The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday
It’s time for the mother of the bride to ditch the coat dress
From Victoria Beckham to Queen Rania of Jordan, a new batch of MoBs and MoGs are encouraging all to cut loose from the rules and think outside the box ( jacket). reports
Carole Middleton was the style pin-up. At her daughter Kate’s wedding to Prince William, back in April 2011, the then 56-year-old mother of the bride set an all-tooperfect template in her made-tomeasure pastel coat dress, with a co-ordinating knee-length shift beneath. She looked poised, polished and entirely appropriate. For more than a decade, hers has been the copycat go-to formula – whether it actually suits the wearer or not.
But this spring marks a step change in mother of the bride and groom style. MoBs and MoGs have been thinking outside the box ( jackets) and are instead shopping for outfits that are better suited to the new wedding-dress codes and, more importantly, to their own taste. It isn’t so much a change in the rules, rather it’s a cutting loose from them. There is freedom now to wear whatever you like on your child’s big day.
Victoria Beckham was a MoG last year, wearing a liquid silver slip dress at son Brooklyn’s nuptials. Queen Rania of Jordan looked exquisite in a dramatic floor-length Dior gown at her daughter Princess Iman’s wedding in March. Even Middleton has moved on – pictured more recently at her son James’s wedding, she was dancing in a bohemian floral Temperley maxi dress. The sexy MoG, the glam MoB, the boho MoG – choose your fashion character accordingly.
Personal stylist Anna Berkeley has been dressing MoBs and MoGs as a speciality for 16 years and says that most still arrive with the Middleton set menu “printed on their psyche”.
“This is an outfit that is always so important to the client, and often they are terrified of getting it wrong,” she explains. “Lots don’t want to embarrass their children – they want their kids to like it. They want to look like themselves, and also be sure that they’re spending money wisely.”
Feeling “age appropriate”, Berkeley says, is one of the most common worries that her clients express – a pressure that seems to stem naturally from being formally labelled “the mother of...”.
“But if you do go for that really conservative traditional look, you’re actually more likely to look older,” Berkeley says. “If you are naturally a corporate dresser who loves that jacketed style, then it’s fine. But don’t feel like you have to shoehorn yourself into that when it’s just not you.”
Much of the recent attitude shift is a result of the way that weddings themselves have changed. Formal services, if not ditched completely, are often just one part of a multievent wedding.
Berkeley has recently dressed one MoB whose daughter is getting married at a register office, but whose reception will be held at the Henry Moore sculpture gardens in Hertfordshire. Another of her MoGs is off to a glamorous three-day extravaganza in Italy, and is shopping for a gown per day.
“People are much more conscious of what the outfit should be to match the surroundings and the type of wedding,” she says. “The questions I ask clients now are what are you going to be doing – is it a standing reception, a sit-down meal, is there a long walk? This is key to being comfortable.”
For Beverley Cole, whose son Nathan married Andrew Moller at a London members’ club in April, that comfort was found by choosing a dress in a shape she knew and loved, but in a more outré fabric to suit the couple’s “black tie” dress code.
“After waiting four years for the wedding because of the pandemic, we wanted people to have the opportunity to get dressed up and make a special occasion of it,” explains Nathan, who is the co-founder of the luxury giftwrapping service Colford.
It was the first time Beverley had ever been to a black-tie event, but she embraced the brief wholeheartedly in a champagnecoloured sequined dress. It wasn’t about spending a fortune to look glamorous – she snapped up her outfit by chance when she spotted the perfect dress in a Next sale.
“Leaving rural Derbyshire for the glitz of London felt much easier knowing I had a comfortable dress,” she says. “The style was very ‘me’, but in a more flamboyant fabric than I usually wear. I tried the dress on multiple times at home. Importantly, both my husband [Christopher] and Nathan gave their approval.”
Standing out is a consideration.
This is an outfit that is always important and often they are terrified of getting it wrong
MoBs and MoGs typically want to set themselves apart from other guests, without overpowering the photographs. It’s a balance that can be achieved by utilising an interesting fabric, a bold colour, or a statement accessory, as well as via an unexpected silhouette.
For Claire Holt, whose daughter Bethan married Johnathan Baggott at Chelsea Town Hall this month, being a MoB represented a chance to get creative.
“I wanted my mother of the bride outfit to be special and memorable, which is why I decided to make it myself,” she explains.
The beauty of going for something made to measure (whether you do it yourself or commission an atelier such as Claire Mischevani in Shropshire or Laura Green in London) is that you can be certain that no one else in the congregation will be wearing anything similar. You also have a story behind the dress to talk about when the compliments inevitably arrive.
“I love the 1940s tea-dress styles, which I also think suit my shape, so I used this as a starting point,” Holt says of her choice. “To ensure its unique appearance, I used a silk fabric – not the easiest to work with, but it does flow beautifully and has that rich look for a special occasion. I certainly didn’t want to fall into a stereotype.”
In the spirit of there being no rules, some MoBs are styling themselves to closely complement the look of the bridal party – even wearing white is no longer off limits. When Charlie Teather, a fashion editor at Glamour, married Billy Nicholson at Dorset’s picturesque Lulworth Cove in April, she asked her mother, Judy, if she would wear white alongside her on her big day.
“Mum was initially a bit thrown, not least because she was worried people would think she was trying to outshine the bride by wearing white,” Charlie explains. After an extensive search, Judy settled on a three-piece trouser suit from Reiss, which looked sleek next to her daughter’s chiffon Halfpenny London wedding gown.
“I always thought that I would wear a classic shift dress and either a cropped jacket or coat, and be a ‘traditional’ mother of the bride,” says Judy. “However, when Charlie asked how I felt about looking for a white trouser suit, I was thrilled. I do love to wear a classic tailored trouser suit, so it was reflective of my usual style, but it had never occurred to me that I could wear one to my daughter’s wedding, particularly in white. I loved wearing something that reflected my personality, but also Charlie’s vision.”
From tea dresses to slips, trouser suits to embellished gowns, there are many worthy options to consider on the high street if you are an MoB or MoG planning for this year or next.
Rixo has silky 1930s and 1940s silhouettes, with just about every combination of neckline and sleeve length. Phase Eight has jumpsuits with detachable lace or organza wraps, which could take any MoB from church to party. For those after a wow-gown, Roland Mouret’s cady dresses skim the figure in all the right places; and on the high street, Reiss and
Me+Em offer similar structures and, as such, the desired poise.
Accessories, too, can be the simple twist that make a formal outfit feel like it’s “you”, according to shopping expert Lucy Knight.
“I have been a personal stylist at John Lewis for 16 years and it has been interesting to see a real step change this season from a classic shift dress to more tailored looks and jumpsuit styles,” Knight says. “My last mother of the bride customer opted for a jumpsuit with brogues, teamed with an oversized clutch, and she looked fabulous.”
The most important thing is to relax, rather than panic, allow plenty of time (ideally three months) to try things on, and be open-minded about what could work for the occasion. Knight suggests that thinking about the clothes you already love to wear in your everyday life, and looking for elevated versions of them, is the best starting point for all.
“I always say focus on clothes that bring you joy and build from that,” she says. “I want my clients to feel a sense of self – in fact, like the best version of themselves.”