Like mother, like daughter

Fashion: Open-minded baby boomer moms look to popular teen-age trends to keep in style.

May 07, 2000|By Latease T. Hewlett | Latease T. Hewlett,Special to the Sun

Renee Jackson thinks it's cool to wear her baby-blue sweater and khaki mini cargo skirt while showing off her toe rings in her sandals. So does Nichole, who has the identical outfit, but proclaims she looks better in it.

Are they sisters? No. Girlfriends? No.

They are mother and daughter. Renee, 37, a legal secretary for the State of Maryland, and her daughter, Nichole, 15, a sophomore at Lake Clifton High School, are just one mother-daughter pair whose closets are becoming more fashionably alike.

Not long ago, mothers and daughters wouldn't dare wear the same clothes. But now some baby boomer parents are finding themselves shopping on the same racks as their teen-agers. Irma Zandl, founder of the Zandl Group, a market research firm in New York, calls it "a cross-generational blur, ... which means that there are no fashion dictates as to what you can wear and do. If you are feeling it, you should do it."

But who exactly sets the trend? Are mothers dressing younger, or are daughters dressing older?

"Mothers are dressing not as conservative as their mothers' generation did," says Donna Jenkins, owner of the Zone, a vintage clothing store in Baltimore. "That could be because of changes in our culture. The workplace is more ... casual, and women want to be free to express themselves with their clothing."

But Gina Pia Cooper, editor of FashionFinds.Com, an online fashion magazine, says, "Psychologically the desire for women to dress younger is to hold onto their youth. In our culture women are pressured to look younger."

Clothes used to be a way that teens distinguished themselves from parents, asserted their independence and even rebelled. What does it mean that for some that's not happening? "It could be that they are choosing to express themselves in more interesting ways like tattoos. ... Maybe clothes are not a form of rebellion, but a way of individual expression," says Jenkins.

Renee Jackson sees definite benefits to sharing her daughter's taste in clothes.

"Shopping together has truly brought us closer together," she says. Nichole has no problem with her mother dressing as trendily as she does. And neither do Nichole's friends, who shower Renee with compliments about her youthful wardrobe, which includes Capri pants, short skirts and knit tops.

The Baltimore pair pride themselves on keeping up with the latest styles by flipping through fashion magazines and shopping together at favorite stores including Old Navy, Express and Contempo Casuals.

"Nichole has the best fashion style, so I ask her for fashion advice and sometimes I let her dress me up," says her mother. "It's important to keep up with the latest styles and trends. I'm a business woman, but I still like the up-to-date styles."

Rather than resent that her mother looks like her, Nichole says she appreciates that her mom cares about clothes. "I know that she is not old-fashioned," she says.

Laura Cervone, spokeswoman for T.J. Maxx, says: "Many of the popular styles are becoming more acceptable with women and are working their way into the Misses section. ... All ages want to be trendy, and it can work."

But not all mothers and daughters favor cutting-edge fashions. Cathy Gries, 45, and her daughter Wendy, 17, prefer more classic looks.

"When we both get dressed ... for work, we walk out of our bedrooms and say, 'Oh my goodness. How did you know that I was going to wear that?' It's so funny," says Wendy.

The Carroll County duo, who both work at Nordstrom, have a favorite matching ensemble: Jones New York black suits, heels and matching leopard scarves.

It's no surprise that they raid each other's closets. "My mom is not over-trendy, [so] we can exchange different garments," says Wendy, who is home schooled.

She looks to her mother for fashion inspiration. Cathy defines her style as "classic," but adds, "I like the up-to-date styles to add a flair."

Lisa Armfield, 17, says seeing her mother dressed in youthful clothing sometimes gives her pause. "I just feel a little weird to see my mom in her Capri pants ... but my friends think it's cool," says Lisa, a senior at Carrolltown Christian High School in Carroll County.

Her mother, Donna, 49, gets a kick out of watching fashions come back into vogue. "We used to call them pedal pushers and knickers when I was growing up. Now they are back as Capris," she says.

The pair, who live in Carroll County, shop together at favorite stores including American Eagle, Banana Republic and the Black Market/White House.

"We love to pick out each other's clothes," says Lisa.

One of their passions is shoes. "We have the same Nine West black boots and we both love the wooden rounded clogs," says Donna.

On workout days, you can catch these two sporting matching Adidas active wear suits to the gym. "My mom wears her full-length bodysuit with a shirt, and I wear the two-piece active suit," says Lisa.

But on a trendy day, you can find Donna wearing her Tommy Hilfiger ensemble -- a V-neck T-shirt with matching jeaans.

"Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I think that it will make me look younger," she says.

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