It’s official. At the tender age of 25, I’ve started to become my mother. All I’m interested in wearing are drawstring linen pants and basics (like my mom). I drool over Eileen Fisher and get way too excited about the items at Paper Source (like my mom). I’ve even started taking ice cubes in my wine (Duh, Mom). My most prominent symptom of this transformation is a distinct change in my personal style. A few years ago my closet was kooky-print mini dress central, and now it’s solids and neutrals and pleated pants all day every day. Which basically means I’ve booked a one-way ticket on the Mom-express.
As Oscar Wilde famously said “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.” But wait a sec… Tragedy? Honestly guys, let’s check this for a sec. We may joke about the horror of “becoming mom,” but the notion of becoming your mother as something to panic about is totally warped. It sets women up not only to fear the aging process, but to vilify their moms. While all parental relationships no doubt get more complicated than advanced calculus, moms are amazing! Why wouldn’t I want to become her? Especially with what I wear. After all, Disney World isn’t the most magical place on Earth. It’s Mom’s closet.
I take a couple trips home to visit my family every month, because we’re heavily enmeshed and I’m an only child. I always pack light: 2 pairs of underwear, the clothes on my back, and some PJ pants. I have the privilege of doing this because Mom’s closet is my second string wardrobe, and there’s a constant open-door policy.
She’s your flesh and blood, and of course you have free reign of the library of basics she’s accumulated over years scouring Nordstrom Rack for discounted Vince tees. You can even permanently forget to return that shirt you borrowed years ago. Mom will forgive you. Hell, you can mar a shirt with fingerpaint, and mom will forgive you. You know why? Because Mom’s closet is the operational definition of unconditional love.
And where else can you find better vintage? Uh, nowhere! Mom vintage is and will forever be superior to any other kind. Beyond everything costing ZERO DOLLARS, the relics you find in her closet give you entrée into your mom’s history as a human being. One of my favorite pastimes is leafing through the maternal closet, re-reading over and over again her sartorial biography. I’d pull out piece by piece, and she’d dole out the folktales. A cream linen jumper was her uniform from when she moved to New York in the eighties as a struggling photographer. She wore a black crepe silk cap sleeved mini dress on her first date with my Dad. When I borrow these pieces, I carry her and her stories along with me.
Even when I shop off of the parental homestead, I snatch up items identical to the ones in her closet. Gauzy silks and crisp linens in shades of navy and light blue are the first things I go for. The styles I’ve grown to love are essentially the things I remember my mom wearing when I was a young child. I’ve been working at various vintage stores over the past 4 years, so in addition to a growing appreciation for the roots of fashion, I’ve picked up a real taste for the late ’70s Diane Keaton look, which is basically the way my mom dresses. Essentially, I’m throwing it back to the classics because dressing like this makes me feel stable—like my mom, the primary talisman of stability and care in my life. And just as your mom is your first female role model, she’s also your first style icon.
But it wasn’t always sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. As an adolescent, my impulse was to rebel against the classicism that my Mom embodied. We spent many a long car ride home in resentful silence after some emotionally fraught mother-daughter shopping trips. I cringe recalling some ridiculous public arguments we had on those high-school era jaunts. Mom and I would hop from dressing room to dressing room in the local mall, compromising on trends, disagreeing over the appropriate sizing of a pair of pants. She didn’t realize that slight muffin top meant that pants were exactly the right size in 2003! At the time I thought, “Mom will never get me, or how I want to express myself…” as I stood in the dressing room of American Eagle, wearing a shirt that said “Proud to Farm” and a pair of pubic-bone skimming jeans with gaping holes in both knees. Seriously, portrait of a lady right there.
First-world fights with Mom and an urge to differentiate myself aside, I knew she always knew better. Her advice was always the best. Unlike my friends, she had the season of life experience to counsel me against impulse buys. She would engage me in a sort of pros and cons dialogue about my prospective decisions. And beyond the push-pull of me trying to become myself separate from my parents, we could just talk about something innocuous like jeans for a while.
Every day now, I look more and more like my mom. And this is because clothing has become one of the primary ways we connect. It also means that I’ve arrived at the point where mom is my equal.
But rather than freak the eff out, I’ve decided to give myself a pat on the back. I’ve reached a point of identification with the person who gave me life. Clothing is not the reason my mom and I are equals. It’s just a sign that I’m maturing along with our dynamic. She’s started coming to me for advice. We drink wine and watch Game of Thrones together. And even as our relationship evolves into a more egalitarian one, Mom’s style is the way I keep calm in a vast world of uncertainty. I’m lucky enough today to return to her closet without a thing to wear, and she’ll still give me the clothes off her back.
Arielle Dachille is a journalist and comedy writer living in Brooklyn. You can find her work on Bustle.com and Crushable.com. She spends her free time pushing the limits of social grace to secure free samples.