Dressing to Suite

What today’s mother of the bride is wearing

I’ll admit it. When I’m at a wedding, my focus is naturally narrow. I want to see the bride. I want to see her gown, her veil, her hair, her bouquet and her expression as she walks down the aisle. Yet for all of my tiptoe standing and strained neck-craning to position myself for the best possible view of the aisle, I hardly ever notice what the mother of the bride is wearing.
But recently, at the wedding of a friend where I had a particularly good seat, I happened to notice – in my unusually relaxed stance – that both the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom were dressed in shades of green that did not match exactly, but complemented the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses. I don’t want to give the impression that the mothers were dressed to look like senior bridesmaids. In fact, I’m sure many of the guests didn’t even notice the green theme. The bride’s mother wore a long suit in a deep green; the groom’s mother, an elegant but simple gown in a shade of green so light that, from a distance, it almost looked white. It was a subtle harmony of hues that I would imagine made for beautiful wedding photos.

In an interview that took place before that wedding, Lynn Plotkin said something that, in hindsight, almost makes me believe she is some kind of wedding-wear visionary. (As the owner of Sadie’s, a dress shop, Plotkin is an expert at helping women find just the right thing to wear at their children’s weddings.) Here’s what she said:
“Some brides will try to work their mother’s attire into the wedding’s color scheme. But in many cases, the bride will let her mother choose any color she likes. Either way, we really are seeing the mother of the bride wearing more color now, especially shades of green. And now instead of a suit, the mother of the bride is just as likely to go for a more glamorous look – soft dressing, like chiffon in soft colors.”
It seems she was right on the money.
According to Courtney Schulman of Pearl’s Place, ivory, taupe and shades of blue are also popular colors for mother-of-the-bride attire.
“[Dressing the] mother of the bride is getting pretty interesting,” Schulman says. “More than any one trend, individuality is what’s in right now. People are going with what they like and what they feel most comfortable in. And some mothers are stepping out of the box a bit.”
“More women are showing interest in shorter suits and dresses – tea-length and midcalf,” Schulman says. “We’re even doing some strapless dresses, maybe a full ball gown with a shawl.”
But some traditions do die hard, says Schulman, adding that the traditional full-length dress and jacket with beading are still very much in demand.
Schulman says she has noticed that a growing number of women in New Orleans seem to be taking their cues from more cosmopolitan communities on this issue.
“In other parts of the country – like Los Angeles and New York – the mother of the bride almost always wears black,” says Schulman. “That has not been the case in New Orleans, but recently more local women are choosing to wear black.”

While there are some mothers of the bride who shop with complete autonomy, many moms won’t make a single decision without first consulting the bride.
“Lots of times, a woman will pick out a dress on her own but won’t actually purchase it until her daughter has come in to approve it,” says Plotkin of her customers at Sadie’s. “And I’m always here to help her accessorize the look.”
Although the average age of brides has risen over the past decade, Plotkin says that, somehow, the mother of the bride seems to be getting younger.
“Some of these ladies with daughters in their early 20s getting married are only in their 40s,” says Plotkin, “but mostly it’s just that women are taking better care of themselves as they age.” Because they look younger and have a more youthful attitude, that’s reflected in what they wear.
Regardless of age, Plotkin says she usually advises mothers to be covered for the ceremony – with a stole, shawl or jacket they can take off at the reception.
But with the growing popularity of destination weddings – often to tropical or exotic locales – the dress tends to be a little less formal, says Plotkin. So the mother might be more apt to choose ankle length rather than long and soft dressing instead of a suit.

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