Of all the roles and all the occasions for which women are obliged to dress up, there surely cannot be any that come tougher than being the Mother of the Bride. Mother of the Groom, too, of course. As weddings become more egalitarian, with both families and the couple themselves often sharing costs, the bride’s parents are no longer the automatic hosts of the day and so both mothers have equal status, in theory at least.
If it’s a first wedding for each of the happy couple, the mothers will tend to be in their 50s and 60s, traditionally an age at which many women feel they have lost their sense of personal style. No wonder, once upon a time, the mother of the bride was often an outmoded-looking, slightly comical figure at the wedding, combining dowdiness with a sudden and unexpectedly bizarre fashion choice. From weddings of the (not too distant) past, I remember pale salmon polyester silk two-pieces, with below-the knee dirndl skirts and ill-fitting long baggy jackets, worn with shiny low black court shoes, the entire unflattering ensemble topped by a large but shapeless white hat with a band that added another splash of the hideous salmon colour. Or a busy sprigged or dotty navy, pink and white floral print polyester dress with a shapeless top half, an elasticated waist and a full pleated skirt, all topped off with boxy white jacket and a completely random straw hat.
Not so long ago, 50-something women dressed in a similar way to their own mothers, in spite of the average 25-year age gap – a sea of nasty polyester silk pastels and busy blue and white sprigs.
But it’s 2015 now. Madonna is 56 and still flashing her bottom. We’ve got Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Joanna Lumley, Kris Kardashian, Judi Dench and many, many more stylish, stunning women, all of an age to be mothers (or grandmothers) of a bride. Drowning in shapeless pastel polyester is no longer an option.
If you are determined to take your MoB look seriously, think about booking a personal shopping or style consultation appointment. Jacqui Cooper, who gives masterclasses for the Victoria Quarter in Leeds, says: “I often hear about outfits women have bought for the special day and reflect on the photos in a negative way. They know that the outfit wasn’t quite right, but are not really sure why, and they certainly didn’t feel all that special. How sad.
“I have found that there seems to be a certain dress code for the Mother of the Bride of ‘a certain age’, which puts them in the pastel raw silk two-piece suit with elbow-length sleeves, which is not flattering for all body shapes and skin tones. Some women need fabrics with fluidity, some need structure.”
In terms of the trends that work especially well for this summer’s weddings, the floral theme has to be at the top of the list – and there’s nothing insipid or predictable about flower-inspired prints for this summer, as the surreal and hyperreal bring a vibrant, modernist elegance to a contemporary look. Take your cue from the catwalk and look up online Chanel’s arty multi-colour prints and Michael Kor’s classy pairing of rich blue backdrop and stand-out large yellow flower heads. Consider just one statement floral piece – a cape-style jacket or a longline coat jacket, to wear over a one-colour shift or tunic dress. White is good, but consult with your bride as some prefer that no-one else wears white on the day, if they are.
Consider an oriental style with kimono jacket or style of dress – on-trend and so elegant.
Stand-out shades for spring/summer include vibrant pumpkin orange and aqua, and violet – but the shapes must be contemporary and clean.
Nude and blush tones are worth considering, too, whether you choose to go for a structured suit look or a more floaty style. Natalie Jackson, of mother-of-the-bride and special occasion specialists Helen Sykes Fashions in Leeds, says: “The classic dress and bolero is still very strong, but dress and coat styles are making a definite comeback. Neutral understated colours are in fashion and very popular as they tone with any wedding colour scheme, but we are also seeing monochrome tones and pale blue in the collections. There are a lot of contrasting fabrics and hints of lace and skirt lengths are on or just above the knee.”
Fact is, it’s the Mother of the Bride’s Big Day too. As Jacqui Cooper says: “Traditionally, colour choices were made for the bridal party by the happy couple and the mums were expected to complement them. The trends are changing and, while Mum does not want to upstage her daughter, she is beginning to realise she wants to look her best on the day too.”
Jacqui Cooper hosts Style Masterclasses (groups of seven, £125 a place, including parking and a glass of prosecco in the Harvey Nichols bar) at the Victoria Quarter on the last Wednesday of each month, starting on March 25. Go to www.v-q.co.uk for more details.