The Midlife Bride

Grown-up wedding dresses for the 40+ bride.

By Kim Johnson Gross

Your Wedding, Your DressMy sister Jill says that women over 40 should get married in business suits, because if the marriage doesn’t work, at least you have another good suit. I can’t agree with her because I’m a die-hard romantic. I believe that you meet your Prince Charming, marry him in a gorgeous dress and live happily ever after. (My friends are quick to remind me what happened the first time I bought into that fantasy.)So what are we supposed to wear if we give marriage another go — or marry for the first time — in midlife? Even etiquette books acknowledge there are no steadfast rules anymore (other than that veils are no-nos). Obviously your wedding outfit should reflect the time of day and the setting, but, more important, it should be a declaration of who you are now: It’s your gig this time, not your mother’s. If you want to wear dressy pants and a sparkly top, nothing’s stopping you. If you’re having a beach wedding, you can ditch the shoes and just go with a killer pedicure.My friend Didi wanted to rejoice in her sexuality at her second wedding. She found a strappy pale-green chiffon cocktail dress with a matching wrap for under $200 on a quick trip to the mall. "I was self-assured enough to know what I wanted this time around," she says. "Even though that marriage is now behind me, I still enjoy wearing the dress." My friend Jane’s third wedding was held in an elegant Park Avenue apartment. She wore a tea-length champagne-colored satin charmeuse dress cut on the bias and held one perfect calla lily. She made me think about what I’d wear to my own next wedding — well before it was even a remote possibility. Another friend, Lola, wore an off-white cashmere dress (with leopard-print lingerie underneath!) and sexy designer shoes when she and her new husband married in Paris.Grown-Up SexyBetty Halbreich, the legendary personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, in New York City, has told me that almost every midlife bride who comes to her thinks she wants a dress and jacket for the occasion but winds up buying something more sensuous, what Halbreich calls "grown-up sexy."As for color, many practiced brides favor wearing pastels or anything in the neighborhood of white, even if they’re reluctant to wear that virginal color itself. But why not leave the neighborhood entirely? I had a little epiphany when a colleague mentioned she might remarry in a tangerine dress she’d fallen in love with. Wow! I had never considered the possibility of wearing a color so daring. But aren’t we all daring when we give it another go? I recently saw a photo of a bride who wore gold. That, too, struck a chord — she dazzled in the delight that she had finally hit the romantic jackpot.I often think of a college friend who, as a first-time bride, wore scarlet petticoats under her white wedding dress. She enjoyed who she was, rather than living out somebody else’s fantasy of who she should be. She got it right; decades later, she’s still happily married. If and when I marry again, I’m determined to be as bold — and as joyous — as she.Originally published in MORE magazine, June 2007.

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