Several days ago, I posted a reply to a Flattering50 reader’s question about wearing separates, particularly trousers, to her September wedding (see Brides Over 50: Stylish Separates and Acessories). Since then, a Flattering50 reader left a comment on another post, Here Comes the Wedding Guest, All Dressed in..., asking about bridal dresses for her 80-year-old mom, a soon-to-be bride. If you missed her comment, here’s what she wrote:
“I am trying to help my beautiful 80-year old mom find a WEDDING DRESS! After being single for 40 years, she has met the man of her dreams! She used to be a slim lady, but age has finally caught up with her waistline, much to her chagrin. We went shopping (in the DC area) all day today, to 4 different malls or shopping centers and found NOTHING. The long dresses all made her look too short (she's only 5'3") and truth be told, a little stumpy. She likes simple lines, and wants something pretty. She has nice legs; I'm trying to talk her into a knee or slightly below-the-knee dress. She seems to like the lace dresses that are in style now.... but can't find one that fits. Any suggestions, wise ladies?”
First off…Finding true the man of her dreams after 40 years—how wonderful is that?!? It certainly made my day. As for struggling to find the right dress…I'm really sorry to hear that. How frustrating! And yet…as I was doing a little online research for my wedding separates post, I came across a wide variety of dresses—long, short and lace--that I thought might be perfect for a bride over 50. I've assembled a sample of the dress styles I found for this post.
HOW TO CHOOSE A WEDDING DRESS: THE 5 BASICS
Needless to say, finding the right outfit for your wedding is huge--at any age! With all eyes on her (you aren't over 50 and invisible now, darling!), the bride-to-be is going to want to look her best. For me, that sort of pressure demands a plan--the simpler the better. And so...when shopping for a wedding dress, I would concentrate on the 5 Basic Dress Elements. Specifically...
#1: Structure – Naturally, the over 50 (or over 79, as the case may be) bride needs a dress that flatters her body shape--you know, hourglass or apple-, pear-, or pencil-shaped. If she doesn't know her body shape, there are oodles of online articles explaining the finer points of each body type as well as garment examples for each body type.
Body shape guidelines are a great place to start, but they shouldn't have the final say. Reason: No two sheaths, Empire-waists or A-line dresses are cut exactly the same. One sheath might look awful on you, while another one might make you a knockout. It's true! I also find the more expensive dresses are often structured for a better fit than lesser priced ones. So…don’t walk by a dreamy sheath simply because you’ve never found a sheath that fits right. Try it on. It might just look fabulous.
# 2: Fabric –My Flattering50 reader noted that her mother was thinking about a lace wedding dress. Great choice. This spring, lace dresses are super hot and you know what that means--lots of styles to choose from. I've posted five very pretty lace dresses (above) to give you a taste of the range of styles--including a sheath, an A-line dress, a wide-neck lace dress, cap-sleeved lace dress and a dress with the trendy shirt-tail hem. I also love satin wedding dresses, particularly short dresses. Silk and chiffon are two more rich fabrics that are perfect.
#3: Neckline – How much you want to reveal around your neck is a matter of personal taste. I will say, though, I love dresses on over 50 brides that show some skin. I think that the wide necklines are super feminine at any age. I also love V-necks. However, at the risk of overstating the obvious, I would think twice about anything too plunging at our age.
By the by, see the wrapped V-neck style above? A wrap or faux wrap dress is a great way to draw attention to your neck and shoulders, and keep it away from your waist, stomach and hip. Consequently, the wrap dress tends to flattering a lot of over 50 women.
#4: Sleeves – Just about every bride I’ve seen in the past 5 years (except for Kate Middleton) has been in a strapless gown. I suspect most bridal shops and departments are overrun with strapless gowns. Still, during my online search of formal dresses, I found sleeveless dresses as well as dresses with every length sleeves. My personal favorite: lace sleeves—a traditional bridal gown element. I love the ¾ length.
An alternative is a lightweight jacket over something sleeveless. The material for the separates is the same (see example below, far right). Finally, there is the coat-dress suit (above, far left). I love the coat-and-matching jacket look. It's perfect for the over 50 bride who wants to wear something simple and elegant for a day wedding.
#5: Hemline – I left the hemline for last, but not because it is the least important detail. Hardly! When I was in my 30s and 40s, I accepted all hemlines on the dresses I bought. If I liked a dress’s fit and color or print, nothing else mattered. Then, in my early 50s, while having a dress altered, the seamstress said, “You’ll want me to raise the hem, of course.” And I replied, looking quite dumbfounded, “Why?” She explained that the dress' hem wasn't right for my height and body shape. She proceeded to lift the hem just above my knees with a few straight pins. I was amazed; it did make a huge difference it the overall look of the dress on me. I'm not much taller than my Flattering50 reader’s mom. A hem above my knees looks perfect, but a hem length just below my knees makes me look very squat. It's wild.
I appreciate my reader's comment about a long dress making her mom look short. For me, the secret is to find a long dress with a fitted torso and an A-line or slightly flared skirt of very lightweight material. For instance, I love the gown with the fitted peplum torso at the top of this post. However, I know a lot of over 50 women don't like floor-length gowns. An alternative might be a waltz-length dress, like these...
MORE WEDDING DRESS STYLES
This post includes a small sample of the wedding dress styles I found online recently. To see all the styles I found, visit my Pinterest board, Brides Over 50: Style ideas.