Should Women Let Themselves Be Styled By Children?


Okay, so the London Times calls it “should mums take style tips from their daughters?” but same diff. Of course, what’s cute when someone’s five gets really fraught by the time they’re 15…

When it comes to their mother’s appearance, all daughters have views, ranging in ferocity from mildly scathing to fathomless reservoirs of scorn. That surely is the point of them. When they’re not mewling, wingeing or bitching (depending what point of the evolutionary trajectory they’re on), isn’t their main function to set their mothers straight sartorially?

So, in the pursuit of cuteness, a few fashionistas lets their daughters dress them for an arbitrary amount of time. What follows is a run-down of “kids say the darndest things” slams of mom’s trendy clothes or tired looks. Five year olds deck them out in gowns and clashing hues; one tells her mother to grow her hair and wear more pink. The author ultimately decides that, for all their lack of sophistication, “children can be remarkably perceptive about appearances and fearless, if not entirely precise, when it comes to expressing their reservations.”

Then we see the flip side of the dynamic, when Armstrong “bonds” with her teenage daughters over clothes.

I often ask – and sometimes take – their counsel and try not to proffer my advice unless asked for, except when they insist on flashing dazzling amounts of cleavage, which they all seem to, or going out into a snowdrift without coats. Terrified of shunting them into an eating disorder, I initially banned myself from saying “Have you seen the size of your bottom in that?” but I have become more forthright recently, particularly with the trend for metallic neon leggings and the not entirely felicitous effect they have on the family’s legs unless worn with long tops.

Um, ugh. Just reading that gave me sympathy chills, reminding me of an age when a mother’s criticism was capable of filling me with a rage and hurt and confusion far disproportionate to its intent. Of wanting to please but resenting any suggestion; of knowing my own mother was not someone a teenage girl should be taking style tips from, but unable to not care what she thought. This piece, for all its surface levity, is a good illustration of the complicated evolution of the mother-daughter dynamic. What’s cute and straightforward with an artless little girl becomes fraught and nasty when ten years are added to the mix. Suddenly it’s “the family’s legs” – oddly, as the daughters move away from her sphere of influence, she identifies with them more explicitly. Because, as we all know, it’s not just clothes: when she criticizes her teenagers she’s implicitly commenting on their generation, their tastes, their judgment, just as a daughter’s asserting autonomy and guard-changing in all the approved ways. And let’s face it: this isn’t just any mom, but rather one whose business is at least partially fashion and who defines herself by what she wears. The subtexts are uncomfy, to say the least.
Should mums take style tips from their daughters? [London Times]

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