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5 Considerations for Mother of the Bride's Dress

As the mother of the bride, you want your dress to be simple and elegant.
As the mother of the bride, you want your dress to be simple and elegant.
Stewart Cohen/Taxi/Getty Images

This wedding is unquestionably your daughter's big day. But don't forget that it's yours, too. Along with the river of emotions you're treading, you'll have a chance to spend time with old friends and new family. You'll pose for photographs and probably even dance with the groom. And, most importantly, you'll watch as your daughter says, "I do."

Before you say "yes" to the dress, though, make sure it's passed a litmus test all your own. The right mother-of-the-bride dress should feel like it's been custom-created just for you -- especially when it comes to hue, fit, hemline and, of course, your daughter's approval. Most importantly, this dress should make you feel beautiful. It's your day to shine, too. Here are some suggestions to help you do just that.

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Tradition dictates the mother of the bride chooses her dress before the mother of the groom but it would be a nice gesture to invite her to shop with you.
Tradition dictates the mother of the bride chooses her dress before the mother of the groom but it would be a nice gesture to invite her to shop with you.
Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Traditionally, the mother of the bride purchases her dress first and then alerts the mother of the groom with a friendly fashion update. The information you share will guide the mother of the groom in her decision-making process, subtly ensuring her colors won't clash with yours and she won't make a selection that's too formal (or not formal enough).

Really, though, this tradition is completely dependent upon your sensibilities. If you're not a hard-and-fast follower of traditional etiquette, you may want to take a different tack. Invite the mother of the groom to shop with you or give her free reign to find a dress of her own liking. Building this healthy communication early on will pave the way for two families to come together -- and will certainly come in handy down the line when holiday gatherings or new babies are afoot.

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Begin your mother-of-the-bride dress selection by speaking with your daughter. Does she have any specific style she'd like you to wear? Better still, see if your daughter will shop with you. It's a great way to find exactly what you both have in mind. (You'll probably want to do this after she's selected her dress.) If she's pressed for time, scout a few dresses on your own and then model them during a second trip with your daughter. You'll trim hours from the process, leaving time to support her in other ways.

Remember, your daughter may seem to have everything well in hand -- checking through her list of venues, floral arrangements and DJs with great skill -- but she's sure to falter. Planning a wedding means making about a zillion emotionally charged decisions and she's going to need your calming influence from time to time. Table your own panic/irritation/worries, whatever the topic, and become a safe place for her to share her emotions. Odds are, that's all she needs to reach the precipice of her crisis and see calmly down the other side.

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Mother of the Bride's Big Day Checklist

  • Check in with daughter and offer support if needed
  • Ready yourself for the wedding
  • Arrive early to greet wedding party and attendees
  • Help wrangle subjects for wedding photos
  • Share a stolen moment with your daughter before the ceremony begins
  • Savor the moment your daughter walks down the aisle

While the mother of the bride and the bridesmaids don't need matching dresses, they should complement each other.
While the mother of the bride and the bridesmaids don't need matching dresses, they should complement each other.
Harry Zernike/Botanica/Getty Images

As the reality of your daughter walking down the aisle comes into clearer focus, there are sure to be some mixed emotions. As you begin to wax poetic over her childhood antics and feel a bit of sadness seep into your bones, take heart: There's a bright spot. At least your dress doesn't need to match the bridesmaids. Whew!

It's probably a good idea to talk to your daughter, though, just to make sure you don't select a color that's off limits on her color wheel. Then, proceed in good taste. While it's OK if your dress isn't the same color as the bridesmaids' dresses, you'll want to make sure that it complements them, since you'll be in a lot of pictures together. However, steer clear of a white or ivory dress (only the bride should wear these colors). Likewise, black is usually prohibited, unless it's a very formal, evening affair, because it suggests mourning.

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A dress with a matching coat is age appropriate without being dowdy.
A dress with a matching coat is age appropriate without being dowdy.
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And we don't mean ancient. Mother of the bride dresses have a tendency to be dowdy, so steer clear of looks that will age you. If your two-piece suit makes you feel late for a country club luncheon or has enough sequins to rival a disco ball, put it back on the hanger. Likewise for hems that hit mid-calf (why did any designer think we wanted to draw attention to the thickest part of the leg?) Instead, opt for a sheath and long coat or a dress with a bolero jacket. Sleeves of any length are more flattering than sleeveless styles. Or use a wrap to cover bare arms. And take it easy on the rhinestones.

Even if you could pull off a sexy look with no problem, it's still probably a good idea to model the dress for your daughter. She'll surely want you to look beautiful, but perhaps a siren red strapless affair wasn't quite what she had in mind for her dream day.

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First, make sure your dress -- regardless of color -- flatters your figure. And this means honing in on your best features. Cinch your small waist with a dress that's belted at the midsection. You could pair this cinched waist with a full skirt to disguise southern problem areas. Or create a nice line by wearing an empire (pronounced uhm-peer) waist that pulls in just below the breasts. Bonus: You'll forgo any muffin-top troubles because the dress material simply falls from the high waist to the hem.

When it comes to shoe selections, opt for champagne or silver rather than one that's too matchy-matchy with your dress color. Ankle straps add bulk and age, so look for a simple sling-back heel. You'll also want to pare down your accessories. The last thing you need is a necklace dueling with a corsage for the eye's attention. As you select a dress, consider where you'll place the corsage (traditionally on the left side). Or ask for a wrist corsage. A wrist corsage won't get crushed with each of the zillion hugs you'll give that day.

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Sources

  • Celebrate with Style. "Survival Guide: Tips for the Mother of the Bride." (Feb. 26, 2011) CelebrateWithStyle.com.http://www.celebratewithstyle.com/site/survival-guide-tips-for-the-mother-of-bride
  • Elliott, Amy. "Mother of the Groom: Attire Etiquette Q&A." (Feb. 26, 2011) TheKnot.com. http://wedding.theknot.com/bridal-fashion/bridesmaid-dresses/articles/mother-of-the-groom-attire.aspx?MsdVisit=1
  • Fluker, Elayne. "Mother-of-the-Bride Style Tips." (Feb. 26, 2011) Brides.com.http://www.brides.com/wedding-dresses-style/wedding-beauty/editorial-pick/2009/05/mother-of-the-bride-tips-on-how-not-to-look-old#slide=1

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