Wearing my mom’s clothes keeps us connected now that she’s gone


At a small birthday dinner recently, three people asked me where I had found my black velvet blazer. It was vintage Versace, but that’s not what made it very special.

“It was my mother’s,” I replied proudly. When it came to a compliment on something unique I was wearing, it was almost always my response.

When I was little, I kept playing disguises myself in my mother’s cupboards. She had two: one in her room filled with older items, storage boxes, and furs, and another outside to store everything else. Rummaging through her wardrobe elicited the thrill of doing something dangerously forbidden, slipping on delicate items that I shouldn’t touch like sneaking into a fashion museum.

At 41, I still play with my mother’s clothes. When she passed away a little over ten years ago, the closets I ransacked and expected as a girl finally became mine. No permission needed to touch or try. When I stand in front of the mirror, giant layers no longer overwhelm a child’s frame. Everything adapts; in many cases some things are actually too small now.

When she died, the closets I ransacked and searched for as a girl finally became mine.

Wearing these items not only gives them a second life, it makes me feel closer to my mother. Like stylish safety blankets that I can take anywhere with me, her pieces remind me of the woman who wore them first.

And I am not alone in this practice. Lately, celebrity daughters have been making headlines for donning their famous mothers’ clothes. Angelina Jolie’s daughters raided her closet to find dresses to wear the eternal red carpet premiere. Most notably, her daughter Zahara donned a vintage Elie Saab dress that Jolie had already worn to the Oscars in 2014. Again this summer, Brooke Shield’s daughter Rowan, 16, wore her red strapless 1998 Emmys dress from her mother at her prom.

AP press room.

The two decisions sparked moments of viral style that also sparked conversations about the power of sustainable, recycled style. Celebrities showing off intergenerational wardrobes not only allow them to recycle their special items, it has a major impact on fashion consumption as a whole. When celebrities with huge purchasing budgets choose to share rooms with their kids instead of buying them new clothes, it makes us feel comfortable doing the same on a smaller scale.

But for me, the bond between my mother and me has always been the biggest advantage of participating in her wardrobe. Wearing your special items is a way to preserve your style and, in a way, your memory.

Oddly enough, my mom rarely carried the items in her closet that I treasure most now. Her daily attire consisted mostly of oversized black leggings and sweaters; his version of the typical New Yorker uniform. I’ve never seen her in the Missoni rainbow striped drop-waist dress or the luxurious gray Norma Kamali wrap-around sweater. These pieces might have been her favorites before my time, but it was a time I can only know through faded images and loving memories shared when she was still here.

These pieces tell the story of a beautiful young woman who traveled the world, dined with fabulous friends, and exuded independence and personal style. In a photo I look at often, she is standing on a street corner somewhere in Italy, wearing beige sandals with socks and a belted powder blue top. Her amused expression is as if she is staring at me.

Stylist |  Wearing my mother's clothes

Courtesy of Blake Turck.

I remember once finding a box with an embossed photo of my parents taken at my uncle’s wedding. They were young and carefree – her face framed by dark bangs, a black dress with long sleeves complementing her slender figure. She was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. At her waist, a giant white gardenia flower is pinned to the bodice of the dress. Decades before Carrie Bradshaw came into contact with a flower corsage, mind you.

Years later, upon graduating from high school, I attempted to copy the look, pairing an inexpensive black Joyce Leslie dress with a white gardenia pin. I still remember how proud I wore this outfit, mimicking my style icon and hero as she looked at it in rapture.

Lately I’ve been copying entire photographs discovered during cleanups, recreating my mom’s stylish moments as accurately as possible. Imitating her allows us to maintain our special bond now that she is gone. It is a bond that I carry with me in private every time I wear her clothes.

Wearing your special items is a way to preserve your style and, in a way, your memory.

According to a study called Enclothed Cognition by Professor Adam Galinksy and his colleague Hajo Adam from Northwestern University, emotions play a huge role in what we wear, not because of the clothes themselves, but the associations we make. with them and what they evoke in us. . This explains why I always think of wearing my mom’s clothes as a form of disguise, which arouses so many powerful emotions.

His pieces are a trendy shield of armor that doesn’t quite represent me or my mother, but rather the bridge between us. When high waisted round skirts appear between the pages of next year Vogue, I can swim in a sea of ​​my mom’s old skirts and know my outfits have her stamp of approval.

In an age where so much is defined by our generations – you’re either a boring millennial, an old-fashioned boomer, or a Gen Z progressive – a shared love of style still has the ability to connect me with my mom. It’s a bond that helps me heal a little bit more every time I take something out of hers from the hanger and put it on.

I can mourn her absence, but when I wear her clothes, I embody her presence. Although she is not there, her mind continues. This is the real power of style.

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