Mother of the bride dresses: How to Find Your Perfect Sleeve Length

Finding your perfect sleeve length or style can be a perfect way of narrowing down your mother of the bride dress search.
bride and bridesmaids in dresses holding flowers

We know very well that finding your perfect mother of the bride dress can be a very daunting task. With so many stores on offer, there seems to be an endless number of options available too you, most of which are won’t appeal at all. 

So, to make your mother of the bride dress search a little easier, we thought that we would outline all of the benefits, and disadvantages of the different styles of sleeves on offer to a mother of the bride in 2019. 

bridesmaids and brides in dresses with flowers

We all know that the different styles of dress available to order in 2019 seem almost endless, from the infamous negative reaction from the £5 dresses to the more out-there unconventional items, the list seems to go on and on. 

But, with the number of in your face, out there, unconventional dresses are seen more and more these days, what some people tend to overlook is the number of different sleeve styles that are appearing in our stores. 

From the more traditional long and shoulder cut sleeves to romantic sweetheart necklines, to the ultra-modern halterneck styles, among many others. The choice on offer to a mother of the bride and mother of the groom in 2019 is almost endless.  

Understanding what you don’t want, and what styles of sleeve you feel it is best to leave to another occasion, will help you have a much firmer grasp on what will make you perfect mother of the bride dress. 

This is why we have gone through the most commonly offered sleeve styles to help you understand what you really want from your mother of the bride outfit. 

Cap-sleeved mother of the bride dresses


The first thing that we really need to clear up when talking about cap-sleeved dresses is, what are cap-sleeves and what makes them different from normal short sleeves? 

The website the business of fashion defines cap-sleeves as: ‘cap sleeves are a specific style of short sleeve that are cut and seamed to fit on the shoulder and taper to nothing underneath the arm. This style is usually not as loose as a standard short-sleeve T-shirt, but more like a small umbrella - or cap - covering the arm’. 

Okay, we know that you probably don’t like the sound of wearing something that can be described as ‘a small umbrella’ but they are a very good mother o the bride option, we promise you. Just look at the gorgeous dress pictured below

Lydia Sleeveless Dress

Just look at what Lauren Frankfort from Martha Stuart Weddings has to say about the matter: ‘there's a reason why women have loved cap-sleeved dresses for decades: They're the perfect in-between option for those moments when you want to show a little some skin while still retaining a bit of coverage. Stylish, comfortable, and totally versatile (especially for an event taking place during the warmer months!), a dress with cap sleeves will help any woman feel her best. That's why they're an especially popular wedding attire choices for the mothers of the bride and groom. For moms looking for the perfect combination of fun and demure, a cap-sleeved dress could be just what you're after. To help make your search for the perfect big-day dress  a little easier, we pulled together some of our favourite cap-sleeved mother-of the-bride and-groom dresses.’  

A classic - mother of the bride dresses with long sleeves 

Kyoto Pencil Dress in lavender purple

We all know that mother of the bride dresses long sleeves are a classic (just look at the beautiful above dress), just look at what Elizabeth Swanson from Martha Stuart Weddings has to say about the matter: ‘No matter where your daughter or son's wedding is taking place, long-sleeve dresses are always appropriate; they seem to lend an air of elegance to any dress, whether it's mini, midi, or floor-length. Although they're especially fitting for a cool-weather climate or a fall or winter wedding date, you can absolutely wear a long-sleeve frock to any event.’ Just look how the below dress transforms the classic style into a more sophisticated dramatic look with the puffed sleeves.

Appleford Pencil Dress in teal

‘If your child is exchanging vows at a seaside destination, try an airy dress in a light fabric that will blow in the breeze. For nuptials taking place in the dead of winter, a long-sleeve dress made from a warm, sturdy fabric will keep you warm throughout the day. Even better, you won't have to worry about carrying a jacket or shawl around with you all night long.’

We really do agree with Ms Swanson on this topic, and really don’t think that there is much more too add. Whatever your body type, wherever the wedding is taking place, a long sleeve dress might just be your perfect option. 

Mother the bride dresses with three-quarter sleeves 

bride and her mother on the wedding day

For those mothers of the bride, who want to cover the upper arm, but aren’t quite after the look that comes with a full-length sleeve, a three quarter length sleeve can be the perfect option. 

Three quarter length sleeves have been growing in popularity over the years and now come in a wide variety, you can get them; in looser more flowy styles, tighter tapering out to a flared end, tight all the way down, or cuffed at the bottom. 

They are a wonderfully practical option for this time of year, as the give you the added warmth that comes with having your shoulders and upper arms covered. But they also keep your hands free to greet your guests. Just look at the wonderfully dramatic sleeves on this dress.

 Hollie Print Dress

They also give you more of an option to have a play with jewellery than longer sleeve lengths, as the three-quarter style cuts perfectly to be paired with a little bracelet. Take a look at this article to find some advice on mother of the bride accessorising. 

Mother of the bride dresses with no sleeves 

bride and bridesmaid in dresses with no sleeves

We know that the phrase ‘no sleeves’ nowadays can mean so many things, from off the shoulder, to spaghetti straps, to completely strapless. There are many variations of style available to you mothers of the bride who want to flash some shoulder. But, before you get your shoulders out for a shimmy, we think that there are a couple of things you should consider. 

One thing to bear in mind is, where is your daughter's wedding taking place? If the ceremony is happening in a religious building, then maybe today is not the day to show full decolletage, as you don’t want to be feeling uncomfortable and this to distract you from the vows. 

Alternatively, if you do have your heart set on a dress without sleeves for your mother of the bride or mother of the groom outfit then why not considering being a little cover-up. Bringing a jacket or a shawl with you can save you from any uncomfortable church side-eyes.

mother walking her daughter down the aisle

Another thing that is worth considering, especially when regarding a completely strapless dress is the fit over the bust. If your bust is slightly on the larger side wearing a strapless dress can sometimes present problems. As the heavier the weight of your chest the more likely it is to put pressure on the dress itself. This leads to a rather awkward situation where you are having to pull at your dress all day to keep from having any embarrassing slips! 

Or have a look at dresses such as this beautiful one below, that give the strapless feel, while the off the shoulder style keeps you feeling wonderfully secure. 

Mariposa Pencil Dress in Azure blue

The last thing to think about when considering wearing a strapless dress to your daughter’s wedding is, what is the weather going to be like. If the wedding you are attending is happening in England in the next coming months, then maybe this style isn’t your best option. If you do have your heart set on it, then we think it is best to find yourself a matching jacket to make sure you aren’t too chilly, just in case.

Mother of the bride dresses halter neck

two women at a wedding

The first thing we should probably clear up on this topic is the question some of you might be having. What exactly is a halterneck? 

Halterneck is a style of women's clothing strap that runs from the front of the garment around the back of the neck and leaves most of the back uncovered. The name comes from livestock haltersThe word "halter" derives from the Germanic words meaning "that by which anything is held." Halter is in the German word Büstenhalter, the German word for a bra, with Büste meaning female chest and breasts.’

Although the mother of the bride style dresses that you will be considering are likely not to tie at the neck, this style is commonly associated with swimwear, as it allows for much chest exposure which is useful for tanning. 

Many of the other considerations for the halterneck dress are similar too that of the strapless options, namely, is it appropriate, and will it suit your body. Halters are another style of clothing that won’t be seen as completely appropriate for all religious buildings, so if you are wearing a halter in your mother of the bride outfit best to bring a cover-up too. 

wedding table set for meal with flowers and candles

As for the halter style suiting a heavier breasted mother of the bride, this works in a slightly different way to the slipping stress of a strapless. For a halter, the focus should be upon the sides of the halter itself, particularly around the armpits and under the arms. 

The halter style is built upon the neckstrap taking the weight of the dress and keeping it in place, which means one if it is a heavy dress this can become uncomfortable after a few hours. Two, that the fit of the chest area is particularly important. 

If the fit of the chest is too tight, then it can lead to uncomfortable bulging of fat out of the chest area. Alternatively, if the fit is too loose, then this can often relieve some light of your breast showing from under your arm and armpit area, which we are guessing wouldn’t be part of your imagined mother of the bride look.  

It is possible to find some very sophisticated mother of the bride halter dresses, but it is worth considering the style and your body together, why not try it on a for a little while and see how it copes rather than springing for it too quickly.

Mother of the bride dresses with shoulder pads 

Derwent Pencil Dress in raspberry pink

From the beautiful modern classic dress above to the larger padded blazers of the 1980s, what is it about shoulder pads? We thought we would give you a little background information to help you make the most informed choice.

'Shoulder pads are a type of fabric-covered padding used in men's and women's clothing to give the wearer the illusion of having broader and less sloping shoulders'

'In women's clothing, their inclusion depends on the fashion taste of the day. Although from a non-fashion point of view they are generally for people with narrow or sloping shoulders, there are also quite a few cases in which shoulder pads will be necessary for a suit or blazer in order to compensate for certain fabrics' natural properties, most notably suede blazers, due to the weight of the material.’

Originally became popular in for women’s fashion the 1930s, they had a revival in women’s fashion in the 1980s, where the silhouette became more popularly desirable. They then became associated with ‘power dressing’ as the more masculine broad shoulders were commonly seen in suits. More recently they have been seen in the 2000s in popular culture in stylistic outfits stars such as Rihana and Lady Gaga. 

Shoulder pads have for a while being one of the style of sleeves that slips opinion, some people loving the broader look that it gives, while others believing it should stay with the Spanx leggings and overly-permed locks in the 1980s. 

If you are considering wearing a dress or jacket with shoulder pads in it to your daughter’s wedding, we are guessing you are a least a bit of a fan of the style. So, if you know that you like the look, the next thing to consider is, will it make you look good on this special day. 

Shoulder pads are the type of style that really, isn’t for everyone if worn on unfortunately, the majority of women, it won’t help you create the most iconic feminine silhouette. If, as we talked about in this article, you want to have this timeless look, then there are some things you should consider when thinking about shoulder pads. 

First thing first, how broad are your shoulders naturally? If you have a more hourglass shape, then we think that is probably best you avoid shoulder pads in your mother of the bride dress. This is because they will through off your naturally balanced figure and make you look quite top-heavy. 

bunch of flowers wrapped in brown paper lying on their side

Similarly, if you have a more athletic, or tringle build, this sleeve style is also not for you. As most women want to look their most elegant on their daughter’s wedding day, wearing something that accentuates their broader shoulders won’t be the best thing. 

Another thing worth thinking about is your height. If you are on the more petite side, we believe, that it is probably best that you avoid items of clothing with shoulder pads. This is because it is likely that the larger shoulders are likely to swamp your figure and make you appear shorter.  

With so many styles on offer we hope that this extra information gives you the tools to more easily find the perfect style for you, and, no matter what you end up going for on this special day, having the pride in your daughter and confidence in yourself means that you will look radiant.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.