Adam Glassman
Photo: Robert Trachtenberg

I don't want to look dowdy at my daughter's wedding. Can you help?
A: Aim for a glammed-up version of your everyday self. You want youthful but sophisticated. I spoke to my friend Mark Ingram, who owns Mark Ingram Atelier 2, in New York, which caters to mothers of the bride. "No one has to wear mauve taffeta anymore!" he says. Here's my advice: 

1. Work with the wedding's mood and color scheme—and consult the groom's mom so you don't clash. 

2. Break in new shoes at home a few days before the event. 

3. Beware of bare or ultrashort (a little dignity, please), but avoid head-to-toe coverage—the goal is to play up your best feature.
Calvin Klein and David Meister mother of the bride dressesShine, but don't outshine the bride: Separates are equal to the occasion if they're cream and silver brocade (left, Calvin Klein jacket, top, and skirt, $128 each; brooch, Alexis Bittar). This jersey gown isn't overly revealing and has lavish, shape-creating beading at the waist (right, David Meister, $428).

I'm 44 and getting married for the second time. How should I dress? Is white okay?
A: Wear whatever makes you feel alive and happy: long, short, red, black—and, yes, white is fine (ivory and champagne are more becoming, though). "There's no reason you can't wear a big gown, especially if it's your fiancé's first marriage," says Mark Ingram. "Just dial down the virginal quality." As bodies age, I think they need more streamlining and support, so look for a style with some structure, preferably covered enough to let you wear a bra. A wedding dress is special whether you invest $809 (what the average bride spent last year, according to David's Bridal, the wedding superstore) or much, much more (some second-timers, freed from parental budgets, really indulge—up to $12,000, says Ingram). Your dream dress may even be hiding among the evening gowns at a department store, so check out the sale racks.

Carmen Marc Valvo and Vera Wang wedding dressesGrown-up brides deserve distinctive dresses: Short looks smart covered with glistening tiers of fabric (left, Carmen Marc Valvo Collection, $680; necklace, Talbots). This glamorous bias-cut satin gown is worth a splurge (right, Vera Wang, $3,200).

How can I avoid making my friends spend a lot on one-shot bridesmaid dresses?
A: Congratulations on not sticking them with poufy polyester pastels! One strategy: Pick a color and let everyone choose a dress that suits her. (I've heard of horrifying "bridezillas" who exclude heavier friends—so unfair, since there are styles that flatter all body types.) Or pick a basic shape and order it in different colors; you can even vary the styles (sleeves, no sleeves) to meet individual needs. Either way, a nice, classic dress for $300 or less isn't a mission impossible.

JCrew and David's Bridal bridesmaid dressesCute dresses they'll want to wear again: A simple boatneck comes in modern colors (J.Crew, $260). Rich jewel tones (David's Bridal, $145) are cheerier than black yet still formal. Satin shoes in sophisticated shapes (Lela Rose for Payless dye-to-match slingbacks or pumps, $45 each) provide an affordable shot of color.


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