money to spend on clothes????? If I had that much laying around, I'd get some French doors installed in my house...or maybe stop worrying about whether & when I'm going to be laid off. Never thought I'd say it, but thank goodness the Son isn't about to get married soon.
Duchesse said…
Funny: That's why I advocate vintage; one of our blogfriends recently bought a Chloe silk dress at Goodwill for $4! I'm for looking gorgeous, not matronly, regardless of how one's dress is acquired; retail, resale, dressmaker, DIY or borrowing.
Kathie Truitt said…
Mother of the Bride was the hardest outfit I have ever shopped for in my life. I was only 45, but everything was so matronly. I was okay with that, because after all it wasn't my day, but my daughter was emphatic that I wore just what she wanted - fair enough. I finally ended up with an Ellen Tracy suit that I loved.

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