It’s wedding season and, naturally, the focal fashion point is on the bride. But tucked behind the scenes are the mothers of brides and grooms, who wrangle their own wedding dress plights. The challenge is real: Find something young but not inappropriate; hip, but not too wild; flattering, maybe even a little sexy, but classy and in keeping with the tone of the event. And, of course, it has to look good in photos.
“They feel a lot of pressure,” says Karen Richter, owner of Mieka boutiques in Greenvale and Woodbury, where she estimates she has outfitted thousands of moms for their children’s wedding day.
The worry is universal, says Cassie Baden, a stylist at BHLDN, Anthropologie’s wedding brand. “She has the added concern of fitting in but still standing out. And of course she still wants to feel beautiful and the best version of herself.”
Julie Marchesella, owner of Queen of Hearts, a plus-size woman’s formal wear store in Merrick, says, “There’s tremendous anxiety. You don’t want to look at these pictures 10 years from now and say, ‘What was I thinking?’ ”
The marketplace has changed dramatically. Years ago, the mothers of the betrothed had a stigma, says Mark Badgley, half of the design team Badgley Mischka, which has designed glamorous looks for more than three decades. “People thought of them as something dowdy, covered and stodgy.” Today’s moms are “chic, athletic and fun,” says his partner, James Mischka. “They really go for it.”
There’s something holy grail-ish about finding the right dress. Leslie Froccaro, 55, of Port Washington, is on her third round of shopping, this time for her daughter’s October wedding. “I don’t want to look dowdy,” she says. “I want to look classic, elegant and age appropriate … not like I am trying to look 20.”
She does her dress shopping (and returning) mostly online. Sometimes it takes a village. “I worked with a large panel of experts,” says Froccaro, laughing. “I have four sisters, three daughters, my mother — a lot of female advisers. And when they say, ‘That’s the dress,’ I know it, too.”
Debra Graziano, 62, of Muttontown says she was nervous about finding a dress to wear to her son Steven’s April wedding. She lucked out with a pewter dress, dappled with small rhinestones and a trumpet skirt she spotted at Mieka in Greenvale. “It’s definitely not what I thought I’d buy. I went outside of my typical look, “ she said. “It’s classy and blingy at the same time.”
NEW WEDDING FASHION RULES
Baden says as weddings have become less and less traditional, so have the “rules” for what mothers wear. Well, with one exception: Most agree that the bride is the boss. “You want to make her happy,” says Marchesella. Other updates:
1. WEAR BLACK (IF YOU WANT) “It used to be taboo, but that’s over, “ Marchesella says. “It’s extremely chic.”
2. TAKE YOUR OWN CUES Richter dismisses etiquette that dictates the groom’s mother should take her lead from the mother of the bride. “It used to be ‘shut up and wear taupe’ for the mother of the groom,” she says. “But she supplied the groom after all, so why shouldn’t she look her absolute best?”
3. CONSIDER THE VENUE Mountains, barns, vineyards, mansions — the wedding venue plays a role in setting both the level of formality and the kind of party it’s going to be, Richter says.
TIPS FOR SHOPPING
Five years, four family weddings — I’ve tried on literally hundreds of dresses along the way. I hit the jackpot once or twice and had one disappointing fail. Here are some suggestions:
1. SHOP PREPARED Wear a little makeup and your best bra, bring along undergarments (like a body slimmer or Spanx) and even a pair of heels in a height you’re comfortable in when you embark upon your dress shopping spree. You’ll end up with a better sense of what really looks good on you.
2. BE OPEN-MINDED Yes, you know what you like, and even if you have a picture in your mind (or even an actual photo) of what you’d like to wear don’t get stuck on it — try on different styles. You might surprise yourself.
3. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX You’re going to be wearing this frock for the entire wedding so be comfortable, make sure that wardrobe malfunctions are unlikely, and be a version of yourself.
4. TAKE PICTURES If the store allows it, take a selfie or ask someone to take one. It will remind you of the dress and also give you a window into how it will look in photography.
5. BE PATIENT We all make sartorial mistakes: When you shop too early, sometimes by the time the wedding comes, you despise the dress (yep, it’s happened). While a custom look does call for committing early on, you should take your time, and ideally shop at a place where you can return should you have a change of heart.