5 Things My Mother Taught Me About Style

by Rikki Byrd

It's time to commemorate another year of celebrating our mothers, and/or motherly figures, who have been a guiding light in our upbringing. Mother's Day is coming up on Sunday, May 10. While there is plenty to thank Mom for, one thing we definitely shouldn't forget is the stylish impression she made upon us from childhood to our adult lives. My mother definitely had a hand in shaping my sincere fervor for the fashion industry and continues to do so today.

Since she was a little girl, my mother always knew her away around a needle and thread. From turning me into a walking, living sunflower one Halloween to designing my prom dress — which she let me draw and brought to life — she definitely taught me that the ultimate self-expression is fulfilled through good style. Because our family was small, I remember on the holidays, instead of lavish dinners and traditions, my mother would spend time in her studio (aka, our living room, which slowly became her atelier as more and more fabrics, sewing machines, and bodices filled the space).

I've witnessed her fulfill the sartorial dreams of family and friends for sweet 16s, baby showers, wedding days, and more. She may never have shown at New York Fashion Week, but I guarantee she continues to make her customers in our little city of St. Louis feel like they're walking the catwalk as soon as they step into one of her designs.

It wasn't just my mom who influenced my knack for fashion. I would often watch my grandmother hem my too long pants or private school skirts. She would crochet hats and scarves that my mother and I would fight over once she was finished, and her closets were just as full as ours were. Additionally, my grandmother was known for making her children and grandchildren elaborate quilts, each square made with love, which have been passed down from generation to generation. Seriously, when you come from a lineage of women who can make magic with thread, you have no choice but to follow suit.

Unfortunately, I still haven't picked up the skills necessary to actually design clothes, so instead, I took the fashion writing route. Nevertheless, my mother still designs a lot of my clothes (and I'm not talking a frilly skirt that gets pushed to the back of the closet). I must say, I feel like quite the special girl when I know for certain that no one in the room will be wearing my look. Aside from customized items, I've also grown up with some pretty good style tips. In light of Mother's Day, and my mom's crazy good fashion sense, here are some tips that have guided me through my many experimental style years.

1. Accentuate your flaws, don't hide them

When I was younger, I was always ashamed of my big lips and my natural hair. As my friends began to wear lipstick in bright colors, I shied away, afraid that I would bring too much attention to a part of me that I hadn't yet learned to love. I remember one day, my mom rubbed some of her red lipstick on my lips and told me to love my lips. She also told me to go big or don't do it at all when it came to my hair. Now, it's common to see me in bold lips — with bold hair to match.

2. Before leaving the house, take off one item that you don't need

There was a mirror that sat at the bottom of the stairwell in our house. Before leaving for school, church, work, or the like, both of us would check ourselves before leaving. While looking in the mirror, my mother always told me to take off one thing I don't need that day. Whether it was one too many bangles, too gaudy earrings, or a big bag that would simply detract from the outfit, the lesson was that if there was an accessory were willing to leave at home, your look was probably better off without it.

3. Don't carry a bag bigger than your body

I stand a mere 5'1, but that doesn't stop me from always trying to fit my way into things that are entirely too big for me. This is a rather recent tip, but one that I follow as if she told me years ago: A large bag can seriously overwhelm a small body. And really, do you need EVERYTHING that's in it?

4. Always wear a good coat and good shoes

My winters always included more than one coat. There was an everyday coat that I would wear to school, a coat for church with a fur collar, a leather bomber jacket for weekend events, and a trench coat. On top of that, good shoes were always a must-have (my mom and I even had matching shoes at a certain point). A pair of distressed jeans and a t-shirt can easily be ignored when you have on a statement coat and pair of shoes.

5. Don't ever take off your shoes in public (no matter how bad your feet hurt)

This tip was taken very, very seriously. There were times when I would take off my shoes and would receive the quickest glance from my mother that she did not approve. Sure, wearing a pair of heels can get really painful sometimes, but if you can't walk in them, why did you even buy them? If ever they are hurting that badly, find the nearest chair or take a break in the restroom and slip them off for a little while.

Images: Rikki Byrd (2); Instagram/@rikkibyrd