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Mother of the bride



Hi, I'm 48 and about to be mother-of-the-bride. (Semi-formal dress required.) I'm 162cm (5ft4), 52kgs. Body shape is rectangle with a bit of a waist, or else understated hourglass. Very slim hips and narrow shoulders; short torso, long legs. 10C boobs. My calves and ankles are a bit chunky, thighs slim, ugly knees. Face shape: oblong or oval, with a bit of flab under my chin. Long nose, eyes slightly too close together, and fairly wrinkly around the forehead and eyes. I have very fine hair that doesn't do anything it's told to do without a bucket-load of hairspray, and a huge big cowlick in the front which gives me no hope of ever having a fringe.

I already know that long tops with V- or square-necklines and dresses with a bit of shape also look good. And that low-riding skirts/trousers with no waistband are good too.

I am a Caucasian living in China and plan to get an outfit made here for the wedding. I had originally thought of getting a cheongsam made, a bit like in photo 1, with a keyhole in the neckline (photo 2). Not sure about the high neck though. What do you think?

I recently tried on a top in cheongsam style, low-waisted with asymmetrical lengths in the front, along with a floor-length very-fishtail skirt. (A bit like photo 3) It looked great, and the fishtail skirt gave my hips a nice shape.

However, I don't want to wear a long skirt, as it's a summer wedding. What shape/length do you suggest regarding the skirt to still give the same effect? The best lengths for me are usually just above the ankle (I probably don't want to do this), on the knee (any lower makes my legs look fat), or mid-thigh (may be a bit skanky for mother-of-the bride.)

I'm thinking of getting the skirt made in a plain fabric, and the top with a bit of pattern in it. What do you suggest regarding dark/light colours? Darker or lighter for the skirt? (I normally wear darker, but am prepared to try a change.)

Or do you think I should ditch the skirt and top idea and stick with the dress?

Any good ideas for a hairdo?

Any other comments/suggestions gratefully received. Thanks.

Jane's answer... What a great question! It sounds as if you have a pretty good idea of your body shape and what suits you already.

To summarize: your vertical shape is long legs, short body; your horizontal shape is rectangle; you are short; normal weight; and you most likely have an oblong face shape. You don't say what your neck length is -- this will affect the neckline style that will suit you best. And you don't mention your upper arms -- I'll assume they are not too big and that they're firm, in which case sleeveless and short sleeved styles will be good on you. It sounds as if your body scale is medium, or maybe small (check it here).

Dressing to suit your body shape

You are correct in thinking that longer-line tops will suit your vertical shape to give the illusion of a longer, more balanced body shape. Dresses that flow through the waistline will also work for your vertical shape. (Check out other recommendations for your vertical shape here -- scroll down to 'Long Legs, Short Torso').

A semi-fitted outfit will work well for you. It will look best without horizontal design lines (seams, contrasting colors or bands of pattern) across your torso, since that will make your torso look shorter. Combine the recommendations for your vertical shape with the recommendations for your rectangle horizontal shape.

The shape of your skirt (or bottom part of your dress) could be tapered or straight. Or, to add curves (as the fish-tail did) go for a bell shape. That is a straight or tapered skirt with a slight flare at the hemline giving a bell-like shape. Since you don't like your knees, don't choose a convex shape, since it frames your knees and brings attention to them.

If you go for a top with an asymmetric hem, I'd go with a straight or tapered skirt.

A mandarin style neckline will work best if you have a medium-long to long neck. If your neck is short you'll be better in a more open neckline style, such as the v- or square shapes you already know suit you, or a medium scooped style. A high neckline may also emphasize the 'flab' under your chin.

For details of all the style elements that suit your specific body shape and proportions I recommend the personalized estyle program.

Best colors and patterns

You don't mention your coloring. However, because you are on the shorter side either go for a monochrome look or attract attention up to your face, by keeping your bottom half darker than your top half -- both approaches will make you appear taller.

Patterns are 'on trend' at the moment. If you opt for a pattern, either go for the same pattern on your top and bottom (regardless of whether you choose a dress or separates), or for a medium to dark bottom half with a patterned top. A small to medium sized pattern, a complex pattern (where you can't really see how large the pattern is), or a subtle pattern will work best for your body scale.

The pattern you choose will need to fit your personality. Florals are very fashionable at the moment, but take care to choose a modern looking floral print -- small, fussy, florals are often associated with old ladies, especially if they're in dusty or greyed colors!

Take care to choose a color that gives at least a medium level of contrast between your skin and your top. If you have a lot of contrast between your hair and skin color a high contrast may also work well for you. And, if you do choose a pattern, you will look best in a pattern that reflects the contrast level between your hair and skin.

Did you know that wearing a color similar to your eye color is generally a very enhancing look (as long as your skin undertone is the same temperature as your eye color)? And that wearing a color opposite on the color wheel to your eye color makes your eyes really pop!

I think you’ll find that when you find the fabric(s) you like the style elements you will want will become clearer.

Dressing to suit the occasion

You have identified that your daughter's wedding will be a semi-formal occasion. For an evening wedding in particular, a cocktail dress or separates with a cocktail-feel will suit the occasion. You may want to take that formality down a notch if it's a day time wedding.

The style you choose, the fabric you choose and the color and pattern will all come into play with the perceived level of formality of your outfit. In general the more tailored and structure the outfit and the firmer and darker the fabric, the more formal it will look. Fabrics with a shine or sheen are more evening wear, but take care because shiny fabrics don't suit everyones coloring.

Either a dress or separates will work. A knee length (mid knee or top of knee length) will be your best choice taking the event and your shape into account.

For more information on how to dress to suit the occasion I recommend Diana Pemberton-Sikes' ebook Occasion Magic.

Since you're living in China, I think it will be a nice touch to go for a customized cheongsam style! Combine current style elements into the cheongsam style (as you've been trying) and you'll end up with a very classy outfit!


Since you’re in your late 40s you will look best with a hairstyle that’s shoulder length or above, especially as your hair is fine. If your face is obviously longer than it is wide you have an oblong face shape, check out the general recommendations for an oblong face shape here.

Without seeing a photo of you I can’t sensibly make any specific recommendations. I suggest you try looking for inspiration on the virtual hair styler site.

I hope you'll add another post here with a photo of you in the outfit (I'll append it to this post). And have a wonderful time at the wedding!

Comments for Mother of the bride

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by: Anonymous

Thank you, Josephine. The dress was also very easy to wear: I felt comfortable in it the whole day and can't wait for another excuse to wear it, even though the dress is not made of real silk. I suggest you get one made in silk, though, if you can find a fabric you like, cos that will make it even more special. BTW, if prices are too expensive in HK, pop over the border to Shenzhen and get one made there!

Spot on dress for mother of the bride
by: Anonymous

The mother of the bride in the cheongsam dress looked fab and as I'm also a rectangle shape I will be having one made when I next visit my daughter in Hong Kong.

Mother of the bride dress picture
by: Meigui

mother of the bride dress

Hi Jane,

Getting your snippets reminded me that you asked for some pics to append to my "mother of the bride" question last year. Unfortunately I don't have a single good pic of me full-length front-view unobstructed, but maybe these few will give you an idea. Use them (or not) as you wish.

In the end it was a bit of a compromise re colour (what fabric was available at the markets), style (what I could convince the lady at the sewing shop to make for me), and hair length (how short I could get away with without my husband objecting too much), but I think it turned out OK. It certainly stretched my boundaries! (I usually wear blue or red or teal.)

Thanks for the great service you provide!

Jane: Meigui thanks so much for the pictures! I've included the one that shows the full outfit the clearest, even though it captures you with a funny expression!

You did a great job on selecting both style and color and on accessorizing. I bet that allowed you to feel comfortable and confident in your look, leaving you free to enjoy the event!

More on colors and prints
by: Jane of Style Makeover HQ

Oh, and I should add, that as a Clear Spring shiny fabrics, bright colors and high contrast levels will look good on you!

If you look for a floral pattern, look for a fun, quirky sort of print! One of the fun graphic prints could work for you too.

by: Meigui

Jane, thank you SOOO much for that amazing reply! I'm now looking forward to going to the markets to buy fabric - but with a friend who will tell me the truth, cos the salespeople tell you that anything looks "piaoliang" (beautiful) just to make a sale, haha! BTW, I'm clear spring, so I'm thinking of a fairly dark teal skirt and some bright blue in the top to match my eyes. Watch this space....

Jane: Hi Meigui, you're very welcome. I hope you find some great fabric. Watching this space :D ...

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jane liddelow

"Your style makeover may require a few tweaks or a total re-think. Using a mix of science and art I show you how to discover your style and look great every day.

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