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Your Stylist: Vintage-inspired dresses for the mother of the groom

March 7, 2011 |  8:00 am

Resident Image stylist and market editor Melissa Magsaysay soothes your sartorial woes in the weekly Your Stylist blog column:

Dear Ms. Magsaysay,
My beloved son is getting married in May, and my taste in dresses exceeds my bank account.

250Washed crepe Kristen dress - J.Crew I have attached a photo of two dresses I really like.  They are similar in many ways. The photo on the  left has more than one dress -- I am interested in the one in the middle, which I have marked in the photo, but those dresses cost upward of $3,000. 

As mother of the groom I am told not to wear white or off-white, and not to wear the color of the mother of the bride which is, I think, kind of a soft purple, maybe called mauve.  The bridesmaids are wearing a pink, soft.  I hate pink so that is out.  I kind of want some shade of mauve.  Too bad for the rules I guess.  Since we are having a destination wedding (Costa Rica) and I am a teacher, the lower the better for cost...less than 300.  Is there hope? My hope is for a dress with a vintage '20s look.  Thank you. --  Ro Schreiner

Congratulations to your son. The wedding sounds like it will a beautiful destination event and I love the wispy, drop waist 1920s inspiration for your dress.

378Komarov Beaded Pleated Charmeuse Dress & Jacket - Nordstrom_1299188169147 As far as the color, you’re correct; don’t wear white, or ivory or champagne or even a pale yellow --  that’s the bride’s territory. There’s a little more wiggle room when it comes to wearing the same hue as the mother of the groom. You can wear a shade of lilac or mauve as well, since those colors vary so much, chances are you won’t match her exactly.

Based on the colors everyone else is wearing, you might also want to try a soft blue-gray, like this flutter sleeve, below-the-knee-length dress from J Crew ($250), above left. It’s a pastel shade like the bridesmaids are wearing but in this you’ll steer clear of any chance of matching 338Komarov Godet Hem Pleated Charmeuse Dress with Shawl - Nordstrom_1299188882311 or upsetting the mother of the bride.

For something in the purple-mauve family, this beaded, pleated charmeuse dress from Komarov ($378), at left, has that 1920s feel you’re looking for, plus it comes with a frilly, lightweight little jacket you can carry with you or wear just in case the tropical temperatures dip toward the evening. It’s got a lovely embellished neckline, so you   won’t have to fuss with a necklace.

This lilac dress at right, also from Komarov ($338), definitely has that vintage feel. With a godet hem skirt and Art Deco-inspired beaded neckline, this dress has the aesthetic you’re looking for plus it’s in the soft purple family of shades. It also comes with a lightweight lacy shawl to drape over your shoulders.

I also like the idea of you wearing a soft, floral print, still within the same pastel color palette. This 278Komarov Flutter Sleeve Pleated Chiffon Dress - Nordstrom_1299188737142 floral print, pleated chiffon dress with flutter sleeves from  Komarov ($278), left, is so feminine and pretty and would look really elegant dressed up with some delicate gold jewelry.

This dress from Donna Morgan ($168), below right, is the most glamorous of the lot, with a fitted and gathered  bodice and layered chiffon skirt reminiscent of a sexy screen siren. It’s a light lilac color (though it reads even 168donnamorgan lighter-almost white in the image) and you could wear this with some statement jewelry, like some stacked silver and jeweled bangles and a bauble-y vintage looking necklace. Though this would feel a bit more 1950s than '20s, it’s a more glam option should you feel the urge to go in that  direction.

If you really want to go with the 1920s look, you can also try adding a few layers of long necklaces. They don’t have to be pearls (in fact that would look too literal and costumey), but they can be a mix of silver or gold and colorful stones that pick up on the color of the dress you choose.

Have fun in Costa Rica!

Send your style queries to

-- Melissa Magsaysay

Photos, from top: The mother of the groom's inspiration -- dresses with a 1920s feel, which are out of her price range.

J Crew flutter sleeve dress, $250 at

Komarov pleated charmeuse dress, $378 at

Komarov pleated charmeuse, godet hem dress $338 at

Komarov floral dress, $278 at

Donna Morgan dress, $168, see for stores/Donna Morgan