Whether you are looking for mother-of-the-bride dress for petites for yourself, or you are the bride who has a mother of petite height, or perhaps you are a friend or wedding company who is helping the wedding party, this post is for you to understand what you should be looking for. In my store (Petite Dressing) , I constantly get requests from petite customers who are looking for formal dresses to wear on the wedding day of their daughters. That is what prompted me to put together this article to help all of you going through this search. True, the wedding day is all about the bride, but, this day is just as important to the mother of the bride.
If you are the mother of the bride yourself and you are under 5’4″, I am sure you have already known how hard it is to find your size, like, all your life. What makes it even harder to find mother-of-the-bride dresses as a petite woman is that there is even less brands available that makes this type of dresses for short ladies.
For this very special day of your daughter getting married, you probably have already been dealing with enough stress from wedding planning, bills split and everything else. Now, let’s make it easier for your big day (this day is just as special to you as to your daughter!) by following these tips to find your mother-of-the-bride dress.
1. Be consistent with the wedding style
The most important question before you start your search for your dress is “what is the wedding going to be like?”
Is it a church wedding? Is it a casual country style ceremony? Is it a destination wedding in a beach resort? The type of the wedding plays a critical role in terms of what the wedding party should wear. As mother of the bride, what you wear should definitely be consistent with the choice of the wedding type.
The best way to go about this? Have a talk with your daughter. What the bride wants typically determines what the ceremony is going to be like. How does your daughter envision her big day? Does she request black tie dress code? Does she have preference of what you wear or does she just want you to have a great time?
It is extremely helpful to have a chat with the bride to understand what she is envisioning and from there you will get the guide for what kind of mother-of-bride dresses you should be looking for.
Keep her involved in the shopping process. This is a great opportunity for mother-daughter bonding before she gets married. Invite her to go to the department store or specialty boutique with you, and get her opinion before you purchase. Ultimately, it is your decision on what you want to wear, but you know you got a winner if you and your daughter are both happy with the dress!
2. Find the dress for your petite body type
Whether you are 28 or 70, it is always important to understand your petite body type and dress accordingly. As you go through life, your body may have gone through a lot of changes and rounds of weight fluctuations. Understanding your body’s main characters and what works for your specific type is the foundation of finding that dress to fit you perfectly on this special day of your life.
Are you a petite hourglass? You may have gained weight compared with your 30s/40s, but if your waist is still significantly smaller than your bust, you are still an hourglass. Accentuating your body curve the key to dress an hourglass shape and that is what you should look for in the mother-of-bride dresses. Almost anything would look good on an hourglass shape petite woman. On the other hand, you may be wise to be conservative about showing cleavage and avoid anything too tight or too short on this special day. Read more about “How to Dress Petite Hourglass Figure“.
If you are a petite pear shape and you are self conscious about prominent thigh area, make sure your skirt is not too snug. Fit and flare will be your best bet in terms of silhouette. You can also balance your pear shape by highlighting the upper body and draw attention to your slender waist. Read more about “How to Dress if you have Petite Pear Shape“.
If you are a petite inverted triangle shape and you do not want to emphasize your broad shoulders, consider darker shade for the top. Wrap style or v neck top works well for your body type.Aline skirts will balance out your body type by adding volume to your bottom half. Read more on “How to Dress Petite Inverted Triangle Shape“.
For petite apple shape, accentuating your slender legs (your best assets) should be your focus. That can be achieved by wearing a shorter dress above your knee, which will also make you appear taller. It is not uncommon for moms of apple shape to be self-conscious about their mid sections. If that is your case, go with a shift dress silhouette which will direct attention away from your midriffs. Read my post on “How to Dress if you are Petite Apple Shape“.
For petite rectangle body shape, creating curves and adding feminine details should be your focus. Go with a belt to create the illusion of waist line. Soften your athletic figure with laces and other details. Trumpet and pencil skirts will help create shape for your body type. Read more about “How to Dress Petite Rectangle Shape“.
There are certain styles that are universally flattering for mother of the brides, especially those who are petite. A fitted bodice and gently flared skirt work universally on most women.
3. Proportion. Proportion. Proportion
No matter what age you are and regardless of the occasion, proportion should always be the number one focus of petite styling. There are many ways to use proportion to flatter your petite body frame, but the waistline is critical. For petite ladies, you want the waistline higher than your natural, in order to make your torso look shorter and legs look longer.
Go with dresses like these are designed to raise your waistline and divide your body into the ideal 1/3 and 2/3 proportions.
4. Short dresses are great but make sure it's not too short
I don’t know many petite women who do not like shorter dresses, no matter what age group they are. Let’s be honest, short dresses never fail petite girls. Generally speaking, dresses 4-5 inches above your knee are the most flattering in terms of making you appear taller.
Now, being mother of the bride means you probably do not want a mini dress that looks like 25 year old, but that doesn’t mean you should ditch the short dresses. It just means you should opt for an the length that looks elegant on you.
If you are comfortable showing your knees, go for a dress just above your knees. You can still show off your legs, as long as your dress looks tasteful and you are not showing off other assets (like cleavage) at the same time.
5. Long dresses are great for short ladies
If you are short, wearing a long mother-of-the-bride dress can also be very flattering for you. The reason? It creates a constant column of color which gives the illusion of length.
Do not think maxi dresses are only for 20 year olds to wear on the beach. Many designers today are making maxi length mother-of-the-bride dresses. The key is to keep the silhouette simple such as a sheath or A line to avoid being swamped by the long dress.
If you like the idea of maxi dresses, make sure you get them from a petite size designer. Why is that so critical? Because the petite size has different length than the regular size. If the dress has beads and laces, alteration is going to be time consuming and expensive. Buying a petite size means you save a ton of time, effort and money on alteration.
Even with a petite designer, you should read carefully their measurements before you purchase, to make sure the length really suits you. Not all petite designers make the same length for petite sizes.
To understand more about how petite sizes work, read my post about petite size chart.
6. Pick a color complementary to the wedding
No colors are off limits, and you can try everything from jewel tones to metallics to pastels. Importantly, as mother of the bride, your dress should complement the color theme of the wedding.
That doesn’t mean you have to wear the same color as the bridesmaids dresses, but it will be harmonious with the wedding if you wear the shades from the same color scheme. For instance, if the bridesmaids dresses are light blue, a navy dress for you will look fabulous. If the wedding theme is pink, then a red dress will look compatible. If the wedding color is neutral colors like white or beige, then you have many choices that will look consistent with the theme.
The traditional etiquette is, whatever color you choose, you just want to avoid clashing with the bride. However, in recent years, it is on trend for mother of the bride to wear similar colors as the bride, such as silver and ivory. In my view, the most important thing is what you and your daughter want. If the leading lady is happy for you to wear similar color as her, by all means!
7. Go with simple and sophisticated style
Petite women have shorter frames and less to work with. The most flattering mother-of-the-bride dresses for petite women are those with simple and sleek silhouette to complement your natural figure.
If you go with something overly complicated, you will easily get overwhelmed and it may look like the dress is wearing you. Stay away from loads of stiff fabrics and tons of beading.
8. What you wear underneath matters
In order to look and feel the best on this special day, you want to make sure you are prepared inside out. Investing in a piece of high quality shapewear will pay off on this special day.
A well made shapewear is huge help with nip and tuck, especially when you are going to wear a well fitted mother-of-the-bride dress. Most importantly, shapewear can also change your posture and add your confidence on this big day of your daughter.
If you do not like anything too tight or shapewear that pinches, go with under the bust shapewear.
9. Coordinate your dress with your shoes
Matching your heels with your mother-of-bride dress will make you appear taller. Typically, nude pumps are the most flattering shoes to petite ladies, because they look like extension of your legs.
In today’s weddings, you barely see mothers of brides wear stockings any more, and it is the trend to wear the dresses with bare legs. As a petite lady, you should wear heels similar to your skin tone, which will make your legs appear longer.
The best pumps are those with low vamp and no straps. The lower the vamp, the longer your legs will look. Straps make your legs look cut-off, so avoid them if you can. For more tips, read my post on “The Best and Worst Shoes if you have Petite Feet“.
Now, be prepared that you will be standing and walking quite a bit on this special day, especially during the reception to welcome the guests. Make sure your heels are comfortable enough. I am sharing with you my tips of standing and walking all day in heels on my wedding day on post on “7 Tips on How to Wear Comfortable Heels All Day”.
10. Plan early
Wedding planning takes a long time. Some says it can take a year, and others manage to do it in 6 months. While you are busy planning everything about the wedding for your daughter, make sure you also start your search for mother-of-bride dress at least 3 months ahead of time.
Why? If you are aiming for ready-to-wear dresses, you may need to go to various kinds of stores to try on different styles. What you like may not be in stock immediately and you want to put your name on the list. If you are interested in custom made dresses, you should take into consideration even more time for the rounds of fitting and alterations. Even if you are planning to order online, be prepared you have to do that more than once and count in the return time.
11. Coordinate with mother of the groom
Okay, this final tip is advisable but of course optional. It all depends on how well you get along with the mother of groom. Are you close enough to invite her to shop together? If yes, wonderful! That would also be quite a bonding opportunity and will help the wedding planning go smoothly.
If you decide to shop separately, communicating with mother of the groom is also important so that you both understand what the other person is going to wear. Remember, you and mother of the groom are the most important ladies after the bride on this special day. Staying coordinated in your choices of dresses will make the wedding party look good.
Traditionally, the length of the dress for mother of the groom should match the length for mother of the bride. If you are following the tradition, fantastic. If not, it is still useful to communicate often with the groom’s mother to make sure your choices won’t clash.
Chi is 5’2″ founder of Petite Dressing, an online petite clothing store dedicated to women under 5’4″. Petite Dressing blog is here to help you understand yourself, such as your petite body type, and look your best ever. If you are new, start here. Comment below and share your thoughts about this post!