Chicago bride and groom with parents

Karen Harrow: Black Tie, Black Gown

Mother of: Hayden
Wedding locale: Private club in Chicago
Vibe: Elegant black tie
Dress: Rickie Freeman for Teri Jon

With bated breath and a thousand opinions, the Internet waited to see which dress Karen Harrow—better known to her legions of Instagram and TikTok followers as @harrowstyle—would select for her son Hayden’s April wedding in Chicago.

This was Karen’s third turn as mother of the groom, and the most formal of the three. Karen (read more about her popularity and style advice) brought us along with her on the dress search—from a silver metallic shirt dress to navy flutter sleeve with gold foil leaves. Ultimately, she chose a Rickie Freeman for Teri Jon black jacquard off-the-shoulder column gown. The texture added some shine and dimension.

“I wasn’t sure about the portrait collar at first; I thought it might not be modern enough for me, but because it covered up the part of my arms I like to cover, I held on to it. I also liked the column silhouette a lot and loved the texture.” Karen continued to try other dresses, but this was the one that kept calling her back. “It checked all the boxes.”

Her fans and followers largely agreed, commenting that the dress was beautiful and she looked gorgeous in it. But there was a vocal minority that declared it bad taste for the mother of the groom to wear black—as though it signaled she was unhappy about the union. Karen responded to each critical comment with her trademark grace, always thanking people for their thoughts and explaining that she believes black to be “100% acceptable”—especially for a black tie wedding.
Karen with her three daughters in law and her daughter.

“My mother in law wore black to my wedding and I never thought of it as a negative,” Karen says. “I was surprised by how many thought it was awful to wear black.”
Karen started shopping in November for the April wedding. "There are more black tie options out there at holiday time," she says.

And speaking of controversial wedding colors: the bridesmaids wore white.

“It’s a secure bride who says, ‘please wear white to my wedding,” Karen says. “It was so lovely.”
The bride wore Mira Zwillinger; the mother of the bride is in Dries Van Noten.
A traditionalist when it comes to wedding etiquette, Karen is a believer in deferring to the mother of the bride, particularly when she’s the event host. The mother of the bride wore a gold Dries Van Noten column dress. Karen liked that the texture on her own black dress matched that of the MOB’s. And Karen paired her dress with gold strappy heels by Sarah Flint—her go-to for special occasion comfort.

“She looked so stunning, and I felt so appropriate next to her,” Karen says.

There was just one issue: the dreaded strapless bra. Even a professional stylist and influencer like Karen can make a mistake: “I kept trying the dress on at home with my t-shirt bra from Target.” So it wasn’t until the wedding day that she realized: the strapless bra she bought would not stay put. “It fell down to my waist after the ceremony! It would have been wise to sew in a bra.”

But that didn’t stop her from enjoying every moment of Hayden and Caroline’s day. “It was one of the warmest weddings I’ve ever attended—maybe because no cell phones were allowed. It was such a no-tech wedding. Everyone was very present.”

And when the bride and groom took their vows, “It was like they were jumping out of their skin and into marriage together,” Karen says. “I can’t think of a more beautiful visual.”

| Photography by Frankie Isabel


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