Thursday, December 1, 2011

Choosing the Perfect Dress for Your Shape 

briar rose and pearls Stock Photo - 5064931

Finding a mother's dress can be challenging. Often, mothers tend to put off this step, then have difficulty finding a dress. We often hear a mother say that she will wait until the bride is taken care of.  But  then pressure builds. Allow yourself three to six months, at least. 

Both mothers' dresses are important and the mother of the bride takes the lead. She will need to select her dress, color and degree of formality then let the groom's mother know. The groom's mother should try to choose a dress of the same length and degree of formality and in a color that will harmonize. If the mother of the bride has not started her search, then the groom's mother should begin. She can make her final decision once she hears from the bride's mother. 

Today's innovative bridesmaids dresses in tea length are pretty. This means there is flexibility in deciding on the length of the dress the mothers choose. If the bride's dress is floor-length and formal,  the mother's dress can be floor-length. If you want to go with a shorter hemline, there are pretty dresses with fuller skirts that are tea length. Or suits that are street length. 

Parents of the Bride
When choosing a color, select something that looks good on you and that you will enjoy wearing. Think of how the color will look in photographs, as that is what you will be looking at for many years to come. The color you choose may be within the same color family as the bridesmaids dresses, your daughter will have some input here. You might choose a shade within the same family. Or choose a contrasting color, with the same intensity as the bridesmaids dresses.  

Visit boutiques and salons that specialize in bridal wear or upscale or evening wear. Finer clothing stores sometimes carry special occasion or evening wear. On the days that you shop, wear something dressy, wear good undergarments and hose if you plan to wear hose on the day and bring dress shoes. This will help you get a better sense of how you will look in the outfit on the actual day. Try on a few styles, you cannot tell how a dress will look until you try it on. Unless the wedding is very formal, you might feel that some of the dresses in the evening wear department are dressier than what you want. Trying on a few dresses will give you a sense of shape then you can look for similar items elsewhere that are less formal. 

A cavat about the colors of the sample dresses in salons. They are often shown in either ivory, champagne or black. However, these are just samples. They can be ordered in other colors. The "rules" about wearing ivory and black are more relaxed than in the past. But do check with the bride first if considering either of these colors. Your choice would depend on the bride's color scheme. Even if she has chosen a black and white color scheme,  mothers  can wear a contrasting color as an accent, or choose a dress that combines both black and white rather than all black. If the bride is dressing everyone else in ivory, then mothers can have accessories in an accent color.

The Bride and the Mums                                              Lorna Jane Photographer, Helen's wedding
Leaf through bridal magazines, they often have advertisements for manufacturers that specialize in "mother of the bride."  Fashion layouts  are dressy, you might want a scaled back look. However, this will give you and idea of color and shape. Formal gowns and dressy outfits are usually in solid colors. Sometimes there is slight tonal contrast, such as a lighter shade of trim or blouse, or in beading or trim,  or a lace overlay. The overall look with subtle contrast is elegant and dignified and photographs well. Beautiful print dresses can also be lovely, but are not harmonious in formal photographs. Best to save prints for the rehearsal party.

This is a time to treat yourself with a little pampering and carefully choosing your outfit is part of that.  You will be on display, greeting and mingling with many well-wishers. You owe it to yourself to look your loveliest so your son or daughter can "show you off."  

Let's discuss some of the more common figure types and give suggestions for styles. Formal wear tends to be structured with fabrics that have a lot of body and are somewhat form-fitting. If you are more comfortable in hiding figure flaws, you can also choose a softer, looser fitting style.  

The petite woman who is slender has a lot of flexibility. A dress can have movement but not be too voluminous.  An A-line shape that skims the waist can add height. A knee length dress with a cinched waist and full skirt is a current contemporary look that is pretty and feminine. A simple neckline ending in a cap sleeve topped with a jacket will give you versatility. For a suit, choose a street length skirt with a short jacket nipped in at the waist.

Often we hear women request a dress to cover their upper arms and shoulders. Many two-piece designs include sleeveless shells with jackets that can be left on or taken off.  A shell worn under a sheer jacket that you can keep on all day will give you flexibility as you move. 

Bride and MotherFor a second marriage, the bride chose a more casual look for herself and her Mom.

Some women are toned and proud of maintaining their shape. If that's you, consider a dress or top with a modest vee neck in front and back to call attention to your shoulders. Women with strong shoulders and necklines can also carry off a variety of stately necklines, such as stand-up collars. 

Many women are not perfectly proportional, most need either a slightly larger skirt than top, or the opposite. Separates and suits can work well if this is your figure type. Some women have tummy bulges they wish to disguise. Dresses with ruching are slenderizing and create a waistline. 

Taller women have great flexibility. Consider a long dress or gown with a form-fitting skirt flaring to a  fluted or trumpet hem. A longer, hip-length wrap jacket tied at the waist can also be elegant and dramatic. You can wear the dramatic stately collars dipping to a "sweetheart" neckline. Women with short hair and long necks can wear dramatic necklines. If you have strong "swimmer's shoulders," a dress with a V-neckline in front and back will flatter your build.  

For women with fuller bust-lines, an open neckline is flattering, such as a scoop neck or modest V-neck or cowl neckline. A suit with a double-breasted jacket will help balance your silhouette. Leave the jacket open or button it loosely. A skirt of any length is fine, but tea length or shorter is flattering. Short kimono style jackets are also minimizing. Wear the kimono jacket over a U-neck silk tank top to draw attention up towards your face. This is pretty with wide-legged pants. 
mother of the bride and bridesmaids Yvette Llagan photography
For a woman whose hips are wider, a boat neckline and an A-line shape skirt will balance your figure. Or a skirt cut on the bias will give ease and movement without adding fulness. A bias cut skirt moves  gracefully with your movement. An  empire waist will minimize the hip area. Wider-legged pants, but not too wide, are another good choice. If the pants fall straight from the waist and do not hug the hips, a cropped jacket can be worn, especially if you are shorter. If the pants are  form-fitting in the hip area, choose a jacket that ends below the widest part of the hips. Consider also a strapless dress, it widens the shoulder area and calls attention to the neckline and shoulders.

For a woman with a classic hour-glass figure, you might want a one-piece look that accentuates your waist such as a modified sheath dress. It need not be form-fitting, but can lightly skim your body. If you are full-figured, a scoop or vee neck is slenderizing. For women with square shapes, that is, have smaller bustlines, wider waists, and the appearance of a flat hip area, jackets that tie at the waist over slim pants looks trim.  The strapless ball gown look with a full skirt is lovely look well on a taller woman and when it enhances the bride's dress, is charming.
Mother and Daughter
These are a few of the more common figure types. Some women may feel that their figures are hard to fit. If that is the case, custom-made is a good choice. Some women have not had occasion in a long time to dress in an outfit that calls attention to their bodies. For that reason, we find most mothers prefer a modest look that can still be youthful and reflect a sense of personal style. Assistants and stylists who work in boutiques specialize in your age group and are experienced in helping you put together a lovely outfit, no matter what you feel your figure challenges are. 

The first priority is the dress for the wedding. Once that outfit is completed and accessories chosen, you can turn your attention to selections for party events related to the wedding, such as an engagement party, rehearsal dinner, or brunch following the wedding. Once you know what looks good, you can put together a collection of coordinating outfits.

Mother of the Bride

For color selections, here is a website:
For mother-of the bride or groom attire, consider Joanie Char boutique in San Francisco. This designer-owned boutique provides a wide range of elegant selections and novelty items in natural silk woolen and linen fabrics in a wide color range. If you cannot come in person, they can assist you on the phone and send you photos and swatches. For a custom-made outfit that is guaranteed to fit, all you'll need to do is send your measurements. Monday - Saturday, 10 - 6.  Samples of Joanie Char fashions can be viewed on the post below,"Mother of the Bride/Groom Ensembles."

Joanie Char Boutique
537 Sutter Street
San Francisco CA 94102
Tel (415) 399-9867                                   (c)2011 Joanie Char Design Group

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