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Right fit for wedding party

The mother of the groom should look special but not steal the show

By Christopher Muther
Globe Staff / March 25, 2010

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A word on this week’s column: I regularly receive letters from readers asking for style advice. Here are some of those questions. Feel free to send along your questions to muther@globe.com if you find yourself in a sartorial quandary you’d like to share.

Dear Christopher,

My son is getting married in October on Hilton Head Island (in South Carolina). The dresses will be short and not super-fancy (J.Crew taffeta). I have started to look for “mother-of’’ and find either very young fashion — bubble-skirts, strapless or off-the-shoulder types — or matronly, beaded dresses. Any suggestions for something fashionable somewhere in the middle?

MANY THANKS, TERRI

Dear Terri,

First off, congratulations on your son’s nuptials. Dressing for these formal events can be a real sticky wicket, especially since the photographic evidence will live on and torment you for years to come. I’m still paying the price for showing up in a linen bolero jacket and pleated pants for my sister’s wedding in 1988. So my advice is to think timeless. Stick to colors and silhouettes that withstand the test of time. But more important, wear something that you’re comfortable in. Your first order of business is to have a good time, and you can’t groove to “Rock Lobster’’ if you’re concerned about a fussy frock.

But because this is such a big day, I called in some big-name stylists to help you. First, I passed your question along to Nicole Chavez, a stylist who works with Rachel Bilson, Scarlett Johansson, and Katherine Heigl. Her response:

“Embrace being mother of the groom. This gives you the freedom to wear something unique and special. Remember to find a dress that complements your coloring and that doesn’t clash with the bridal party (and no, you don’t have to match the bridesmaids). If you are interested in being voted best dressed, then there is a great site, www.net-a-porter.com, that has a virtual wedding boutique that has great options for mothers. It’s not traditional, but super-chic, and if anything, it will leave you with some good inspiration.

I have also found that Nordstrom (www.nordstrom.com) has a wedding shop and they carry a large selection of dresses for moms. There is a wide range of designers too, so you will probably have better luck fitting something perfect for your body type and dress code.’’

And if that isn’t enough, I called on my good friend and Texas-based lifestyle guru Steve Kemble, who offers:

“When selecting a mother-of-the-groom dress, the most important piece of etiquette to follow is to first discuss what you are wearing with the mother of the bride, and then the bride herself. Contact the mother of the bride to discuss length, style, and color and to make sure there are no conflicts with what she is thinking of wearing. Do not overshadow her.

“As a courtesy, have a conversation with the bride as well. The most wonderful thing about being the mother of the groom is you can seriously wear whatever you would like, regardless of what the current fashion trend is. Wear a style and color you look good in and are comfortable with wearing. Both long and short lengths are appropriate for the mother of the groom.’’

Dear Christopher,

I am rather short-waisted with somewhat narrow shoulders. What sort of clothing line works well with this awkward combination of two body types?

YOU CAN CALL ME RHODA OR MILLICENT

Dear Rhoda or Millicent (both lovely names),

At the risk of outsourcing this entire advice column, I decided to turn to another celebrity stylist, Colin Megaro, to help you with your question. Megaro dresses actors such as Michael Emerson of “Lost,’’ Julie Benz from “Dexter,’’ and Carrie Preston from “True Blood,’’ and also offers personal wardrobe consultations. He says:

“Don’t ever look at your shape as awkward. View it as a blank canvas that can be made to look exactly how you want. Trust me when I say no one has the perfect body. Most pear-shaped women have narrow shoulders. Creating the illusion of having broader shoulders, will help to balance out the lower half of your body. Emphasizing your slim neck, shoulders, and shapely waist will do wonders. Wear shirts and tops that have a wide neckline such as a scoop or boat neck. Belts, embellishments, and shirts that have waist defining details also do the trick. Shirts that have a puff or flutter sleeve will help balance out your bottom half. Laying a V-neck sweater or a cardigan and adding a belt to cinch the waist will give you a great shape.’’