Mother of the Bride? Consider Vintage for a Chic, Unique Look

Brocade cocktail suit by Manguin. 1959. Photographer Pottier.

Brocade cocktail suit by Manguin. 1959. Photographer Pottier.

Near where I live there are two dress shops that cater to wedding attire. Their windows display a parade of sumptuous bridal gowns, colorful bridesmaid dresses and smart tuxedos. Then there are the dresses intended for the mothers of the bride or groom. Typically they are solid color, neutral or pastel tones, sometimes with a hint of sparkle. Styles are subdued and the fabrics tend to be some kind of pedestrian synthetic. Having marriageable age children of my own, I am more than a little interested in prevailing fashion for mothers of the bride or groom. When I pass by these shops my immediate reaction is OMG that is SO not me! It’s not that many of these dresses aren’t attractive in their own way,  it’s just that they all seem so…. well, generic. And I’m not alone; I find this to be a sentiment shared by friends and customers alike

There are reasons the bridal industry is predisposed to providing somewhat vanilla fashion for the moms. We all agree that a bride’s wedding is her day to shine without distraction. The last thing a mother wants to be accused of is not dressing appropriately or trying to upstage the bride <<<shudder>>>. But does that mean buying an outfit you don’t love? Does it mean wearing fabrics, colors and styles that make you feel dowdy or frumpy? Isn’t it OK to feel and look chic  on your daughter or son’s wedding day? Of course it is. So what are the alternatives for us non-conformist mothers? How do we satisfy wedding etiquette and our own sense of style?

Nina Ricci cocktail suit in matlasse brocade., 1959. Mike de Dulmen photographer

Nina Ricci cocktail suit in matlasse brocade., 1959. Mike de Dulmen photographer

Authentic vintage clothing offers a treasure trove of unique and elegant choices and there are lots of avenues to explore.  But what comes to mind immediately are cocktail suits from  the 50s and 60s. Flattering matched ensembles with jackets or coats in the most gorgeous materials. A perfectly polished look for fall, winter or spring weddings.  Silk matelassé, metallic and lustrous brocades, rich velvets, peau de soie and alaskine, are some of the choices to be had. Brocades in particular offer a way to wear patterns and rich colors in a tasteful way. I’ve had textile designers tell me that some of these fabrics can only be reproduced at astronomical cost and are now exclusive to haute couture. So you are also getting great value for the price when choosing vintage.

Lanvin Castello cocktail suit of velour imprinted satin.1959.

Lanvin Castello cocktail suit of velour imprinted satin.1959.

Along with lovely fabrics these sets often have exquisite couture embellishments including intricate beading, fur trims and rhinestone encrusted buttons.  But ever too much, just a tasteful touch of glam. Styling from these decades is ladylike, sophisticated, but still figure conscious, lending an understated allure. The 50s sets are usually more fitted. But many of the 60s versions are designed with a body skimming relaxed fit, ideal for those of us whose waistlines don’t nip in the way they once did.

Also, don’t  be afraid of having an outfit altered to fit.  Having a proper fit will bring out your best figure features and lend a more polished look. Just be sure the dressmaker is highly skilled. Ask for recommendations and expect to pay well if you want the job done right.

The following is a selection of 1960’s cocktail suits available online from Tangerine Boutique and Blue Velvet Vintage.

Click on images to shop.

Satin brocade dress and coat ensemble

60s Asian floral satin brocade dress and coat ensemble-39″ bust 32″ waist

1960's red and black brocade 60s cocktail suit-

1960’s red and black brocade 60s cocktail suit-
38 ” bust 35″ w 41″ h

60s blue brocade cocktail suit

60s blue brocade cocktail suit- 37″b 27″ w 42″ h

vintage 60's blue brocade cocktail suit

Blue floral silk jacquard 60’s vintage cocktail suit-36″ bust 32″ w 40″ h


You may start with vintage,  but make sure you finish with a modern note to avoid looking costumey. I suggest indulging in a great pair of heels in a cutting edge style. Have your hair stylist create a fresh modern look for you and choose simple accessories.

Have a glamorous day!


By | 2015-01-04T12:04:22-04:00 November 5th, 2014|Fashion|Comments Off on Mother of the Bride? Consider Vintage for a Chic, Unique Look

About the Author:

Melody Fortier
Since the early 1990s I have been selling stylish, fine quality womens' vintage clothing and accessories at various venues, including the Sturbridge Textile Show and the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, as well as my own website Tangerine Boutique . I also love sharing my thoughts on vintage fashion on my blog A Vintage Ramble And my book The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping offers a wealth of information for people who are interested in buying, collecting and wearing vintage clothing. My background as a custom dress and hat maker led to my appreciation and love of vintage fashion. And my extensive experience as a custom clothier has given me a keen eye for spotting quality construction when sourcing my vintage inventory.