Saturday, May 12, 2012

Daughter Knows Best?

"Mom, don't you think you're a little old for that?"

If you're a daughter, please listen up. If you are the mother of a grown daughter, listen closer. There is something going on between you. I would say it's been happening since Eve, but Eve doesn't seem to have had any daughters.

Call it the inevitable shift as every generation overtakes the last in terms of what's new. It could be payback for all those years of wearing Mother's taste to needing her approval not to mention credit card. I see it happening time and again.

Setting: the Lovely Boutique where I work
Principal player: customer old enough to have a grown, opinionated daughter
Scene: customer plops bag of clothing items on counter for return
"My daughter told me I'm too old for this." or "My daughter told me this is too young for me." 

What's happening here? Otherwise smart, savvy, stylish women are having their confidence co-opted by savvy and stylish grown daughters.

And I have a theory why. It's not that Mom really is too old for the article of clothing or said clothing is not really too young for Mom. I believe daughters have the idea that what's good for them can't possibly be good for their mothers.

How could daughter and mother— a generation apart— be united in an article of fashion? Is what's good for the gosling really good for the goose? How can the next generation make its mark when you can't tell them apart at forty paces? I don't believe any daughter sets out consciously to sabotage her mother's fashion choices. I do think there may be an underlying current of this being her playing field now and please take your place on the sidelines.

I'm not talking about an intervention to save mother from looking like mutton dressed as lamb. We should all be thankful for that. Short shorts, midriff tops, frou-frou ruffles and cheap baubles have an expiration date, and every wise woman should know hers.

What is age-specific about a tunic paired with crisp, dark skinny jeans? Printed palazzo pants with a neat fitted top? A covered-up jersey dress that nevertheless shows off a toned and trim figure? Colored denim worn with a striped t-shirt?

On the other hand, why is this otherwise smart and savvy woman caving to non-peer pressure? She spent considerable effort deciding what to purchase only to have her daughter send it marching back from whence it came. Are daughters the new bullies?

We could be living in one of the few periods of fashion history where the lines of demarkation are blurred. Toddler to grandma to everyone between can wear variations of the same look. Diane von Furstenburg and Stella McCartney have designed for GAP Kids. We can all enjoy wearing vintage, though propriety tells you not to wear your high school pleated skirt even if it fits. But your daughter can wear it. So how is youth to make its mark? By not letting you make yours?

The last thing a mother wants is to break the bond forged over so many shopping trips, tears shed or even arguments endured over what to wear. At this point her daughter may truly have become her friend for life, and friendship is a gift to treasure. Now is not the time to open old wounds over a few articles of clothing. Besides, she thinks, there might be signals a mother can miss that a daughter can see! Perhaps the daughter is saving her clueless mother from sartorial embarrassment?

Well, I don't know the answer. It's never happened to me as I have a son. I do have some words for daughters: You have the power, so use it wisely.

By the way, Happy Mother's Day.


  1. I'm so glad that I've had a son, too. So much less drama and they come up with great gifts. (My son gave me an iPad for today's M. Day! - What did your son give you?)

    1. Beautiful flowers, perfect card, surprise brunch (with Dad) at my favorite restaurant. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon in the hammock reading Simon Doonan's new book— a perfect mother's day!

    2. Actually, after I "ruminated" on this column, I decided that I believe sons actually will give lots of feedback on what the woman of the house (even after they don't live there anymore) wears ... and they can be rather direct. It's very important to teach boys, when they are little, to provide constructive and appreciative compliments to Mom about her style; it will serve them in good stead with girlfriends and eventually the wife. I bet you agree. Simon Noonan is a classic observer. I love it when he's on Iron Chef! (and I love his Jonathan Adler's designs) P.S. I already wrote this to you in a message, but I don't think you ever got it. It turns out I know "the Dad"...we worked at the same time at Progressive Grocer ....give him my regards.

    3. How can I give him my regards if I don't know who you are???