Friday, February 6, 2009

Here Comes the MOB

Bridesmaids' dresses are the classic one-shot-wonders of the occasion-wear world. But another fixture of bridal-party fashion likewise tends to get only one outing before a life sentence in dry-cleaner's plastic: the MOB (mother-of-the-bride) dress.

They tend to follow a fashion idiom of their very own: almost always a solid color, modest in cut, and lavishly encrusted with decoration of some sort: brocade, sequins, passementerie work-- if it's truly to be reckoned with, all three. No matter what decade it is, the MOB dress evokes the heyday of the Dynasty costume department. Or modern-day Bollywood. Great names in MOB design include Jovani, Bob Mackie, Badgley Mischka, and the granddaddy of them all, Oleg Cassini.

Cassini lived an incredibly eventful life that really ought to be made into a film--naval officer, bon vivant, briefly engaged to Grace Kelly!--but he won everlasting fame as the designer annointed by Jackie Kennedy to dress her for her role as First Lady. After many successful years, he lent his name to a line of gowns that have been beloved by MOBS.

I happened across one during a thrift shop outing and was immediately taken with the exuberance of its embellishment. Buckets of sequins weren't enough for this floor-length dress. It also featured bugle beading, shoulderpads you could serve whole hams off of and best of all, a huge bead/sequin/fabric flower thingy at the hip. It was pretty much unwearable as was. Something about it called, though, so I decided to ask my long-suffering tailor to take out the shoulder pads and shorten it to hip length.

And it kind of works, especially with big hoop earrings. But it must be worn with jeans and an unassertive shoe. Anything dressier on the bottom fights it, a bad fight for the bottom to pick.

If you come across a dress like this that once tasted the high life but has been a shut-in for a while, think about creative ways to give it new life. The wedding may be over, but the party in dresses like these never dies.

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