As the mother of two daughters, I have to admit that over the years I daydreamed about their weddings. I thought about how they would look in a big white gown, the menu of the reception, their flowers and even the handcrafted take away gifts. But for some reason I never, ever thought about what I would wear. When both daughters became engaged and married within three years, what I was going to wear became an all too real question.
Being painfully logical I began by looking in traditional bridal stores for a traditional MOB gown. It was a harrowing experience. They all seemed to be made of limp, cheap polyester chiffon in colors usually reserved for jelly beans.
Fortunately, daughter # 1 decided on a black and white Art Deco theme. Piece of cake. But trolling thru traditional evening wear was not much better than bridal shops. All of the floor length dresses were tight and low cut. While I did not want to look like an octogenarian, I also did not want to look like a cougar MOB. And then there was that sticker shock. Mother of the bride dresses were less than $300, while true evening wear started around $2000.
Shopping with my younger daughter for her maid of honor dress, I had a brainstorm. What about a black bridesmaids dress? The styles were classic and the price was around $200. At Nicole Miller I fell in love with a strapless black organdy gown with an over lay of black lace butterflies. It was classic, elegant and affordable. However as with all bridal store orders, I had to try on a sample that was not even close to my size. Although I usually wear size 10, I was a 16 in bridal wear, the largest size they stock. I didn’t really love that number, but I did love my daughter so I fished out my Amex card and crossed MOB dress off my to-do list.
Not so fast. Six weeks later I was back to the store for a fitting. Even at size 16 the dress was shockingly tight and I could hardly breathe or even bend over. But it got worse. The lace fabric was pulled so tight that the little lace butterflies now stood straight out like I was being attacked by a hoard of hornets. Although most special orders are not returnable, even the store manager took pity on me. She allowed me to switch the “ hornet dress” for plain black silk gown. It was tight but hornet free. The mother of the groom was not doing much better. She hated her custom made dress so much, she went online to find a replacement.
Then my daughter gives me the news that I need to cover up my arms for the ceremony. Now she tells me! So the great jacket hunt began. There are not a lot of evening jackets, but it’s especially hard to find one that works over an existing dress. I liked a heavily embroidered bolero, but my husband said I looked like a tranny matador. Finally I emptied the rest of my wallet and got a custom made black velvet bolero- for about the same price as my entire dress. At long last, I was ready to walk daughter #1 down the aisle.
Six months later when daughter #2 announced her engagement, I thought I was ready. I was wrong. To avoid past mistakes, I started early and went to “Say Yes to the Dress” Kleinfeld’s. At this temple of bridal wear I knew there was a huge selection of dresses and many had sleeves or jackets in a wide range of colors and fabrics. Within an hour I had fallen in love with a vintage style satin shirtwaist with ¾ sleeves and a full floor length skirt. It was totally Grace Kelly in High Society and even daughter #2 loved it unconditionally. The color theme of this wedding was taupe and white, so I choose a dark taupe shade. It was so pretty I could even imagine wearing it again. But when they took my measurements, a problem appeared. Apparently at size 10, I was bigger than their largest size—but for an additional $300 I could still get the dress of my dream. To avoid another hornet incident I again pulled out my now well worn Amex card.
Six weeks later I got a call that they no longer had my color and the only one that would coordinate with the rest of the wedding was a dark brown. Since time was now running out and I was in no mood to go dress shopping again, I went with the brown. The mother of the groom shared my pain. Her dress had been delayed “indefinitely” due to the shoulder injury of the seamstress. However this was her fourth wedding and she had three back up gowns. To avoid another unbearably tight dress, I worked hard at a diet and exercise program and lost about 10 pounds.
When I went to Kleinfelds for the fitting, I vaguely saw a sign about filming, but I did not pay much attention. I just wanted to try on my dress. It looked great on the hanger, but the mirror told a different story. The special order was enormous. The once perky collar now flopped down my chest, the ¾ sleeves hung over my knuckles and the skirt puddled around the floor of the dressing room. The salesperson and I looked at each other with horror. But the fitter was unconcerned. They could easily alter it—for another $300. But wait– things suddenly got worse. The producers of the show heard about the diet/ enormous dress and wanted to capture it for their show. Just what I needed. I started to cry and the fitter rushed to blot my tears before they stained the dress. The fitter really did an amazing job of restoring all the lovely features of the dress to fit my body. I loved my dress and the wedding for daughter #2 was beautiful.
I love to write about the best ways to do anything and here is my advice after two weddings:
1. Try to convince the young couple to elope.
2. If that does not work, push for a beach wedding where the dress can be a caftan and bare feet
3. If you want a dress with a jacket, buy a dress that comes with a jacket.
4. While its only one night, wedding photos are forever.
That’s about it for MOB advice. And once your heart and holidays are filled with grandchildren, wedding wear woes are totally worth the journey.