Picking the perfect plus size mother of the bride dress
This article discusses some ways a plus-size mother of the bride can ensure she has a lovely, flattering dress for her daughter’s wedding.
Weddings can be stressful events, and when planning one, it seems that hundreds of things have the potential to go wrong. The mother of the bride is usually neck-deep in these preparations, and it seems the last thing she has time to do is go find a dress. This issue becomes more complex if the mother is a plus-size woman. It’s a fact: dresses in the formal shops are not usually displayed in plus sizes. The industry standard size is a 10 and most dresses will be this size. So how can a mother of the bride find a gown that is suitable for her needs and looks beautiful? Read on.
A MOB (mother of the bride) has two choices: buy or make. Making a dress may seem like the ideal solution, since the mother can have her pick of styles, fabrics and colors, but even with a skilled seamstress working, time must be taken to go to the fabric store, peruse the patterns, pick a color and fabric that is suitable, and go for dress fittings. As with most wedding plans, the earlier a MOB starts, the easier she will find her task.
One advantage to the handmade dress is that many patterns are available for plus-size formals, and these tend to be constructed in flattering styles, unlike dresses in a retail store that simply can be purchased in larger sizes, but do not take into consideration the needs of the larger women.
Plus-size women, whether tall, average height or short, often have several things in common where their body styles are concerned. Most have large thighs and upper arms. Many have large bustlines, but this is not always the case. Any dress style should take these things into account. Plus-size women generally shy away from anything sleeveless, strapless, very low-cut, backless or with a short skirt. Garments constructed for the larger woman will have larger armholes, a greater amount of ease in the shoulder and back seams, and will be wider through the shoulders. Hence, a handmade garment can accommodate most of these features.
A plus-size MOB should consider first and foremost: what styles are attractive on her? Some women look better in a one-piece gown, some in a two-piece suit or skirt and top combination. She should look at the dress clothes she wears most often and feels most comfortable in. These styles will likely be what she needs to look for in a gown. Of course, the formality of the wedding will determine the style to a certain extent, but what makes a gown truly a formal are the fabric and the accessories, and within most styles, there is great latitude for how formal the gown will be.
Plus-size women will wear sleeveless or strapless gowns if a jacket or shawl is provided, as well. Jackets can be of the same material as the gown, or they can be a sheer fabric in the same or a complimentary color. The same is true of shawls or shrugs. A woman who has an average bustline can even wear a lower-cut gown, provided the back is suitably high. Portrait necklines are often flattering to the plus-size woman, since they create a longer line for the face and neck.
A gown for an afternoon wedding will often be business or tea-length, and tea-length or longer for an evening wedding, if the wedding is very formal. Fabrics for a very formal evening wedding will be richer: velvet or beaded silk, for example. A less formal or afternoon wedding ensemble may be of many elegant fabrics: silk crepe, shantung, peau de soie. This will also depend on the time of year, and whether the wedding is indoors or outdoors. Look for lighter fabrics for an outdoor summer wedding, for instance.
A gown, regardless of length or formality, should be generously cut all over. Nothing looks worse than an uncomfortable MOB, sweating in a June wedding in a dress that outlines every curve of her abdomen and every roll of her body. She is obviously miserable and will feel even worse when the wedding photos come back. And ladies, this is NOT the time to lie about your size. Swallow your pride and let the seamstress or sales associate get your correct measurements. You will be so much more pleased with the results.
As for styles, think simple. Peplums have lost much of their fashion-forward luster, but a plus-size woman should run screaming away from a peplum. They are not flattering, period. You think your rear end looks big now? Put a peplum on it and you’ve got the front end of a Peterbilt cab in a Christmas wreath.
For two-piece suits, opt for a suit with a longer jacket–one that falls to the hips. A short jacket over a slimmer skirt on a plus-size woman is a recipe for disaster. If you go for the straighter skirt, make sure the jacket amply covers your rear end. Otherwise, you’ll be able to spot your backside in every candid picture at the reception–and it will look twice the size of the wedding cake. Always wear the appropriate foundation garments, as well, even if it means a girdle.
For longer gowns, you can have something like the traditional ballgown look–a properly fitted bodice and fuller skirt are usually very flattering on a plus-size woman. We don’t need to harken back to the Scarlett O’Hara hoops here, but a fuller skirt is usually a good look.
A sheath gown will work if it has some construction through the bodice and fits generously all over. Skirts in a fabric with movement are always good, but the larger woman should shy away from shiny, “slick” fabrics, like charmeuse, since these tend to outline bulges and rolls, especially in a lighter color.
Oh yes–color. Think about what colors you like, but also those that flatter you. While it’s always nice to match the bride’s colors for the wedding, you will be wearing the dress, so pick a color that will look good on you. Pastels are good for a spring or summer wedding, but most women should stay away from peach. It’s a lovely color, but only redheads and blondes with peaches-and-cream complexions wear it successfully. It turns the rest of us gray.
If you like pink, a nice pastel looks good on most complexions, as does lavender or ice blue. Avoid shocking pink or any neon-like color. You’re not a teen-ager and you’ll look like a pack of bubblegum, or worse. Yellow is good for blondes, and light brunettes. If you’re proudly gray, you can wear just about any color (except peach, of course).
Some colors are lovely on most women: oyster and navy work for just about everyone, regardless of hair color or skin tone. Blondes will want to go for a creamier oyster, brunettes and darker hair colors will look for a more taupe one. Keep the colors more neutral, more subdued, and you will be happier with the results.
If you’re buying a gown, you need accessories. Stick with lower-heeled pumps (1 1/2 inch heel and lower) and buy them in ivory, navy or black. You can get them dyed to match, but that’s a little 80s. Besides–you’ll be able to wear them afterwards and with other outfits if you go neutral. Buy a nice little handbag in a coordinating color, or beaded–you can afford a little sparkle here.
Keep your jewelry simple, as well. Diamond or pearl studs are the most elegant on any woman, and nothing beats the classic pearl necklace. Department stores sell great-looking fakes in suitable lengths. Most plus-size women need about a 24-inch strand, to make up for their larger necks. A diamond pendant on a chain is also classic and elegant.
Go for that makeover, too. Most department stores with cosmetic counters have representatives who are willing to do your make-up for a wedding, usually at no charge, especially if you purchase a product. Go ahead and buy that great lipstick. Take a fabric swatch of your dress, and tell the rep to do your make-up appropriately. Take your best friend with you and have a good time with the products. You want to be a credit to the bride, and when the rep strips down that layer of mascara and bad foundation, let her do it. Same goes for your hair. Go to the salon and have the hairdresser do a beautiful style for you.
There are retail resources available for the plus-size MOB. Some chain stores for large size woman sell lovely gowns appropriate for the MOB, as well as bridal salons. When you’re trying on dresses, though, do not allow a sales associate to talk you into a dress that is uncomfortable, that you don’t like, or that is an unflattering color. Most won’t, but some may try. And if you’re in a formal shop, do not allow a snobbish associate to intimidate you or make you feel inferior or somehow “less than” because of your size. Some salespeople in these shops will make subtle inferences that they simply can’t work with you because of your size. If you get this feeling, don’t hestitate–walk out. They don’t deserve your business. Save it for people who realize that you have just as much right to a beautiful gown as a woman who wears a size 4.
In short, simplicity and elegance should be the watchwords for a plus-size (or any size) woman looking for that mother of the bride dress. When you hear people saying, “Doesn’t the bride’s mother look lovely? That dress is so elegant, but so simple. It’s so flattering on her,” you have succeeded. Hold your head up and be the most charming and gracious hostess you can be. And enjoy your daughter’s special day.