Sherrie Mathieson, style consultant

Press

Daughter Leads Mom Follows in Fashion Sync

Austin Considine, New York Times

August 2011

ONCE upon a time, mothers paled at their daughters’ fashion choices. Going braless? Horrors! Bare midriff? God forbid.

Today they’re more apt to mimic them.

It’s not just celebrity moms like Lynne Spears (glittery little tops) or Dina Lohan (hair, sunglasses and black blazer that looked nearly identical to her daughter Lindsay’s in court last summer). Fashion industry observers say many ordinary mothers are following their daughters’ style lead these days.

“I believe many moms defer to their daughters often out of insecurity that they perhaps missed a beat through the years, or the belief that, if you are younger, you are hipper and must be in the know,” said Sherrie Mathieson, a costume designer and celebrity style consultant based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Her 2009 book, “Steal This Style: Moms and Daughters Swap Wardrobe Secrets,” examines mother and daughter style sharing.

Joanne Arbuckle, dean of the School of Art and Design of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, attributed the change partly to the current younger generation’s constant access to designer trends through technologies like social media. In generations past, Ms. Arbuckle said, “I don’t ever think we had the confidence level, in regard to the mother being confident that the child really knew what was the fashionable thing to wear.”

Researchers tried to quantify the trend in a study led by Ayalla A. Ruvio, a marketing professor at Temple University, in Philadelphia, soon to be published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Consumer Behavior. Based on a survey of 343 Israeli mother and daughter pairs (ages 44 and 16, on average), researchers found that, in cases where mothers and daughters viewed each other as fashion-savvy and respectively youthful or mature, mothers were significantly more inclined to imitate their daughters than the other way around.

Maria Beck, 45, a real estate broker in Manhattan, said she started borrowing everything from shorts to miniskirts from her daughter Jalina, 23, about eight years ago, when the two lived in Florida and wore the same size. The arrangement was, in part, a practical one. “At the time, I was a single mom so it was very economical for us to share some articles of clothing,” she said. Since moving to New York, their shared tastes have grown more refined. “Now, we both aim for sophisticated style,” the older Ms. Beck said. That means labels like Helmut Lang, Rag & Bone and Dolce & Gabbana.

Ms. Arbuckle said she has increasingly observed the phenomenon of mothers borrowing from daughters over the last few years in the United States, in families at all financial levels. “In this economy, they probably have more disposable income than their parents do,” she said about daughters. Still, the rule cannot apply to every mother and daughter, Ms. Mathieson said. In her experience, age and size were major determinants in whether mothers could (or should) borrow from their daughters.

Whatever the reason, the trend seems particular to today’s mothers, historically speaking. “The lines are all blurred today,” Ms. Arbuckle said. “It’s not about, ‘You’re this age, and this is what you do.’ ”

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