What Traditions to Consider for the Modern Mother of the Bride's Dress Choice

Couple, pink dress, black suit, flowers

Weddings bring with them many traditions and for the mother of the bride, this can often extend to your choice of dress. But, in a time where many couples are opting out of more conventional ceremonies to make their day more individual. It leads us to the question: how appropriate are the old expectations of wedding outfits today?

Can the mother of the bride wear black to the wedding? 

The first big rule for wedding dressing has always been 'never wear black to a wedding'. Yet with more and more examples of people defying this expectation, we have decided to break down where this idea has come from. With the aim to decide if it is still relevant and if a mother of the bride can wear black in 2019.  

bride and bridesmaids walk down road, black dresses

The belief you shouldn't wear black to a wedding is due to its association with the mourning period. An idea that is  believed to date back  to the Roman Empire when families would wear black togas to signify respect for their departed loved ones. Having been first documented in England in medieval times, women would wear near black caps and veils after the passing of their husbands. Remaining right into the nineteenth century, when women who did not dress in dark clothes for a mourning period, were judged as 'dangerously eccentric'. 

This historic association, between the colour black and the death of a loved one, is the reason it has been regarded as inappropriate for weddings. Especially for the mothers of the couple, who's black dress would be seen as a sign of disapproval in their child's choice of partner.

According to Elizabeth Taxi in her article in Vogue Magazine, this historic dislike of black wedding attire could be felt right into 2016. Her article describes the extent to which this view has become outdated. In an age where the traditional wedding is being left behind, surely those traditions of dress should also? 

bride and groom walking towards water

As of 2019, you can find so many articles advising on how best to wear black to a wedding, in the assurance that it is not only acceptable but a great choice. 

However, just because wedding guests are now able to sport the darkest of shades to wedding celebrations, this does not necessarily mean that it is such an easy choice for the mother of the bride.

The question of what is an appropriate mother of the bride outfit recently become more relevant, as a tweet of this particular 'mother of the bride' dress  became a viral sensation. 

With its layers of mesh, sequins, lace and pheasant fathers it is fair to say that this dress can definitely be described as 'bearly there'. Reactions to it varied from admiration at the body confidence necessary for such a look, to horror at the labelling of such a dress as 'mother of the bride' wear. 

Whichever side you fall on with these hilarious tweets, we can all probably admit to the fact that it is not simply the colour of this dress that has caused such a reaction.  

We get that just because you want to wear black to your daughter's wedding it does not mean that you would want to cause a storm. That's why we wanted to include this dress, not to scare you as to the reaction to it. But to illustrate the extent to which traditional rules of wedding attire are being regarded as irrelevant.

Martha Stewart weddings describe how the old rules and expectations are a thing of the past. In this article about if the mother of the bridegroom can wear black to a wedding, she makes some amazing points. 

‘Haven't men been wearing black tuxedoes for centuries? Why has no one been judge-y about that? If half of the wedding's guest list will be wearing black attire on the big day (including the bride and groom's fathers!), there's no reason why the moms shouldn't be allowed to wear this colour, too.’

bride and groom, confetti, groomsmen black and white photograph

In answering the question can the mother of the bride wear black a wedding in 2019 we agree with Ms Stewart's statement: 'Times have changed, why not let your outfit change with them?'. If the bride is happy with your choice and you feel your best then why not go for it? And if anyone gives you the 'side-eye at the reception, ignore them and revel in how gorgeous you look'. A darker shade can also make the perfect mother of the bride dresses for fall. 

Which are the best mother of the bride colours for modern times? 

In an article in Glamour Maganize Jennifer Hyman the co-founder of Rent the Runway talks about outfit colour etiquette: "There are far fewer rules today when it comes to wedding style, besides the ubiquitous don't upstage the bride. It's acceptable and even fashionable to wear black year-round, sequins for daytime and a cocktail-length dress to a black-tie wedding. My one style rule when it comes to weddings is be spirited! A wedding is an incredibly happy occasion and it is an opportunity to show your best self—whether that's in black, bright pink, or a bold print, this is an opportunity to party!". 

Since we are in an age when the colour black has become acceptable, it shows how really any colour, apart from maybe white of ivory, can be worn to a wedding. You could go dark, or bright and bold, or more neutral, whatever makes you feel your best. 

bunches of flowers laid on a wooden table

Yet, just because you wish to be current with your choice of colour, we want to advise you against falling into the trap of simply going with what is trendy right now. For example, although it is so awfully 2019 we really do believe that you will thank yourself for keeping things like neon firmly away from your daughter's wedding day. 

The vast extent of choice available to the modern mother of the bride can make actually finding your best colour quite a daunting prospect. Because of this, we have included some advice on how to find the perfect colour for your daughter's big day. So hopefully you will no longer question if you should be looking for mother of the dresses in blush or in burgundy. 

One way of thinking about what colour of dress to choose, is by taking inspiration from the bridal party and the wedding venue. There are a few ways of doing this, one way is 'monotone' which means that the mother of the bride dress would be in 'the same general colour family' as the dress of the bridesmaids. For example, if the bridesmaids were wearing violet then you could opt for a deep purple. Why not try this dress if you are after a mother of the bride dress in purple. 

Kubrick Pencil Dress in deep purple

Or you could choose to go directly opposite the colour of the bridesmaids. For a mother of the bride who wants to stand out and create a great contrast between yourself and the bridesmaids in the pictures. For example, if the bridesmaids are in pumpkin you wear navy, for example, you could try the Ontario pencil dress for a mother of the bride dress in blue. 

Ontario Pencil Dress in navy blue

There is also the tonal choice, which means 'choosing a colour in the same theme or seasonal palette as the bridesmaids. So for a winter wedding, the bridesmaids are in emerald-green, you are in charcoal.' Why not try the beautiful swing dress for a mother of the bride dress with long sleeves? 

Scarlett Swing Dress in melange grey

The website David's Bridal offers a great tool to help the mother of the bride coordinate her colour choice with the rest of the wedding party by showing you which shades work best together. 

Another way of finding your best shade is by figuring out which colours flatters you the most. Although the idea of 'colour matching' seems slightly 1980s, it is still advised when you are considering what to wear to a big event. There are many tools online that can make the process of finding your colours free and simple. 

Once you have worked out if you are more warm, cool or neutral you can then go about choosing your outfit colour either by what shade appeals to you the most or by what would suit the weddings aesthetic and bridesmaids dresses.  

For example, if you are you are cool toned and the wedding party are in a dusty pink you could opt for a jade green to contrast. Or if you are more warm-toned attending a summer wedding, where the bridesmaids are in light peach, you could go for a honey yellow for both a tonal and monotone option. 

bride and bridesmaids in light green dresses holding flowers

Something else that comes from doing a colour-match is that you become aware of more of the downsides of the traditional mother of the bride attire. The expected pastel colours really don't suit the majority of skin tones. They are only really recommended for those who fit the neutral category, i.e. neither warm or cold, with hazel eyes and browny, blonde hair. 

Because of this, we really recommend that you embrace the huge and exciting variety of colours available to the modern mother of the bride. As the fact that really no colour is off-limits means that you can find one that compliments not only the bridal party but yourself too. 

How have mother of the bride dresses changed over the years? 

flowers by aisle in a church

It is hard to know historically what the mother of the bride outfit was. Portraits of the newlyweds were sometimes created however these were infrequent due to the expense of their creation. When they were made they would often only feature the couple themselves, and not the rest of their family. 

Yet we are able to view the mother of the bride dresses of the last century more easily through the record of photography. 

Pictures of royal weddings give us a great way of looking at wedding attire. Click on the links below to view royal mother of the bride dresses from the last nine decades. From the marriage of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947 to Princess Margret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones 1960  then Prince Charles and Dinna in 1985 to Prince William and Kate Middleton 2011 and Harry and Megan last year. 

Windsor castle

These photos show us just how little the mother of the bride dresses have changed over time. Quite striking when you think of the huge evoltion of fashion from 1947 to 2019!

The only area in which we can see a change is in the length of the skirt, moving from floor-length to just below the knee. The colour of the dresses has stayed remarkably similar throughout all those years, champagne and light blue tones being prefered. The style and cut of the dresses have also maintained a familiarity through loose-fitting skirts. Cropped or slightly longer jackets that match the dress have also stayed a stedfast staple. 

This unchanging mother of the bride dress is not simply a phenomenon within the royal family. Rather, their status as icons of occasion wear means that this is a style of dress that has reigned supreme over wedding dressing. 

Martha Stewart weddings describe the pros and cons of this: ‘Not too long ago, the couple's mothers were relegated to a "uniform:" a loose-fitting gown, often beaded, with a matching jacket in some shade of beige or champagne. The colour and style worked for some, especially those who preferred more conservative attire. Today, however, there are many women who want to wear a dress in a colour and cut that shows off their sense of style—and it's not always a beige sheath that allows them to do so.’

women white flowers

This type of dress is all too familiar, countless websites and articles refer to the downfalls of the matronly style. Yet, just because the wedding of Harry and Megan brings this mother of the bride style of dress into 2019. This does not mean that the modern mother of the bride needs to be restricted by such a dress. 

Just as the age-old rule 'don't wear black to a wedding' is no longer relevant neither is this unflattering uniform. The internet offers a huge amount of inspiration from red carpet looks to Instagram and webpages. Making it easier than ever to past the traditional 'uniform' to find your perfect option wether that is mother of the bride dresses vintage or something a little more modern. You can make sure it suits you, not just your role in the wedding.

mother putting veil on brides head

Traditionally a bride's mother would be expected to conform to a sartorial uniform, often wearing a dress that would make them look matronly and demure. Yet, this style of dress is a hangover from a time where the mother would take a backseat in the wedding day proceedings. Watching the father walk his daughter's down the aisle, listening to the speeches of the groom, best man and brides' father. 

Luckily, this expectation of the silent woman is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Just because you are the bride's mother this does not mean that you have to resign yourself to being a quite, matronly figure. Your daughter's wedding day is one to be proud of, not just for her but for yourself too. We really hope you find an outfit that helps you celebrate this special day.

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