Mother of The Bride

A few weeks ago when the parents were in San Francisco to meet each other, I took my mother to try on Mother of the Bride dresses. My mom is not the prom dress wearing type. She is slender and rocks a pair of sevens (size 28) and a t-shirt most days. She’s a Jcrew slacks and a bottom up shirt type of gal. I think the last time my mother wore a dress it had honest-to-god-not-ironic-but-because-they-thought-it-looked-good-shoulderpads. I think it had flowers on it.

Anyways, my point. We were not about to go to a bridal shop for my mom’s dress. That’s not how she rolls. This was just not going to happen:

So, we tromped off to Nordstrom, a trusted establishment, and set to trying on dresses. Of course, we asked for help, and this is what we found:

Most of the dresses were one color, mild jewel tones, wide collars, and modest cuts. They all had a bit of an iridescent sheen and they were all BORING. What is up with the wedding industry having two massive extremes for the MOB? Either prom fiasco or a dull dress that screams, well, mother of the bride just like mom jeans. I was beyond frustrated by the choices, I started to get the WIC rage. I feel like the dresses specifically for mothers are either so matronly they are easily ignored, because Mom, this isn’t your day. (What? It’s my mom! She deserves to feel special and beautiful just like everybody else… more than everybody else because SHE’S MY MOM) Or they are so out there they run the risk of upstaging the bride, making the mother look like THAT mother, even if that’s not the intention.

I hate this pigeonholing, I hate trying to find a dress for my mom and running up against the same 5 styles, none of which match who she is or what she wants to wear. And I couldn’t help but think about the other moms out there trying to find their own dresses, and walking into the same 5 styles, and feeling let down – because that’s exactly how I felt. How are there no fabulous, yet appropriate, dresses for women in their 50s and 60s? Why is it so difficult to find something that is formal enough, yet not a ball gown?

Do any of you have suggestions? Where did your moms go when they needed an outfit for your wedding? What if she hasn’t worn a dress in 15 years and doesn’t have anything appropriate in the back of her closet? We went to bloomingdales but by the time we had circled around 1/2 a floor we had already spent 3-4 hours taking clothes off, putting clothes on, zipping up the back, stepping in, over the head, scrutinizing, re-fixing the hair and mussing it up again. We were done. Help.

35 thoughts on “Mother of The Bride”

  1. If she’s a JCrew kinda lady, why not a nice JCrew cocktail dress?

    This seems like the kinda cool shift dress for a woman who normally wears jeans but has the figure to rock something a little minimalistic and glamorous.

    or simple like this (sans bow):

    My biggest recommendation is to go somewhere that sells nice cocktail dresses, NOT MOB dresses. They’ll still be dressy, but way less intimidating.

    *For what it’s worth, my mom bought her dress for $40 on

    1. Yes! My mom wore J.Crew at my wedding. Why not slacks and a top? My best friend’s MIL never wears dresses and didn’t change that just for a wedding. She could look great and feel comfortable in her own style.

      If your mom is in Seattle send her to some boutiques (Les Amis has cute dresses & separates).

  2. We found my mom’s dress last minute at Nordstrom, but I agree … it was BORING. But that’s ok for my mom, that’s how she rolls. (Plus, she had hot shoes, so that makes up for a lot.)

    I know it’s odd, but seriously … considering your mom is TINY, try the bridesmaid selections at David’s. (Look online first, of course. No need to subject yourself to the frenzy if you aren’t sure there’s something worth look at.) My mom, in a rare moment of non-boring-ness before her normal self kicked back in, was SET on wearing a dress she found there. (It looked great on her.) Not in the MOB section, with the bridesmaid dresses. Bonus points for being able to get it in whatever color you like.

    Also … if she’s not comfortable in a dress, what about a fantastic pant set? A recently-married friend’s mother wore this fantastic formal pant set (I think it was chiffon? I could be wrong, but it was flowy, not suit pants) and she was GLORIOUS. It’s about being comfortable in what you’re wearing. =)

    1. She WANTS to wear a dress. It will also be warm. And she doesn’t ant to wear black. So we’re working with it. This is an event and she wants to wear something special. πŸ™‚ I will definitely check out bridesmaid’s stuff for her. I think that’s a great option.

  3. Why does it have to be a mother-of-the-bride outfit? Why not just a “nice outfit”? My mother-in-law went to a nice boutique and bought a silky shirt and slacks… and then promptly forgot to wear them on the day and in all of our photos she’s wearing this random brown outfit that I think she wore just because it was at her house so she was probably cleaning before the ceremony… ooops….

    My mom was happy to wear something sort of glittery and jewel-toned, though, so I guess I can’t really help here. :\

  4. surprisingly enough, we found my MOG’s dress at david’s bridal. they don’t have the same exact dress my MOG wore, but it was a nice knee length silk thing with a short little jacket. not sure it would fit your mom’s style but it fit her really well! they seem to have a variety of things ranging from over-the-top to more toned down, but yeah, still decidedly MOB.

    my mom was plus-plus-size at my wedding (now she’s lots a bunch a weight yay! so just regular plus size), so we went to a specialty online store, can’t remember the name of it but your mom doesn’t need it anyway so I’m not gonna go hunt it down. πŸ™‚

    have you tried someplace like dress barn? I have been surprised to find some nice dresses in there occasionally – you just have to wade through a lot of polyester to find a few gems.

  5. Agree on the bridesmaid’s dress idea. My MIL wore a bridesmaid dress from Badgely Mischka and it looked great on her. (She would never have worn one of the MOB dresses. She’s one of those intimidating always-put-together-wearing-heels-at-home kind of woman.) My mom looked through the MOB racks and couldn’t find anything she liked so she actually made her dress from a pattern (which interestingly was also Badgely Mischka). There’s pictures on fb if you want to see them.

    Also, I second Sarah’s idea: if she’s just not a dress person, why not some fancy slacks?

  6. we found ours at Nordstrom too, but after trying on some typical dresses and thinking, well this is ok, the saleslady brought out this dress: and we both went, YES! It was a decently expensive designer dress, probably more than my mom has spent on a dress like that before, but was it worth it? she looks amazing, its fun, its infinitely rewearable, and I love that she splurged on something special.

  7. Your Mum sounds like she would rock a Tilda Swinton style maxi skirt and nice top

    I remember seeing these two looks from jcrew last year when bookmarking wedding dress inspiration and loved them:

    My Mum got a dress made as all the MOB stuff over here is horrendous and we didn’t even consider it.

    1. She TOTALLY has a tilda swinton shape, you nailed it on that one. πŸ™‚ And I think looking at Jcrew options for cocktail dresses, etc is fabulous. It’s something we hadn’t really thought of.

  8. My mom is having the same dilemma… And I’ve added in the elements of casual, hot weather, destination, and city hall. I send her dresses I find online – mostly from Davids Bridal bridesmaid or Nordstrom or JCrew, but as she still has a few months (and 2 of those months she will be on summer vacation from teaching) I think she’s waiting to shop then.

  9. The above suggestions are all great. The only thing I’d add is that you should not tell the sales people you’re shopping for a MOB dress. It might weed out some assumptions…

    1. I love the ann Taylor cocktail dresses! She wants to be able to cover her arms but we can get a little sweater or a wrap for that. I forwarded that link along. πŸ™‚

  10. SO FRUSTRATING! When I went shopping with my mom (and later grandmother!) we had the best luck at Dillards. My mom is 5′ 4″ and is a size 10 so she looked great in a lot of stuff, but she didn’t want anything that would show her great–but not according to her–arms. So we found this saucy blue dress. It was a little brighter than I think she wanted, but it fit her really nicely and she liked it. I would also echo just looking at cocktail dresses and if your mom wants an arm cover up get a coordinated shrug. I don’t know what my mother-in-law wore, but I thought she looked good too. I can ask her where she got it, but she’s a stylish sort so she probably just had it laying around. Heres a picture:

  11. My mom found her dress in a local department store’s dress section. It’s an evening gown, not a MOB dress or a formal dress. It has just the right amount of sparkle and just the right amount of reservedness. She looks and feels stunning without calling attention to herself, which is want she wanted.

  12. We’ll probably go to Marshall’s/TJ Maxx. My mom is NOTORIOUSLY hard to shop for and hard on herself, so we don’t need any pigeon-holing. The dresses she always ends up being excited about are from catch-all discount stores. And I really just want her to be excited about what she wears. I could care less about anything else.

  13. Has she thought about a two-piece? Like a shirt and a skirt? She might be better off getting a rockin’ shirt and a nice simple skirt to go with it, rather than a dress if she’s have a hard time.

    Also? I shop HEAVILY online in situations like this, just using my measurements to make sure that it might fit and then seeing if they have it in the store before I go. (You look at their size chart, size vary WILDLY.) Plus, I’m not afraid to return shit…

  14. My mom is also quite slender with simple style – and for my two brothers’ weddings found really nice dresses at department stores. One, a knee-length raspberry number from Macy’s, and the other a deep plum full-length gown with a sheer overlay on the bodice. Neither screamed “MOTG” but she was gorgeous.

    She got the plum dress at Von Maur – do these exist anywhere other than central Illinois? Anyway, they had a surprisingly excellent selection and she was torn between two or three very flattering dresses.

    Anyway, here’s one that I think is quite lovely and interesting and modern:

  15. if you want to go the “designer” route, I definitely recommend Siri. I think they’re actually based out of San Fran, but we tried on a bunch of their dresses in NY and they were great quality and not at all matronly (while still being totally age appropriate). Why have designers not gotten the memo that many mothers of the bride are in awesome shape and do not need to camouflage their bodies in huge amounts of fabric?

  16. We went to a local DRESS SHOP, it’s not a chain and we got really personal service…it was amazing! Short sleeves, knee length and then she got some cute shoes dyed to match the brown belt!

    anywhere, here is my cutie mother:
    (that’s her and my dad in the middle)
    (this just is so cute it makes me teary!)
    (modest yet sassy, she’s young so it works!)

  17. It was the end if a long day of trying on cheesy MOB dresses when we finally threw in the towel and headed to Anthropologie for fun. There, on the sale rack, we found the perfect dress for my mom! She looked hot! Of course we had to convince her to get it, because she is the type that buys clothes too big and doesn’t think she looks as fabulous as she obviously does…. she ended up loving it! I feel the need to send a picture. She was so cute. I was so excited for her. πŸ™‚ <3

  18. My mom went shopping SO MUCH before my brother got married, and she felt like you and your mother did. Wedding clothes suck. She finally decided on a long black skirt she already owned with a shimmery emerald green (YES JEWEL TONE) 3/4 sleeve/draped top. It was a December wedding so the color was perfect, and she felt more comfortable in a skirt than a dress, especially since she already owned it. And I guess I’m biased, but I think she looked beautiful.

  19. I’m going to second the Ann Taylor suggestions. My mom got both if her MOB dresses there–NOT in their wedding section but just some if the regular dresses. Or skirts. She looked beautiful and felt comfortable.

  20. You might try etsy. I’m looking for a bridesmaid dress and was surprised at the goodness I found there. Custom dresses under $100? Not too shabby.

  21. For my sister’s wedding in November, my mom got a dress at Ann Taylor. She isn’t into the mother of the bride look either, and she also wanted her arms covered. She ended up with a knee-length dress with a satin, patterned top and attached black skirt. She wore a sweater part of the evening. It was very chic, not ugly and poofy.

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