Most of us have, at some point, raided our mother’s wardrobe. It’s a rite of passage. Who can forget that early thrill of feeling both grown up and illicit in borrowed clothes. It’s a feeling that stays with us, igniting a love of dressing-up even once we have become adults with daughters of our own. During those early years of motherhood, we get to dictate what our off-springs wear, but that privilege quickly drops off the cliff once they become teenagers. Overnight, it seems, they adopt their own style.
I turned to four working friends, all with daughters of their own, for my latest fashion challenge. I wanted to see how two generations would get on wearing three bog-standard items from the mother’s wardrobes: a jumper, a jacket and a dress. I asked the mothers to style each piece and then get their daughters to do the same, using their own wardrobes to complete the look.
Photo credit: Tinybunnykids
Emma and Alice
Emma, a food stylist and set designer, chose a metallic lurex, multicolour striped jumper from Topshop. She’s wearing it with turquoise trousers from H&M and Grey and Neon Airmax 90 Nike trainers.
Emma says: My clothes are fashionable, practical and adaptable. My job is very hands on and physical. Whether I’m styling a set, cooking in a 40 degree kitchen or running across a National Trust location, I need to feel comfortable and confident. I like to think my outfits reflect this.
Alice, a student working on her masters thesis, is wearing her mother’s jumper with a Monki boiler suit, white and neon Zoom Air Fire trainers from Nike.
Alice says: Being a new mother, I am still trying to work out what my clothes say about me. Pre baby, my outfits were primarily trend-focused. I was often complimented on my original and fashionable outfits. However, with a changing body and a messy baby, I am trying to add practicality to the mix while also working out where my new style sits.
Emma’s jacket is part of a unisex suit from Urban Outfitters. She has teamed it with a long sleeve white T-shirt from Fruit of the Loom, white high top Converse and a leather crossbody bumbag from Zara.
Emma says: As a family we are especially conscious of the clothes we buy and wear. We try and dress as sustainably as possible which includes sharing items of clothing. Everything we buy, even if it’s cheaper high street brands, we look at it as a long-term purchase. All the clothes worn in these outfits are, at least, 4 years old. I see a definite movement in fashion. People are seeking to reuse, recycle and upcycle all clothes. We both try and do the same. This is reflected on the high street. Many more shops are offering exchanges, money off vouchers for old clothes brought in or selling new items made out of recycled old material. Thrift, second hand and vintage shops are much more popular now. There’s no embarrassment in buying second-hand clothes anymore. I’m embracing this new thinking.
Alice is wearing her mother’s jacket over a long sleeve white T-shirt from Uniqlo, Mom jeans from Stradivarius and chunky loafers from Topshop.
Alice says: For as long as I can remember I have had access to my mother’s wardrobe. Whether it was playing with her high heels when I was dressing up as a little girl or borrowing her clothes as soon as I was closer to her in size. This has been even more the case recently as I have not been able to fit into any of my pre-baby clothes. In order to remain sustainable, I have bought the majority of my new clothes on second-hand apps like Vinted or Depop. I’ve found some amazing vintage and brand new, still in the shops gems which have either still got the tags on or are in perfect condition.
Emma wears her silver and black Monki dress over leather trousers from Topshop and black Zara studded high heels.
Emma says: If I could have any wardrobe addition as a gift for Christmas, it would be to end my quest to find “that perfect” pair of jeans!
Alice has paired her mother’s Monki dress with a pair of black cowboy boots from RAID.
Alice says; If I could have any wardrobe addition as a gift for Christmas? That’s easy. After having a baby I need a whole wardrobe, so if anyone’s listening, thank you very much!
Ginny and Bronte.
Ginny, a business owner and artist, is wearing her pink Hush jumper, trousers from Mama B bought from an independent boutique and boots from Russell and Bromley.
Ginny says: I don’t wear much colour but when I do, it tends to be hot pink or a burgundy red. It was the colour of this jumper that attracted me, along with the wide fit and short cut. It helps bring the eye and focus upwards, creating the illusion of my having longer legs (I’m 5.4”). I’ve put it with wide legged trousers and although both items are unfitted, they work well and don’t make me look big. The boots give the outfit a funky feel. In lockdown, I got so bored with the same old comfortable clothes that I have resolved to buy more interesting clothes and actually wear them.
Bronte, a recent graduate now working as a marketing executive, wears her mother’s Hush jumper with Zara black leggings, ASOS boots and urban Outfitters bag.
Bronte says; Based on how it made me feel and look, of the three outfits, this was probably my least favourite. I don’t normally go for baggy tops and found it difficult to style. I wear mostly neutral colours so finding the right pair of bottoms to go with bright pink was hard. I didn’t feel this outfit flattered my shape or proportions. The outfit may have been better with longer boots to elongate my legs a bit more or to tuck the jumper in. However, I did love the colour of the jumper.
Ginny’s Maje jacket was bought at a recent designer sample sale. She’s wearing it with a black pleated skirt from Mint Velvet, scarf from Number 44 ( a local boutique in Oxted), a Mille Fleurs hat and black Zara boots.
Ginny says; Although I’m a conservative dresser, I am attracted to clothes with a slight twist. I like to keep up with fashion and always make an effort to look reasonably groomed. As I’ve got older, I buy fewer clothes, mostly from local boutiques as I like to support them, but chosen with more thought. I tend to mix high street with more expensive pieces and Emma has definitely taught me the benefit of investing in those wardrobe essentials. I do firmly believe you can shop your own wardrobe. It’s so easy to pull out the same pieces and stick with the same combinations, so this exercise did make me think about my wardrobe and the possibilities.
Bronte wears her mother’s Maje jacket, Zara jeans, Missguided top, Zara boots and a Topshop bag.
Bronte says: I loved this jacket. I think it’s a great, versatile piece. I don’t own/ wear anything like it so it was nice to try something different. It worked well with the fitted and slightly flared jeans. I also like the combination of materials and the leather arms gives it a funky feel which goes great with a pair of leather boots.
I think my clothes definitely reflect my age (I’m 23). I like to keep up with trends but I’m not a sheep. As you can see, I’m a massive Zara fan. They’re fashionable but in their own unique way and this fits with the pieces I’m after. I finished Uni last year and I am now working full time. This change in lifestyle has allowed me to explore my wardrobe in new ways and start focusing on practical and functional clothing as opposed to fast fashion ,throw-away clothes that are good for one night out but never get seen again!
Ginny is wearing her Save the Queen dress from Moustrap in Sevenoaks, faux fur grey coat from Hush, bag from a stall at a Christmas fair and Hobbs boots.
Ginny says: I do love a bit of lace and frill so when I saw this dress, I pretty much knew I’d be leaving the shop with it. I’ve had it a long time now and it’s been a great wardrobe staple. It’s fitted on top with a high waistline and flared skirt so it flatters my promotions. As I’ve got older, I’ve become less comfortable wearing short skirts and am beginning to think this dress is now too young for me. However, paired with opaque tights and high black boots I think I can just about get away with it. I like this look. The dress is a bit different – hopefully elegant but with an element of fun.
What would I like for Christmas to add to my wardrobe? A gorgeous set of quality bra and knickers for every day of the week.
Bronte is wearing her mother’s Save the Queen dress, Office boots (RAID), Zara leather coat, bag from Topshop.
Bronte says: This dress is quite different to anything I have worn before. I love the style, the fitted top half and nipped in waist, but I found the length very unflattering. However, this could be because I’m not used to it. I think the length made my legs look short and stumpy. I would tend to wear a shorter dress or skirt with chunky boots or heels to give me some height and lengthen my legs. Although Mum did say I look great in it so maybe it’s a style worth exploring…
Has this experience made me look at my wardrobe differently? Yes. I have drawers overflowing with clothes but I never seem to have anything to wear. It’s surprising the difference a piece can look when it’s on and styled well. It’s taught me to make the most of the clothes I’ve got.
Wardrobe Christmas addition? I’d love a some funky silk pyjamas.
Carron and Freya.
Carron, an independent hair dresser, is wearing a Marc Cain jumper with a gold silk dress (worn as a tunic) from Reiss, Bruno Cuccinelli velvet trousers and grey velvet sandals from Hudson.
Carron says: I am very lucky to have developed a wardrobe of preloved gems (many from Fusspotts in Oxted.) I know my colours and style because I have worked with stylists and in fashion for 40 years. When you collect a bespoke wardrobe, it lasts you a lifetime. The truth is, I don’t actually need any additions to my wardrobe; I have so many beautiful clothes carefully collected over time. That said, it’s always nice to gather a few new pieces every year to keep it fresh.
Freya, in school year 10, is wearing her mother’s Marc Cain jumper with a pleather jacket from Zara and black Top Shop jeans.
Freya says; “I love my clothes. I know mum keeps telling me to put more on and show less flesh but this is what we do now – it’s fashion. Mum’s clothes are nice but apart from the cream fringe jacket, I wouldn’t wear them as I felt like mum in them. The grey jumper looked nice on Mum but it’s a no from me – too fancy and way too big.
Carron is wearing a cream And/or jacket from John Lewis over a Max Mara navy dress and gold Frye pre loved ‘never worn’ boots
Carron says: I loved this look. Felt very creative and eclectic. These were previously unworn but which I will definitely now wear for a night out.
Freya’s wearing her mother’s And/or jacket, a cream silk dress from Oh Polly and black Converse.
Freya says: I love the cream jacket. I liked it best out of the three items and I’m going to wear it when I go out. Mum has already said I can borrow it.
Carron is wearing a gold silk dress from Reiss (as before) over green Whistles silk flared trousers, preloved gold No:2 shoes.
Carron says: I loved this process. It felt very creative and eclectic. We both have very organised wardrobes but it did make me take out previously unworn pieces and shoes that I will now wear for a night out.
If I could have any wardrobe additions for Christmas? It would be sheer greed to ask. I don’t even get to wear all the beautiful clothes I already have.
Freya is wearing her mother’s silk dress, brown flares from PLT and high top Converse trainers.
Freya says: Another no from me. The dress was too long and felt too much like a nighty – although Mum did say the colour on my skin was amazing
I like to put outfits together and I’m always helping my friends to style their clothes, but this wardrobe experience did make me see that there are clothes in my wardrobe that I had forgotten about. I have also chucked out the things that are too small for me .
What would I like for Christmas? I’m a big fan of PLT and Oh Polly. I’d love another dress.
Jo and Paloma
Jo, an estate agent, is wearing a cream cable knit Zara jumper, black jeans and boots both from AllSaints.
Jo says: My girls bought this jumper for me last Christmas and I love it, So cosy; the ideal “chill out” jumper. I prefer to wear it with jeans because I feel slimmer than if I was wearing a pair of trackkies. I don’t, in fact, own a pair.
If I think about my shopping habits I can see that they differ depending on the type of clothes I buy. Workwear tends to be on a needs basis (and more structured), but for my off-duty wardrobe, I am much more playful and spontaneous. I shop with a “have to have it” attitude. I now do 90% online (that’s lockdown habits for you) but I am lucky that I’m a fairly standard size and know what suits me.
Paloma, who is studying Performing Arts at The Brighton Academy, is wearing grey trousers from Zara, a blue jeans bag from Asos, Lovisa gold earrings and Comme des Garçon converse.
Paloma says: If I’m not going out anywhere dressy, I always choose comfort first. Mum’s jumper goes with nearly all of my trousers. I love clothes and I do follow trends. My style is sleek monochrome and oversized. Most of my shopping is done in Brighton’s second hand shops and at my favourite high street shops and The Lanes. That said, my preference is online shopping.
Jo is wearing her French Connection jacket with an M&S shirt and skirt. The heeled shoes are from Office.
Jo says: This jacket is for work and usually worn with trousers. My work clothes are structured and tailored so that they show my shape as well as looking smart. In a male-dominated industry, I want to convey what can, sometimes, be a difficult-to-achieve combination of feminine/power dresser. It was interesting to see Paloma looking great pairing it with a short dress. However, I like to keep work and personal clothes separate.
Doing this challenge has made me realise that, most of the time, I do actually think about how I dress and what my clothes say about me. On different days, they portray different Jos; the business woman, the girlie rock chick or just me chilling out.
Paloma is wearing her mother’s jacket with a blue dress from Zara, black bag and boots from ASOS, Vivienne Westwood necklace and blue beaded earrings a friend gave her made by @cage_leigh on Depop.
Paloma says: Although I love to wear monochrome, I do also love a pop of colour, especially blue as I think it suits my skin tone and hair colour. I’d wear this outfit up to London for dinner. Mum’s jacket fit me really well and has made me want to purchase one for myself.
Jo is wearing a dress from The Kooples, opaque tights and Kurt Geiger shoes.
Jo says: This dress was a Christmas present last year. My boyfriend choose it (although I did try it on before he wrapped it up) and it’s very ME. My play wardrobe is girlie “rock chic” which I like to keep age appropriate: a short skirt or dress with boots and opaque tights, worn with a leather jacket, but I never accessorise. The movement around the hem of the dress makes me feel young and glamorous. I love that it can also be dressed down with flat bovver boots and a leather jacket for a gig.
If Father Christmas was a multi-millionaire, I would love a black sequinned tux dress by Louisa Spagnoli and some Christian Louboutin leather boots. That would cover my Christmas party look perfectly.
Paloma is wearing her mother’s dress with a pleather jacket, boots and bag, all from ASOS, a Vivienne Westwood necklace, Fendi sunglasses and blue beaded earrings (as before).
Paloma says: Mum and I dress relatively similar so styling this dress wasn’t difficult. I wouldn’t mind if for myself.
My perfect wardrobe Christmas present would be a Vivienne Westwood ring and Mui Mui boots. Yup. I’d love that.