Words by Emma Langman
We’ve compiled expert advice from some of the country’s leading occasionwear specialists to help ensure that your search for the perfect mother-of-the-bride outfit is an enjoyable, stress-free shopping experience.
Where do I start?
Your son or daughter’s engagement is a special, unforgettable moment. But it’s just the start: the months will quickly be eaten up in a blaze of preparation and it’ll soon be time to decide what you’re going to wear to the wedding.
Online research and advice from friends is a good way to begin, getting recommendations of boutiques that they have visited and the types of style you might want to consider. Michelle Scott of bridal and occasionwear boutique Kudos Couture also recommends talking to the bride before you make any decisions. “The very first thing to do is talk to your daughter or prospective daughter-in-law to find out if she has any fixed ideas about what the mothers should or shouldn’t wear. Some brides prefer the whole wedding party to co-ordinate, while others are happy for everyone to choose their own colours and styles,” she says.
Where should i look?
Most of us hit the high street when we’re looking for a special gown to wear to an event, but when you are the mother-of-the-bride or groom, it’s time to talk to the specialists. “Wedding guests mainly buy from high-street shops and you should stand out from your other guests,” advises Fiona Wilson of mother-of-the-bride boutique Frox of Falkirk.
Michelle Scott agrees: “Avoid the high street – the last thing a mother-of-the-bride wants is for a guest to turn up in the same outfit. Cut the chances of this happening by seeking out specialist retailers who stock limited numbers of each item.”
How long do i need?
Sourcing your outfit for the big day isn’t a task that should be rushed, so give yourself plenty of time to visit a decent selection of shops, try on lots of different options and work out which styles you feel most comfortable in. “Start early – the new styles for 2013 weddings will be in the shops before this Christmas, with most deliveries in January and February. That’s when you get the best choice,” recommends Karen Charles of occasionwear boutique Patricia Forbes.
“Start shopping as early as possible to get the pick of the sizes and styles,” agrees Fiona Wilson. “Specialist shops often only carry an outfit in one of each size, and during peak buying periods they sell out quickly.”
Who should come with me?
It’s always good to get advice when you buy a new outfit, especially one as important as this, but shopping with ten of your close pals probably isn’t the best idea. “Too many competing opinions can make it very hard to reach a decision, so I’d recommend going with one person who’s around your age and whose opinion you really trust,” advises Michelle Scott. “A sister is always useful in these situations!”
Karen Charles agrees: “One trusted advisor is best, whether it be the bride, your partner or your best friend. Too many people will just muddy the water.”
How do i choose?
There are countless different styles, colours and fabrics out there, so the best way to work out what is right for you is to try on a range of looks – including things that aren’t your usual taste. “Pop into a specialist shop and try a few different styles,” suggests Karen Charles. “The best advice is to keep an open mind – try on as many styles as you want. We’ve lost count of the number of times a mother-of-the-bride or groom has come in looking for a specific style only to find she actually prefers something quite different from what she had in her head.”
In specialist boutiques, the sales advisors are well placed to help you, with their in-depth knowledge of flattering cuts and fabrics, so don’t be afraid to ask their advice. “Trust your sales advisor – they are there to help you find the perfect outfit to suit your shape. Be open-minded and prepared to try on different styles – remember, some outfits lack hanger appeal but can be beautiful on a body,” explains Fiona Wilson. Equally, just because something looks lovely in a magazine or on the hanger, it doesn’t mean it will suit your figure when you try it on. And don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you can’t work out whether something looks good on you or not.
Whatever you end up with, it should make you look and feel fabulous. You’re going to be wearing it all day and night, so it must be comfortable as well as striking. “Remember you have to wear this outfit all day, eat a meal in it, dance in it, and quite often pick up small children in it,” says Michelle Scott. “So don’t buy something that looks great but isn’t comfortable – you’ll regret it later!”
And when you think you’ve found your outfit, don’t hesitate to buy it. “Be brave when you find an outfit that you love – so often, even if they love a style, mothers won’t buy, just in case they see something else. Then, when they come back a few weeks later to get it, the one they loved has gone,” explains Karen Charles.
What about colour?
It’s important to go for a colour that suits your skin tone and personality, but the right hue can be crucial in creating a wedding-day look, so it’s a good idea once again to run your thoughts past the bride. That way, you can be sure the wedding photographs will look balanced. “Make sure you know what colour the bridesmaids will be wearing – you don’t want to clash, and you certainly don’t want to look like one of them!” advises Michelle Scott.
Fiona Wilson recommends taking colour swatches with you to help ensure you’re on the right track when you’re choosing an outfit. “Take swatches of the bridesmaids’ and the groom’s colours, and try to stay within this spectrum without searching for a perfect match,” she says.