On Mother's Day, 9 Things My Mom Taught Me About Fashion

Whatever your relationship with your mother, chances are she had some influence on your concept of style. As it so happens, I've bounced between varying fashion personas over the years, only to land on a mashup of my mother's classic style mixed with edgier pieces, depending on the day of the week. But no matter if I'm wearing faux-leather leggings and a black blazer or costume jewelry and a fit-and-flair dress, my mother's fashion commandments are an integral factor in how I outfit myself for any occasion.

1. Forget Diamonds: Well-Tailored Black Pants are a Girl's Best Friend

Though my mother lives in California, her style remains classically, elegantly East Coast with a twist. And her one desert island fashion staple is a pair of tapered, straight-leg, black wool pants. Though I would occasionally ask her why she incorporated slim black trousers into most of her work ensembles, I began to notice that she always looked more put together than, say, the woman wearing too-slouchy but trendy boyfriend jeans, or the mom whose dress matched that of her 15-year-old daughter. They may be hard to find, but a perfect pair of black pants is essential for any fashionista.

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2. Red Looks Great on Everyone (Regardless of Current Trends)

My mother has gorgeous strawberry blond hair, and thus was occasionally told growing up that gingers shouldn't wear crimson ensembles. This notion is patently false, and my mother refused to listen to kowtow to such a ridiculous fashion decree. One of my favorite childhood photos is a family portrait in which my mother looks resplendent in a red shift dress. Red is a universally flattering color, I learned; you simply need to find your ideal shade.

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3. A Risque Neckline Won't Win You Any Brownie Points*

*Unless you're off the clock and keep the rest of your ensemble demure. My teenage years were spent in a constant state of debate over where the neckline on my clothing should be, resulting in a camisole collection that rivaled my actual wardrobe. In retrospect, I realize that no one actually wants to see a 16-year-old (or anyone, for that matter), in a cringe-worthy, low-cut blouse. The caveat? A few well-tailored tops for after-hours activities aren't the end of the world.

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4. Labels Don't Matter — Unless the Clothing Actually Looks Good

I'll preface this with a story. My mother managed to find a gorgeous, daffodil-colored designer jacket for a fraction of its original price while browsing a flash sale site one morning before work. The following weekend, I stubbornly dragged my mom into H&M for a bit of retail therapy…where she found a daffodil-colored H&M jacket that fit like a dream and looked more chic than it's designer predecessor. Labels are just labels, and you might find that your favorite ensemble is the one you paid $30 for.

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5. Up-And-Coming Designers Are the Way to Go

Through friends, online retailers, and some handy department store contacts, my mom has managed to stay ahead of the fashion industry in terms of newcomers on the scene. So, her style incorporates unique pieces that the rest of the fashion world hasn't seen yet thanks to the creativity of young designers. As an added bonus, some of these newbies haven't increased their prices to couture level yet, so you can be a patron of an upcoming style virtuoso and not break the bank.

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6. Go On, Treat Yourself With a Statement Coat

My mother grew up in the North East, so she knows the value of a good coat. However, just because you have to stay warm during the winter doesn't mean you need to look like the Abominable Snowman. Let's face it: winter weather in most of the US requires you wear your coat basically every day, and it's going to be is the first piece of clothing your co-workers/friends/etc. will see when you walk in the door. So a beautiful winter coat in a rich color, a statement pattern or an unusual cut is a fantastic way to set yourself apart from the parka-wearing masses.

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7. Comfort Is Key

Sure, we all wear something a wee bit too tight or an irritatingly scratchy sweater now and then, but from a young age, my mother taught me that the phrase "Fashion is Pain" is frankly masochistic, and it doesn't have to be your mantra. After several run-ins with shoes that pinched and dresses that didn't fit quite right, my mom decided that if part of her ensemble didn't exceed a certain threshold level of comfort, it simply wasn't worth it. You always have a choice in fashion, and though that strappy pair of sky-high heels may look gorgeous, they're going to cause pain-induced tears by the end of the evening. Whether it's wearing flats to work and packing heels in your bag or donating the dress that cuts off your circulation, comfort is key.

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8. Don't Try to Dress Like a 90-Pound Model (Unless You are One)

My mother instilled a number of fashion paradigms when I was younger, but perhaps the most important was to dress for my particular body type. No matter what your shape, my mother believed, there is a style to make you look beautiful. Voluminous maxi skirts and flimsy slip dresses may look stunning on a certain body type, but they most certainly aren't for everyone. So if that trendy pair of wide-legged jeans or peasant top doesn't work for you, remember that they're just clothes — and that your simple skinny jeans and relaxed button down have garnered you more compliments than you can count

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9. Make Sure Your Clothing Makes You Smile

I maintain that opening your closet each morning should be a pleasant experience, a notion I learned from my mother. If putting on your work clothes each morning feels routine and lackluster, it's time to inject some interest into your wardrobe. If you don't feel chic, confident, and most of all, happy in your clothes, it's time for a shopping excursion.

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