I am more like my mother than I'd often care to admit: Exceedingly outgoing, equally dramatic, and I can only hope I'm just as confident. But if there's one way we are completely different, it's our style. I decided to dress like my mom for a week to see what would happen when I swapped my trendy pieces for her more conservative wardrobe. Curious to see how her own personal style would translate into my day to day, it felt like the best course of action.
My mom and I regularly argue about what I'm wearing versus what she wants me to wear. In her mind, I should be donning her favorite chevron patterns and pastel pink pants, while I'd much rather be rocking cut-up T-shirts and oversized cardigans. Although I respect her style (and very occasionally raid her closet), her look is just not my look. It's precisely for that reason that I was fascinated by the idea of trying her wardrobe out — just to see if I could identify with it, make it work in my everyday, and appreciate it in a different light.
So for one whole week, I replaced my on-trend 'drobe with my mom's chic yet modest style. I expected the days to drag on, but ended up quite surprised. Every day and every outfit taught me a little something new about my mom's style, and maybe even about myself. Here's how it all went down.
Day 1: The Puffy Vest
Since I live away from home, I had my mom plan and send over a few outfits for me. To my luck, the first ensemble she chose was quite possibly the one I was most anxious about recreating: the purple puffy vest. I'm not much of a vest person, or a purple person for that matter. But I know this ensemble is one she wears often on casual, winter-but-nearly-spring days, so I sucked it up and wore it for a full day at my office job.
It actually wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, it felt foreign to be wearing a vest all day, but paired with a button-down and skinny jeans, it was quite comfortable and casual. I quite liked being warm without all the bulky fabric around my arms, and I even enjoyed the unexpected pop of color in an otherwise ordinary ensemble.
It's safe to say that my first day of the experiment very much surprised me, giving me a newfound appreciation for vests.
Day 2: The Black Cape
I love the big cape draped over mom's all-black ensemble and paired with riding boots. There's no denying she can rock the look. But I was doubtful I could make it look quite as good.
I followed my mom's lead and wore the cape with an all-black look and tall boots. I liked it, but I secretly wished I could have paired the cape with a skintight dress and some heeled over-the-knee boots. Even so, I could appreciate the billowy silhouette and my mom's chic monochromatic approach. It's definitely a classic ensemble, and I admit I felt elegant AF while wearing it for a day.
Day 3: The Polka Dot Shirt
For day three, I decided to pull inspiration from an outfit my mom wore last summer. While I had to winterize the polka dot shirt, I could still appreciate the fun print paired with wardrobe basics like black pants and shoes. I also threw on the same cape from day two, since it seemed like something my mom would wear with it.
And I had absolutely no complaints. It was a perfectly put-together blouse for a day in the office, and even translated well for dinner and drinks later on. I was so pleased with how the day went that I even joked with my mom on the phone about keeping the blouse. Even though she wasn't having it, day three went rather swimmingly.
Day 4: The Flannel
Ahh, the lumberjack look. Or what I sometimes call "my mom's take on the hipster flannel." My mama wears this red and white button-down often, and pairs it with classic jeans, sneakers, and occasionally a denim jacket. She can slay in the look, but I wasn't super stoked about this ensemble for myself.
I wasn't feeling the whole lumberjack thing, and felt as though I stuck out like a sore thumb all day. Plus, I wore this outfit to my office job, where my boss cracked a joke about me being a cowgirl. I couldn't even blame her.
That being said, the outfit was comfortable — something I couldn't complain about. Even though I wasn't feeling the vibe, day four made me realize I definitely identify more with my mom's more dressed-up aesthetic.
Day 5: The '80s Look
Towards the end of the week, I got a little more curious and mustered up enough courage to try out one of my mom's looks straight from the '80s. The photo above is a shot my dad took on one of their first dates. Doesn't she look so Princess Diana? From the hair to the chunky necklace to the lacey collar, it couldn't get more '80s than this.
While my mom has long gotten rid of the clothes she wore back then, I was able to recreate the look with a similar sweater and collared shirt. I definitely didn't give off the same Princess Diana vibe, but it was interesting to wear such dated styles for a day. Considering I pretty much keep up with the trends, this was definitely a weird experience and one I'm not sure I'd recreate again.
Day 6: The '90s Look
For day six, I thought I'd revisit another ensemble from my mother's past. I came across this somewhat embarrassing '90s couples photo of my mom and dad and proceeded to cringe. I also may have shed a tear or two, because I knew I had to give my best attempt at recreating it. Fortunately, my mom had the whole outfit on hand.
From the plaid skirt to the jacket, this ensemble is the '90s mom look. I found out that my grandma made this outfit for my mom (she was a professional seamstress), and felt pretty cool to be wearing something so close to the family. But I think it's safe to say it's pretty dated.
I didn't exactly feel like myself while wearing this ensemble, but I couldn't help but feel proud nontheless. Day six ended early after a visit to the grocery store, and I was actually kind of sad to take it all off.
Day 7: The White Tunic
On the final day of my experiment, I dragged my mom to her closet and asked her to pick out what she would wear for a concert since a show was on my agenda for the day. She pointed to a chic white blouse, a pair of black fitted pants, and some cute sandals. I honestly couldn't have been happier.
Yes, the outfit was a little more covered-up and modest than what I would have picked out for myself, but I felt comfortable and confident in the chic combination. It was simple yet elegant — something I came to realize my mom always goes for whenever she's not keeping things totally casual. Plus, it was a lot more accessible and relevant than her '80s and '90s duds.
Would I Dress Like Mama Again?
I went into this experiment thinking that I was seriously going to miss my crop tops and tight skirts. But I was quite surprised to learn that trying out my mom's conservative, neutral style wasn't as difficult as I had imagined it would be.
In all honesty, I probably could have done without the puffy purple vest, and I wasn't a huge fan of the '90s plaid. But overall, I felt comfortable and confident in her clothes and was glad I got to experience fashion from her perspective.
Ultimately, I feel most like myself in skinny jeans and band T-shirts, but I felt smart and put-together in my mom's clothes — just like she looks when she's wearing them. They gave me a sense of purpose, determination, and comfort, which are all things my mama clearly looks for in her style. And finally, I realized that just because my mom's look isn't exactly to my taste doesn't mean I can't appreciate it, respect it, and even pull certain elements and details from it.
My mother is a wonderful woman, for reasons beyond her style. But this experiment opened my eyes to her chic yet sensible sartorial ways (post 1996, that is).
Want more fashion and beauty tips? Check out the playlist below, and be sure to subscribe to Bustle's YouTube page for more hacks and tricks!
Images: Melodi Erdogan