There is one thing I can claim to share with Victoria Beckham – we both have three sons, followed by a daughter. But other than that? Well, her world and mine seldom collide.
That is until the recent wedding of her son Brooklyn to American actress Nicola Peltz when Victoria shimmered down the aisle in a liquid-metal slip dress (below). With my son Max getting married this summer, this – for me – was a watershed moment. For in one fluid move, the former Spice Girl elegantly jettisoned all the rules about mother of the bride (or groom) fashion. Be gone, pastel coat/frock combos! Seeing Victoria, I felt empowered about my quest to find a dress. Heck, who said it had to be a dress at all?
Not that my outfit is the most absorbing aspect of planning a wedding. My thoughts are more preoccupied by the milestone it represents. I think of the golden-haired baby, born in the stifling summer of 1995. Where did the years go? At times the emotion is overwhelming. It’s why the dress – sorry, outfit – has to be a source of confidence and support in more ways than one.
Angela Epstein was inspired by Victoria Beckham’s (pictured) mother-of-the-groom look. UK-based journalist wants to be elegant yet comfortable for her son’s wedding
How, though, to begin such a search? Perhaps with the dress code. The couple have requested black tie to bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to the event. It’s something I embrace, offering extra licence to swish and sparkle.
That said, I don’t want to get it wrong. Even though I’ve been married to my husband Martin for 31 years, I still remember how my late mum hated the dress she wore for our wedding. She was 59 at the time and had asked a local dressmaker to design something smart, comfortable and age appropriate. Inspired by Mum’s beguiling green eyes, the modiste – so Bridgerton – delivered an emerald drop-waisted frock with leg-of-mutton sleeves and full skirt. The result was overly girly and Mum felt frumpy, though was far too polite to complain. That ‘hideous dress’, as she later called it, never got a second airing.
There are other factors to consider, too. I’m a menopausal size ten, with a spreading cup and doughy tummy. Wedding days are physically demanding and emotionally draining. The outfit will have to accommodate an ill-timed hot flush. That’s why comfort is the dealbreaker. I want to be able to sit elegantly without fidgeting. And I want, above all, to celebrate, be it slouchy slow dances or a life-enhancing hora (this is a Jewish wedding). All of which means no plunging cleavage or scratchy material. The cut has to be forgiving, the colour flattering and I want to be able to go to the loo.
YOU’s fashion editor Sophie Dearden accepted the challenge – with rather unexpected results…
THE SATIN SUIT
Blazer, £299, and trousers, £199, lkbennett.com
Blazer, £299, and trousers, £199, lkbennett.com. Sophie says that a trouser suit is a sexy and modern take on mother of the bride/groom
Angela says: Part of LK Bennett’s Royal Ascot collection, this hyacinth blue trouser suit sprigged with a green floral design is simply lovely. The slim cigarette-cut trousers sit beautifully on the waist and the single-button jacket is feminine without feeling too boxy or structured. I might have shied away from a trouser suit for fear of losing the floaty vibe of a midsummer wedding, but this colour chases such fears away. Teamed with a neutral camisole and spiked heels, the impact is subtle, elegant and pretty. I’m sorely tempted.
Sophie says: A trouser suit is a sexy and modern take on mother of the bride/groom. This cut, colour and subtle floral print nod to soft femininity, while the nipped-in waist and cigarette-style trousers show off Angela’s silhouette. A suit is also a fantastic way to have fun with a black-tie dress code.
THE BOLD MAXI
Dress, £65, Asos Design at asos.com
Dress, £65, Asos Design at asos.com. Angela says that this dress scores highly for comfort and courage
Angela says: Two immediate thoughts. First, the price. £65? Am I short-changing the couple and disrespecting the importance of the event by buying a cheap-as-chips frock? Then there’s the colour. ‘Green,’ as a friend once remarked rather tartly when I previously attempted this shade, ‘is a difficult colour to wear.’ Saucer of milk over there, please. Though in her catty observation lies a kernel of truth: green can be brash when not curated carefully. Which is why the cut, fabric and fall of this maxi dress have been so thoughtfully designed. The high neck, drape sleeves and satiny fabric are a counterpoint to the courage needed for the colour. It scores highly for comfort, too. A definite maybe.
Sophie says: Green is a winner on Angela’s skin– but this isn’t the case for everyone, so shop around when looking at brights to find a shade that works for you. The details of this dress are what makes it look expensive: cowl back, nipped-in waist and dramatic sleeves. Colour-blocking in this gorgeous rich tone is bold but not aggressive, and exudes confidence and elegance.
THE SPARKLY FAIL-SAFE
Dress, £250, jigsaw-online.com
Dress, £250, jigsaw-online.com. Sophie saus that the ruching on this dress is flattering positioned
Angela says: This dress appears to have it all. The sparkling wink of pewter sequins fulfils the black-tie remit, while the ruched front and back result in a beautifully draped fit. The v-neck and cap sleeves are far less ‘obvious’ than spaghetti straps, offering sanctuary for any tone-free zones I may wish to hide. And I don’t need to worry about overheating. It’s also incredibly easy to shimmy in and out of.
Surely a shoo-in? Not according to the niggling voice inside my head which whispers it’s too safe. Had it been floor-length rather than midi, I’d be sold. But the swathe of bare legs makes me feel something is missing. Shame.
Sophie says: The ruching on this dress is flatteringly positioned. It is fabulous and glam while remaining subtle and grown up, but I agree with Angela that it feels safe. Perhaps better suited to a party rather than one of the most important events of your life.
THE ONE-SHOULDER SENSATION
Dress, £650, Victoria Beckham at mytheresa.co.uk
Dress, £650, Victoria Beckham at mytheresa.co.uk. Angela describes the shade as delicious and says it gives her a deceptively slender shape
Angela says: Wow! On the hanger this form-fitting, one-shouldered silhouette in a disquieting shade of orangey crimson looks terrifying. Certainly it’s a challenge to find my way in, the structured cut compounded by the unforgiving viscose and polyester-knit fabric. I shoehorn it on like Scarlett O’Hara on adrenaline, muttering curses under my breath. But once I’m done, I love it. The shade is delicious, and the dress gives me a deceptively slender shape. The impact, as my husband tells me, is ‘knockout’. And that’s what holds me back. This dress is all about me. The wedding is not. With immense difficulty (again), I peel it off.
Sophie says: If I was left to my own devices to style Angela for the wedding, this would be my choice. It showcases her fantastic figure. Made from a firm knit, it gives support where she wants it but moves comfortably too. The colour is amazing and the length and neckline keep it sophisticated and classy. I disagree with Angela – I think it manages to be showstopping without screaming ‘look at me’.
THE SCANDI FLOOR-SKIMMER
Dress, £445, valleandvik.com
Dress, £445, valleandvik.com. Sophie says the material is light and doesn’t cling to those wobbly bits we try to hide.
Angela says: At first glance this dress appears rather prim. In fact, the floral print reminds me of the matching blouses sometimes worn by GP receptionists. Pretty. But for my boy’s wedding? Yet coaxed into being more open-minded (remember Victoria Beckham!), I slip it on. The transformation is immediate. The crepe de chine silk swishes beautifully as I do a twirl. Which, to my delight, also reveals a cheeky, thigh-high slit. This isn’t prim, it’s relaxed Scandinavian glamour (Valle & Vik founder Silje Vallevik was born in Norway). Cinched at the waist with a small, puffed sleeve, it ticks all the boxes – comfy, cleavage-free, elegant and eye-catching. I love it – decision made. I think Mum would agree that not all frocks are created equal.
Sophie says: Having worn this label myself to a wedding and received endless compliments, I knew I had to get Angela into one of their dresses. The material is light and doesn’t cling to those wobbly bits we try to hide. The shape is cut flatteringly and the print is feminine but cool. This colour is gorgeous on Angela and I could see she felt fabulous in it. The brand has a variety of colours and prints, so look for ones that go with your colouring. I love this on Angela – but I still stand by the drama of that one-shoulder number!