How To Avoid Looking Matronly In Mother Of The Bride Dresses

We will indentify what makes a matronly mother of the bride outfit, while giving you all the tools to make sure you will never be described in such a way.
mother in mother of the bride dresses walking her daughter down the aisle

bride and her mother walking

We know that finally being a mother of the bride is a day we all look forward too.  Sure, it is your daughter’s big day and all the attention deserves to be on her. But, as the mother of the bride, we know that you are a very special part of this day indeed.

You are more than likely to have been a huge part in planning this special day, helping your daughter find her perfect dress among a myriad of other things. Although we know that it is so important to make sure the bride has everything she needs and wants for her wedding day, we think that it is as important for you to be able to look and feel your best too. We also know that for many mothers of the bride they might not have the advantage of unlimited time or budget to make this happen.

This is why we have created this article to help, we have found all the best advice, to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of looking matronly on this special day. Not only will we help you not look too stuffy or fussy, but we have included information that will help you look and feel your best too!

A little history on the mother of the bride in matronly outfits

wedding cake with flowers on it

In reading (far too many) mother of the bride articles on google, so many of them refer to this historic style of mother of the bride dressing as ‘matronly’. But none of them really describe what unflattering style of dressing actually is. We think that too make sure you avoid inadvertently falling into this category it is necessary to actually understand what it means. 

The word 'matronly' is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as: 'a matronly woman, usually one who is not young, is fat and does not dress in a fashionable way'. When looking at the actual definition, we think that is pretty shocking that it has been used to describe mothers of the bride for so long. We are sure you will agree that it is not a word you want anyone to utter with reference to you on your daughter's special day. 

So, why has it become so synonymous with mother of the bride outfits over the years? What is it referring too? 

We talked, in this article using the Royal Family as a reference point, about how traditionally there used to be a type of uniform for mothers of the bride. This was a very particular style of dress you would expect almost every mother of the bride to wear to her daughter's wedding.  

flowers on a table

This 'matronly uniform' would have been expected to be seen in very particular styles and colours. Firstly, the style, think boxy. A mother would be expected to wear a dress or skirt and top in a matching colour, both of which had very limited shape indeed. Without a particularly tailored waist, the cut would mean that the dress would hit the broadest part of your shoulders and just go straight down from there. 

This style of dress would more often than not be worn with an equally unflattering jacket. This jacket would cut hit right in the midsection, which would have the effect of shortening an already boxy torso. 

The colours of these outfits were also quite limited. They would be visible in a variety of pastel shades, from duck egg blue, too eggshell and so on. All in all, the colours of these outfits were to be just as unflattering as the styles themselves. 

One can see this style of dress pretty much unchanging over the last century, the only slight difference being that the length of skirt moves ever shorter, from floor to knee length. But, whatever breakthrough in fashion or trend an age brought with it, this style remained steadfast. 

table for wedding

As described in this article 'for a long time there used to be so-called 'mother of the bride dress' tendency in fashion. Traditional mother of the bride dresses used to be frumpy, matronly, often tacky and not flattering to a more mature woman’s figure in any way. That no longer exists today.' Although the idea that it no longer exists today might be slightly wishful thinking, do we believe that is not a style that any mother of the bride in 2019 should feel she needs to fall for. 

In really nailing down the intricacies of what made this traditional uniform of the mother of the bride so matronly, we hope you now have the tools to know what to avoid. Now we can get into the fun bits, finding you a dress that will really help you look your best on this special day.  

How to pick a timeless mother of the bride dress 

pink flowers

We know that picking a mother of the bride dress can be a very hard task, especially in our time of fast fashion, the ability to choose an outfit that will stand the test of time can seem like quite an intimidating prospect. We know that is it for this reason that many women opted for this 'matronly uniform' we have seen all too often at past weddings. 

This is why we have worked hard to find you the best advice to make sure you are able to find a mother of the bride dress that stands the test of time and looks stunning on the day itself. 

Firstly, to ensure you are wearing an outfit that will look as good in 50 years as it does today, we think that you should avoid falling for any trends. We understand that buy into trends can be awfully tempting, but for this special day, we really think you should try and steer clear of them. 

wedding day celebrations drinks

Taking a few of the biggest trends of 2019, neon and animal print. We can imagine how you could easily find a dress that makes you feel great, with its floor-length maxi skirt, all of which is composed of a neon yellow zebra stripe. Although this may seem like an amazing idea in the shop. One that is backed up by seeing a celebrity on TV on someone on Instagram sporting a similar look. But, just trust us, you won't thank yourself for this clothing choice in years to come. 

Although we know that the example we have given is rather an extreme one, we do think that the point still stands with really any trend. Trends are inherently in and of that moment in time, which means, unfortunately, they can look outdated as quickly as they began to look so desirable. 

The next piece of advice we have for picking a timeless outfit is, choose a classic silhouette. 

There is nothing more iconically beautiful than a natural hourglass shape. We really do believe that this is something that has never, and will never go out of style. So why not find a dress that helps you bring out your natural curves. Check out our article below on why stretch fabric pencil dresses, like the one below, help flatter any figure to bring out this feminine hourglass shape. Just look at this ultra-flattering dress.

Topaz Pencil Dress in Emerald green

Alternatively, if you are after a slightly fuller skirt there are ways to achieve this look so that it too, will stand the test of time. For those after a bolder shape, we suggest that you go for a mother of the bride tea dress, or swing dress. Read this article to discover where this style of dress historically came from. Just check out this wonderful dress

Portobello Swing Dress in powder blue

A reason for both of these cuts being able to look as beautiful as they do today, 50 years in the past, is due to their ability to flatter any female figure. Which means that not only are these shapes beautiful, but they will continue to be loved classics for many many years to come, as looking and feeling great will beat any trend. 

Another piece of advice we have for those after a timeless mother of the bride outfit is to leave the bold prints for another day. We know that there are so many dresses available today that have beautifully bold and unique looking prints, that can be all too easy to fall in love with. 

But, we really do think that is best to leave this style of dress for another day. Leave it for a day where you won't be expecting to hang photographs of it on your wall forever.  

We are suggesting this, as it is often the case that a bold print, that will look amazing at the time that you bought it, won't age too well. Although we know that floral prints seem to be pretty relevant whatever the period. You only have to look at some of the geometric styles of the 70s to realise that some bolder prints certainly have their day. 

A little trick we have to help you if you are still unsure of whether to wear a particular item of clothing to your daughter's wedding day, is to try and imagine wearing it in different decades. Although we know that is really quite an abstract exercise, try and picture wearing your outfit in the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s. These particular decades all are really quite radically different when it comes to their fashion, if you feel you wouldn't be out of place in them, then you can be assure your look is a timeless one. 

Finding the most flattering and stylish mother of the bride dress for a daytime wedding

dresses hanging up

When deciding on what to wear for any wedding there are a few things you need to consider, what the venue is, what time of day it is, what the weather should be like. 

If your daughter has chosen a to make her wedding a day time event, then this, more often than not, comes with a more casual dress code and takes place outside at some point, even if it is just for the photographs. 

When we say casual dress code above, we mean 'casual' as it is known in terms of the scale of wedding dress codes, rather than how you would dress for drinks with your girlfriends. Click here to see our breakdown of wedding dress codes, to help you nail that invitation specification.

What we recommend you wearing for a daytime wedding, is a swing or tea dress. As we mentioned earlier, this style of dress is one sure to stand the test of time, while ensuring you look quite the opposite of matronly. Just look at the beautiful dress below

Abberton Swing Dress in nude pink

The reason that a mother of the bride tea or swing dress is so perfect for a daytime wedding, is because of the playful nature of the style. The fuller skirt is created by a particular cut of slightly heavier fabric. This means that unlike the fuller skirted ball gown, that holds its shape from a more structured cut. Both the swing and tea dresses give you an ease of movement that will enable you to elegantly move from church to dinner to the dancefloor. 

We are suggesting this style as preferable above fuller skirts that are composed of a lighter fabric, that tend to look more floaty. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it is all too easy for the multiple layers of light fabric that compose this style of dress to look unflattering on any one part from the model advertising it. 

You are much more likely to look and feel amazing in a tea or swing dress, as the dress brings at the waist, which highlights the natural female curve. The curving skirt then elegantly hangs over the rest of the body, discretely covering any areas below that you might not want highlighted. 

Like this dress below. 

Chesterton Swing Dress in blue

A swing or tea dress is the perfect option for a mother of the bride who wants to look elegant and beautiful on her daughter's wedding day and to be able to treasure the memory of this day through the photographs for many years to come.

The perfect mother of the bride dresses for an evening wedding

Just as daytime weddings often come with a more casual dress code, evening weddings are usually on the more formal end of the spectrum, most commonly, black tie, or semi-black tie. 

Check out the dress below here.

Derbyshire Pencil Dress in beige

As the mother of the bride, we know that you want to make sure that you are looking completely appropriate for your daughter's chosen aesthetic. So, just as for the daytime wedding you want to reflect the joyful celebration, for an evening wedding your outfit will reflect the elegance and special nature of this event. 

So, how do you achieve this in an outfit that also flatters your body and will stand the test of time to still look as beautiful in 20 years as it does today? 

We suggest that you try and stretch fabric pencil dress, for the reasons we outlined in the section above. Choosing a classic colour that compliments the bridesmaids (tools to make this easier in this article) will ensure that you look completely appropriate. If you want to make sure you are looking smart, then add some statement jewellery, a heeled shoe, and a fancy updo. Just imagine all that with this timeless dress.

Ontario Pencil Dress in teal

From this article, we hope that you know a little more about what the matronly mother of the bride style is, and feel confident in your ability to choose an outfit that could never be described in such terms! 

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