1. Modify Your Search Terms
“I tell women whatever they do, don’t Google ‘MOB dresses,’” says senior associate fashion editor Carrie Goldberg. “It’s unnecessarily limiting.” Typing in a style (short or long), sleeve length, and color will return a wider range of stylish results.
2. Talk It Over
After the bride has selected her dress, have a conversation with her about what she envisions for your look. She may want you to coordinate with the groom’s mom and the bridal party, or she’s picturing everyone in shades of white, or she just wants you to feel great. Opt for an in-person or phone chat; tones can get shifty through e-mail or text.
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3. Highlight Your Assets
A wedding isn’t a time to show a lot of skin, but there’s nothing wrong—and plenty right—with drawing attention to the part of your body you feel best about, says Goldberg. Sleeveless sheath dresses look great on women with toned arms; belted gowns highlight nipped-in waistlines. And great legs needn’t hide under yards of taffeta. When in doubt, “A fitted bodice and gently flared skirt work universally on most women,” New York City stylist Jacqui Stafford says. “They create the illusion of an hourglass figure.”
4. Just Say No to Boleros
While functional when temps fluctuate, they cut you off mid-chest and are often unflattering. Ditto for shawls, which can look fussy and be distracting. If your arms aren’t your best feature, try embroidered or lace cardigans, or above-the-knee evening coats for coverage, suggests Stafford.
5. Expand Your Palette
Maroon and gold are fit for the queen; this side of the pond, other shades can channel elegant sophistication, too. “No color is off-limits,” says Goldberg, who suggests everything from jewel tones to metallics to pastels.
6. Keep it Simple
Designers hear “MOB” and they immediately think grand (which all too often translates to loads of stiff fabric or tons of beading). Embellishment is fine, but don’t forget classic choices—like a great LBD with a statement necklace or Carolina Herrera’s signature white button-up-and-full-skirt duo.
7. Nix the Nylons
The standards have changed since you were a bride. Today’s MOB keeps her legs bare and moisturized, and her toes pedicured—not covered in a pair of pantyhose. If you’re worried about being too pale, try a streak-free, gradual sunless tanner, like Jergen’s Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer ($9, at drugstores).
8. Smooth Things Out
If your clothing is fitted, a piece of shapewear can help nip and tuck. Spanx and Maidenform carry below-the-bust bodysuits that won’t pinch or roll like girdles.