Thursday, September 22, 2011

Like Daughter Like Mother?

When I had my daughter in 1997, I asked all the cool artsy urban friends I had collected over the years to help me stay cool and artsy and urban. I was thrilled to be a mother but a little afraid that I would suddenly become a stereotype. Y'know, a modern-day Stepford wife.

"Please," I urged them, "If you ever catch us in mother-daughter Lilly Pulitzer dresses, stage an intervention."

There was no reason to fear. Short of one matching pajama set (extremely cute flannel Nick and Nora pj's with sock monkeys on them), my daughter and I have never been interested in looking like two peas in a pod. She wears orange or lime green or bright red. I wear black or black or black (hey, I'm from New York). She wears tight jeggings or jodhpurs. I wear flowing yoga pants. She wears bikinis. I wear one-pieces. When it comes to our taste in clothes (like our taste in radio stations, snack foods, and popular fiction), I'm happy to report that the generation gap remains unbridged.

It doesn't bother me that my daughter is uninterested in emulating my style. (Most likely, if you asked her, she would roll her eyes as if to say, "What style?") And, I am certainly not trying to look her age. Sure, I would love to be thinner and younger; I would love to wear skinny jeans. But, they would be my skinny jeans, not hers. There's a good reason why the company NYDJ, "Not Your Daughter's Jeans," can charge over $100 a pair. Those of us who are no longer 20 (or 30 or even 40) are built differently.

My daughter and her friends are devoted to the latest trend. It's not so much that they want to be individuals yet; they actually want to look exactly alike. But, they definitely don't want to look like their dear old moms. This was recently reinforced in a study released by Temple University's Fox School of Business. Researchers surveyed 343 mother-daughter pairs. The average mother was 44; the average daughter 16. (This makes the average mother a little younger than yours truly, and the average daughter a little older than mine.)

The study indicated that when it comes to fashion, daughters were not influenced by the mothers. (Duh.) But a surprising number of mothers were influenced by their daughters. They termed these moms, "consumer doppelgängers." These women look to their teens for guidance on the latest styles and make-up. As the study's author Ayalla Ruvio explains, "Mimicking her daughter is like a shortcut to what is hip and cool."

Uh-oh. Now I guess I know why I'm not hip and cool — I have lots of issues with my daughter's choice of clothing. These should sound familiar to many moms. Low-cut jeans are cut too low. Short shorts are just too short. Bra straps belong inside not outside. Flip-flops do not a pair of party shoes make. But, generally speaking, my daughter is presentable if not downright cute when left to her own devices.

That said, even if I could fit into her Hollisters, I wouldn't want to. (If I could fit into Heidi Klum's mom jeans? Now, that's another story.)

When we go to the mall together (and these trips have increased along with my offspring's awareness of the benefits of retail therapy), we hit all the teen hot spots: Forever 21, Abercrombie, Hollister, American Eagle. But, the only person walking out with a purchase is my daughter. In exchange, I get a few minutes at Chico's, Talbots and J. Jill. More my size, my colors, my style (for what that's worth). I consider this a win-win. Trying to squish my 49-year old thighs into "Super Distressed Super Skinny Jeans" designed for someone who hasn't hit puberty yet? I think I'll pass.

And, that's okay with my daughter too. While the girls surveyed in the Temple study were proud if their mothers look attractive and stylish, it's embarrassing if the moms are obviously trying to look younger. So, there's no need for me to try and dress any age other than my own.

I embarrass my daughter enough without trying.

For another perspective on the Temple University study, read Dr. Ford's essay in Women's Voices for Change.

1 comment:

  1. Alex,
    My daughter, now 18, has gone from threatening to sign me up to appear on "How Not to Dress," to raiding my closet and bemoaning the fact that they don't make cute dresses the way they used to, with "legit" fabrics (many of my garments are older than she is). No doubt in a few years your girl will be doing the same!