Mothers’ style: why a statement occasionwear dress could be their best decision

Mums of bride/groom: are you considering ditching the jacket and letting your frock do the talking? You’re not alone. Scotland’s top occasionwear boutiques tell us the rules are finally being rewritten, putting style and individuality front and centre…

Frox of Falkirk Fely Campo dress
High-neck gown with ruffle detail and statement buttons by Fely Campo (style 20709), £POA, Frox of Falkirk

Once upon a time, not so long ago, playing the role of mother of the bride or groom required three essential items: first, a knee-length shift in a stiff fabric; next, a gigantic, wide-brimmed hat, loaded with florals and frills; and, last but definitely not least, a boxy little jacket. This was the uniform and, boy, did women stick to it.

Things, though, are changing. There’s a real sense that we’re ditching formality and all its trappings. These days, you’re more likely to spot a mum wearing trousers or a full evening gown than the typical matching-bolero-and-shift combo. Some, controversially, are going for just a dress. And not necessarily a shift. Imagine!

Tempted to shed the jacket? Here are a few reasons to go for a show-stopping, stand-alone gown. Free the frock!

Veni Infantino dress at Patricia Forbes
Crepe dress (style 991724) by Veni Infantino, £529, Patricia Forbes

If the wedding is at an informal venue

It all stems from a change in the kind of venue, and consequently in the type of ceremony, that many couples are opting for, argues Kayleigh Kerr, of Kilmarnock boutique Serendipity. “A dress and jacket is seen as the right pairing for church weddings,” she says. “But there are fewer religious services happening now, with more couples opting for a full day in the one venue.”

“Lots of venues nowadays suit that look, rather than a more typical dress and jacket,” agrees Karen Charles at Patricia Forbes in Broughty Ferry. “Plus, a dress still has all the presence and wow factor – sometimes even more so – thanks to impact from chic features like bardot necklines, statement sleeves or fabulous dipped hems.”

Couture Club dresses by Serendipity
From left: Brocade cocktail dress (style 5G105) by Couture Club, £475; Beaded stretch crepe cocktail dress (style 5G172) by Couture Club, £450, both Serendipity

If you want to embrace your individuality

And it’s not just couples who’ve changed: “We’ve found over the past six years especially, mothers are ‘younger’, and, by that, I don’t necessarily mean in age,” Kayleigh says. “These women are less hung up on tradition, and are much more fashion savvy. Social media has shown them what is possible, whereas before they were almost shopping blind, thinking that only a dress and jacket were appropriate because it’s what every other mother wore.”

If accessorising is your thing

We’re sold – but there’s just one problem. Won’t everyone else at the wedding be thinking the same thing? As much as we might have moved on from the more prescriptive style of the past, it did have one advantage, and that was that people knew you were the mother of the bride/groom. If every other person is wearing a statement dress, what will set you apart?

“A headpiece!” suggests Natalie Godfrey at Frox of Falkirk. “It really transforms the overall look and makes the mum feel even more special.”

“It’s all in the accessories,” concurs Shona Thorpe at Biggar’s Sheila Conn Ladies Fashions. “An extravagant hat, beautiful shoes and elegant bag will do the legwork and complete your look.”

Invitations by Veni dress from Sheila Conn Ladies Fashions and Ascensión Bernal dress from Frox of Falkirk
From left: Mikado A-line dress (style 29618) by Invitations by Veni, £POA, Sheila Conn Ladies Fashions; Nuria dress by Ascensión Bernal, £595, Frox of Falkirk

If you want to wear your outfit again

This versatility, in fact, gives the stand-alone dress the edge over a full, co-ordinating ensemble.

“Ladies are conscious of the fact that they might have the opportunity to wear their dress again,” says Kayleigh. “We’ve had mums who’ve told us they plan to wear their dresses to other weddings, on cruises, to charity functions or at the races, just maybe without the hat.

“It’s amazing how a dress that screams ‘mother of the bride/groom’ when teamed with a fascinator can suddenly become so wearable for other events when it’s styled differently.”

If you want to stand out

Of course, accessories are only part of the story – hunting down a really spectacular dress, one that can hold its own regardless of the hat or clutch it’s paired with, is your top priority. Which fabrics, details or designers should we be keeping our eyes peeled for in this quest?

“Make Fely Campo your first port of call,” says Natalie. “The Spanish label’s styles are ‘out there’ but that’s their appeal – the dipped hemlines and fit-and-flare silhouettes are very popular with mums. We can order in any colour, any style, from Spain.”

“We love Couture Club,” Kayleigh chips in. “You can still get a premium occasionwear dress and feel like a queen, without the conventional structure of a jacket over the top.”

If you want to try something new

These stylists are unanimous on one thing: an open mind is your most precious asset.

“When shopping for that all-important dress, try things that you wouldn’t normally go for,” urges Shona. “You’ll be surprised just how good it feels to put on something you might never have dreamt would be your style.”

“I’d say 90% of the dresses I’ve sold this year are ones clients didn’t pick themselves,” Kayleigh laughs. “It pays to get out of your comfort zone.”

So which frocks are worthy of your full, undivided attention? Scotland’s designers and boutiques have raided their rails and dug out the dresses most deserving of the spotlight.

Frox of Falkirk [below left]

“This dress is by Gabriela Sanchez, £POA, and comes in sizes 8 to 18,” says Natalie Godfrey at Frox of Falkirk. “It’s due to arrive soon. We love the dramatic, dipped hem and the gorgeous embossed floral fabric. It’s young, quirky and fun!”

Blue dresses by Frox of Falkirk and Joyce Young Design Studios
From left: Dress by Gabriela Sanchez, £POA, Frox of Falkirk; Pleated dress in Wedgwood Blue and fine art silk cape, £POA, Joyce Young Design Studios

Joyce Young Design Studios [above right]

“I love this pleated dress in our Wedgwood Blue, £POA,” designer Joyce Young says. “It’s relaxed, easy to wear, washes well and doesn’t crush – meaning it’s as practical as it is glamorous. We’ve added a fine art silk cape which dresses it up and gives it the ‘wow’ factor.”

Patricia Forbes [below left]

“We love Veni Infantino’s style 991750, £519, because it’s so different,” Patricia Forbes’ Karen Charles says. “The pearl beading at the neckline is such a beautiful accent and the floral print is very now. It’s a comfortable option for summer, thanks to its capped sleeves. It allows you to stand out without looking too formal.”

Veni Infantino dresses by Catwalk and Patricia Forbes
From left: Style 991750 by Veni Infantino, £519, Patricia Forbes; Style 991754 by Veni Infantino, £645, Catwalk

Catwalk [above right]

“You’re sure to stand out from the crowd in this fun and vibrant print dress (style 991754, above, £645) from Veni Infantino,” argues Louise Brown at Catwalk in Falkirk. “Teamed with a statement back-to-front jacket that’s finished with a bow, it’s an exciting alternative to the traditional dress and jacket formula.”

Mia Bella [below left]

“This Veromia Occasions Petal Pink A-line bandeau gown (style VO6534, above, £POA) actually has petals!” laughs Christina Sigerson at Glasgow’s Mia Bella. “The texture of the fabric is so special, with a subtle sparkle all around the waistband – perfect for the dancefloor at night!”

Dresses by Mia Bella and Rinaldo Girasoli
From left: Style VO6534 by Veromia Occasions, £POA, Mia Bella; (Photo: Alan Peebles) Talia dress with fitted bodice and full circular skirt in silk viscose jacquard, £POA, Rinaldo Girasoli

Rinaldo Girasoli [above right]

“Talia, with its fitted bodice and full circular skirt in silk viscose jacquard, £POA, is so comfortable to wear, and full of movement – it’s made for dancing,” says Paisley-based bespoke designer Rinaldo Girasoli. “It’s also got side pockets, so it’s practical, and can easily be styled up or down with the right accessories.”

Blues & Browns [below]

“The Rosie dress with its inter-lined bodice and skirt in dupion silk and silk organza wrap, appeals to my sense of romance, femininity and drama,” considers Kairen Alexis Ruse at Blues & Browns in Perth. “It’s in the delicate pink that I love and the grey sets it off so beautifully. It also has pockets – what could be better?”

Rosie dress by Blues & Browns
Rosie dress with inter-lined bodice, dupion silk skirt and silk organza wrap, £POA, Blues & Browns (Photo: Twenty 8 Media)

Sheila Conn Ladies Fashions [below left]

“The details are superb on style 21956 by Invitations by Veni, £520,” praises Shona Thorpe at Sheila Conn Ladies Fashions. “The full chiffon skirt and beautifully intricate bodice make it a surefire winner with anyone who tries it on. What’s more, it makes you feel amazing.”

Dresses by Sheila Conn Ladies Fashions and Serendipity
From left: Style 21956 by Invitations by Veni, £520, Sheila Conn Ladies Fashions; Style 5G1B9 by Couture Club, £546, Serendipity

Serendipity [above right]

“Our favourite and best-selling dress this season has been style 5G1B9, £546, from Couture Club,” says Kayleigh Kerr at Serendipity in Kilmarnock. “It’s one of those dresses that flatters almost every shape, as it pulls the wearer right in at the waist and its high-low hemline really elongates the legs. We think it’ll carry well into next year, too.”