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5 Stylish Mothers And Daughters Get Real About Their Relationships

After posting a selfie with my mother resulted in an influx of DMs, I set out to uncover the role fashion plays in some mother-daughter relationships.

Ryan Pattie / BuzzFeed

It used to be that dressing like your mother marked the beginning of your style death. Mom style evokes images of unflattering jeans, LL Bean parkas and, dare I say, elasticated waistbands *shudder.* But older women are having a bit of a style moment with many bloggers over 60 fronting fashion campaigns for the likes of Saint Laurent, Celine and The Row. As the generational styles have started to blend, I find that dressing like my mother is something I actually aspire to, not fear. In fact, my mum was the one who introduced me to ASOS White, now my favorite brand.

Ruthie Darling

On more than one occasion, my mother and I have met for lunch wearing almost identical outfits, purely by accident. On one family outing, my brother decided to snap a photo of us in our complimentary ensembles which I posted on Instagram without much thought. When I checked my account later that day, I noticed that my DMs were blowing up. Mothers and daughters from all over the world were messaging me about the role fashion and style had played within their relationships. Some fondly remembered shopping trips with mothers, whilst others expressed how such outings gave rise to body image issues later on in life. I knew there was something there that I had to explore. I set out to find stylish mothers and daughters. My original concept was to simply photograph them, however I soon learned the relationship — not the Manolos — was the star of this show.

Ruthie Darling

I have to credit my first subjects, Jenny and Judy, with changing the course of this project. When I met them for their interview, the questions I had prepared were all about “where they shopped” and “how they would describe their style.” Surface-level snippets that would accompany sweet photos. But when they arrived to our interview, Judy—the mother—was bleeding from her knees after having fallen off her heeled boots. Jenny was in caretaker mode, asking the barista for Band-aids, ordering coffee and patching up the wounds. As we talked, Judy explained that she had suffered with drug addiction and Jenny had become more of the parental figure in the relationship. This dynamic was clear the moment they walked in the door.

Judy had missed huge stretches of Jenny’s childhood due to a variety of circumstances, but when she returned home they would shop together as a way of making up for lost time. For Jenny, shopping with her mother wasn’t simply a way to pass a rainy Saturday afternoon, it was a rare opportunity to spend quality time with her mother. She emulated her mother’s style as a way to feel close to her.

Ruthie Darling / Via stylishmothersanddaughters.com
Ryan Pattie / BuzzFeed

Judy is an entrepreneur based in Manhattan, and Jenny is a blogger at Who’s That Girl NYC. Though Jenny is the daughter, she takes on the more maternal role in the relationship.

How are you similar?Jenny: I got a lot of my style and music tastes from her. The artsy side of me is definitely from my mother. Growing up, my mom reminded me of Jenny from Forrest Gump. She was always going and coming back, going and coming back. I thought she was the coolest thing ever.Judy: I literally handed her the torch to the East Village because that used to be my old stomping ground.Jenny: When I was younger she would take me to St. Marks Place and she would wear leather. She once bought me this blue backpack with pom-poms on it. I still remember it. That was a really cool day for me. When I saw her doing all that wild stuff, I wanted it too. I guess if I grew up with my father I would’ve have had a simple life. I would have gone to school.
Ruthie Darling / Via stylishmothersanddaughters.com

How are you similar?

Jenny: I got a lot of my style and music tastes from her. The artsy side of me is definitely from my mother. Growing up, my mom reminded me of Jenny from Forrest Gump. She was always going and coming back, going and coming back. I thought she was the coolest thing ever.

Judy: I literally handed her the torch to the East Village because that used to be my old stomping ground.

Jenny: When I was younger she would take me to St. Marks Place and she would wear leather. She once bought me this blue backpack with pom-poms on it. I still remember it. That was a really cool day for me. When I saw her doing all that wild stuff, I wanted it too. I guess if I grew up with my father I would’ve have had a simple life. I would have gone to school.

Do you shop together?Judy: Yes! We love to shop. I like brand like Dolls Kill and Tripp Clothing.Jenny: I still love the East Village for vintage.What do you admire about each other?Judy: Jenny doesn’t take any shit. Like the time the house got raided by the police and I was arrested. Jenny was like “Okay mom I’ll see you when you get out, I’m going to bed.” She’s a survivor. She takes care of herself. I adore her.
Ruthie Darling / Via stylishmothersanddaughters.com

Do you shop together?

Judy: Yes! We love to shop. I like brand like Dolls Kill and Tripp Clothing.

Jenny: I still love the East Village for vintage.

What do you admire about each other?

Judy: Jenny doesn’t take any shit. Like the time the house got raided by the police and I was arrested. Jenny was like “Okay mom I’ll see you when you get out, I’m going to bed.” She’s a survivor. She takes care of herself. I adore her.

Do you remember a time that brought you two closer together?Judy: When we were in Chelsea.Jenny: My grandmother cut her off for a while. Mom was a student at the time. We lived in a tiny apartment in Chelsea. My little brother was sleeping on an upside down coffee table with a mattress on it. We drew drawings on the wall. It sounds sad, but it was so much fun. It was humble. I don’t remember needing anything. I just really wanted to be with my mom.
Ruthie Darling

Do you remember a time that brought you two closer together?

Judy: When we were in Chelsea.

Jenny: My grandmother cut her off for a while. Mom was a student at the time. We lived in a tiny apartment in Chelsea. My little brother was sleeping on an upside down coffee table with a mattress on it. We drew drawings on the wall. It sounds sad, but it was so much fun. It was humble. I don’t remember needing anything. I just really wanted to be with my mom.

Ryan Pattie / BuzzFeed

Mira Mariah is a tattoo artist who recently tattooed Ariana Grande. She is also a young mother and a proud disabled woman based in Brooklyn. Her mother, Patricia, recently joined the workforce after spending most of her life as a stay-at-home mom in Upstate New York.

On body issues:Patricia: I realize that I have body issues so it became important that I not pass this on to my girls. I taught them to do what makes them comfortable and set their own boundaries. When Mariah would try on clothes growing up and ask my opinion I would say “I don’t have to wear it, you have to wear it. How do you feel?”Mariah: That meant she hated it.Patricia: Well it wouldn’t be my choice, but if you put an ensemble together and you like it, then clearly you are comfortable in it and you should go ahead and wear it.
Ruthie Darling / Via stylishmothersanddaughters.com

On body issues:

Patricia: I realize that I have body issues so it became important that I not pass this on to my girls. I taught them to do what makes them comfortable and set their own boundaries. When Mariah would try on clothes growing up and ask my opinion I would say “I don’t have to wear it, you have to wear it. How do you feel?”

Mariah: That meant she hated it.

Patricia: Well it wouldn’t be my choice, but if you put an ensemble together and you like it, then clearly you are comfortable in it and you should go ahead and wear it.

Who were your style influences?Patricia: I had a very fashionable aunt who was born missing part of her arm. She was the only one in the family who went to college and by getting out of the home she learned to express herself and developed a fabulous style.Mariah: She was a great influence to us both. I am missing part of my leg. It was a birth defect that resulted in an amputation. I try not to hide it. I feel comfortable in the way I look. My leg affects me, but it doesn’t affect my fashion.Patricia: Mariah forces me to try things on. Especially lipsticks. She has given me confidence to do so many things. I only started working four years ago. I never worked before that, so coming into the work force I needed to build an appropriate wardrobe. She has given me the ability to say “Ooh yeah I’m wearing that skirt.”Mariah: I show her bloggers, especially plus size bloggers like my friend Nicolette Mason who works with Christian Siriano. It encourages women to participate.
Ruthie Darling / Via stylishmothersanddaughters.com

Who were your style influences?

Patricia: I had a very fashionable aunt who was born missing part of her arm. She was the only one in the family who went to college and by getting out of the home she learned to express herself and developed a fabulous style.

Mariah: She was a great influence to us both. I am missing part of my leg. It was a birth defect that resulted in an amputation. I try not to hide it. I feel comfortable in the way I look. My leg affects me, but it doesn’t affect my fashion.

Patricia: Mariah forces me to try things on. Especially lipsticks. She has given me confidence to do so many things. I only started working four years ago. I never worked before that, so coming into the work force I needed to build an appropriate wardrobe. She has given me the ability to say “Ooh yeah I’m wearing that skirt.”

Mariah: I show her bloggers, especially plus size bloggers like my friend Nicolette Mason who works with Christian Siriano. It encourages women to participate.

How are you similar?Mariah: We both love glamour. I get to do ultra feminine things with her. We love beauty products, we watch romantic comedy movies. My mom is very kind and I hope I’m kind too.Is there something that you wish the other would see about themselves?Mariah: On our way here I told my mom, "I’m so proud of you, I feel like you’re so independent and confident." She is starting to see that’s she’s really quite beautiful.Patricia: This is one of our more sensitive subjects because I think in relation to her leg, she often settles. Because she feels a lot of the time, and I’m sure she’ll hate me for saying this, she feels she is not as good as she could be. But a leg doesn’t define you. You don’t ever settle. I suppose it’s like me with my weight. I always feel a little bit "less than." If someone labels you or says something mean to you, it doesn’t make it true.
Ruthie Darling / Via stylishmothersanddaughters.com

How are you similar?

Mariah: We both love glamour. I get to do ultra feminine things with her. We love beauty products, we watch romantic comedy movies. My mom is very kind and I hope I’m kind too.

Is there something that you wish the other would see about themselves?

Mariah: On our way here I told my mom, "I’m so proud of you, I feel like you’re so independent and confident." She is starting to see that’s she’s really quite beautiful.

Patricia: This is one of our more sensitive subjects because I think in relation to her leg, she often settles. Because she feels a lot of the time, and I’m sure she’ll hate me for saying this, she feels she is not as good as she could be. But a leg doesn’t define you. You don’t ever settle. I suppose it’s like me with my weight. I always feel a little bit "less than." If someone labels you or says something mean to you, it doesn’t make it true.

Ryan Pattie / BuzzFeed

Colorful sisters, Lizzy Lightyear and Venus are fashion fixtures on the streets of Jersey City where they live together and run their own pet care business. When they aren't running around after pups, they can be found on stage performing their own original music under the name Big Hair Girls. Their mom, Anita, is a special education teacher living in upstate New York.

Do you always dress in complimentary styles?Both: Yes!Venus: It’s funny, our mom used to dress us alike when we were little.Anita: And they used to hate it!Venus: I wanted my own identity, but I think we came back together when we started to make a lot of our clothing. We always wanted the thing the other one was wearing, so we made two of everything.How do you coordinate?Venus: Sometimes when I’m not feeling inspired, I’ll be like “What are you wearing?” then we build from there. Lizzy: It’s not always matchy-matchy.
Ruthie Darling

Do you always dress in complimentary styles?

Both: Yes!

Venus: It’s funny, our mom used to dress us alike when we were little.

Anita: And they used to hate it!

Venus: I wanted my own identity, but I think we came back together when we started to make a lot of our clothing. We always wanted the thing the other one was wearing, so we made two of everything.

How do you coordinate?

Venus: Sometimes when I’m not feeling inspired, I’ll be like “What are you wearing?” then we build from there.

Lizzy: It’s not always matchy-matchy.

You seem very body confident?Lizzy: I think we’ve gotten over it. We had body issues, but now we’re like: this is what I am.Venus: Yes, this is how I look! As we get older, we may not look this way anymore so we’re enjoying it now. We have friends who won’t wear shorts because they think they have cellulite on the backs of their legs. I’m just happy that my legs work and you know what, most people I see look pretty damn good, they should rock what they have! Anita: Just looking at the two of them has made me comfortable with myself. I used to be very conservative in my dress. Now all of a sudden, I’m out of my shell. I wear any color I like, any combination of patterns. They inspire me.Lizzy: But our Mom is an inspiration to us too, we were just looking at some old pictures and she was fierce. She would make her own clothing and she would slay. There was a period though where I think your confidence went away and it was reflected in your clothing. Anita: Yes and being a teacher somewhat forced me to dress in a certain way. I had to look professional, wear a suit and I always looked very matronly. Now I’ve cut my hair and I’m free! Let live!
Ruthie Darling

You seem very body confident?

Lizzy: I think we’ve gotten over it. We had body issues, but now we’re like: this is what I am.

Venus: Yes, this is how I look! As we get older, we may not look this way anymore so we’re enjoying it now. We have friends who won’t wear shorts because they think they have cellulite on the backs of their legs. I’m just happy that my legs work and you know what, most people I see look pretty damn good, they should rock what they have!

Anita: Just looking at the two of them has made me comfortable with myself. I used to be very conservative in my dress. Now all of a sudden, I’m out of my shell. I wear any color I like, any combination of patterns. They inspire me.

Lizzy: But our Mom is an inspiration to us too, we were just looking at some old pictures and she was fierce. She would make her own clothing and she would slay. There was a period though where I think your confidence went away and it was reflected in your clothing.

Anita: Yes and being a teacher somewhat forced me to dress in a certain way. I had to look professional, wear a suit and I always looked very matronly. Now I’ve cut my hair and I’m free! Let live!

What do you admire about your Mom?Lizzy: So much. We love her to bits. We actually recently heard that accessorizing is genetic and our mom has shoeboxes full of jewelry and belts. Anita: I used to go to estate sales and thrift stores. My own mother was very resourceful. She was a designer. She would go to the movies with a notepad and she would sketch whatever she saw on the screen and within two days you’d see that dress on her.Venus: My mom is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. On the way home from work yesterday, I was so tired and hungry and I thought, “How the hell did mom do it AND raise us? I can barely take care of myself!”What do you admire about your daughters?Anita: That they turned out to be such incredible young ladies, doing what they have a passion for without allowing anyone to stop them. They have the strength that I wish I had had at their age, to pursue my passion. I feel like I’ve done my job as a mom.Have you ever been through any difficult times that you navigated together?Lizzy: Yes. My Mom was married to our father for a long time, but then she came out as a lesbian. Anita: It’s who I had been all of my life.Lizzy: Right, but back then you had to conform to what was expected. At a certain point she pulled us to one side and said, “What would you say if I told you I was gay?” and I said, “I wouldn’t have a problem with that.” Then she looked at me and said, “Well I am,” and for some reason I was really shocked!Anita: It was always something that I kept hidden because my mom used to abuse me because of the way I was. I didn’t understand why until much later on. She explained that she didn’t understand how to deal with a gay daughter. She thought beating the hell out of me and shock treatment was going to make me “normal.” I don’t think she was trying to dislike me, she was trying to change me, but it didn’t work. In all my life she never told me that she loved me. All she did was hurt me. I’m not going to continue, because I will become too emotional...
Ruthie Darling

What do you admire about your Mom?

Lizzy: So much. We love her to bits. We actually recently heard that accessorizing is genetic and our mom has shoeboxes full of jewelry and belts.

Anita: I used to go to estate sales and thrift stores. My own mother was very resourceful. She was a designer. She would go to the movies with a notepad and she would sketch whatever she saw on the screen and within two days you’d see that dress on her.

Venus: My mom is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. On the way home from work yesterday, I was so tired and hungry and I thought, “How the hell did mom do it AND raise us? I can barely take care of myself!”

What do you admire about your daughters?

Anita: That they turned out to be such incredible young ladies, doing what they have a passion for without allowing anyone to stop them. They have the strength that I wish I had had at their age, to pursue my passion. I feel like I’ve done my job as a mom.

Have you ever been through any difficult times that you navigated together?

Lizzy: Yes. My Mom was married to our father for a long time, but then she came out as a lesbian.

Anita: It’s who I had been all of my life.

Lizzy: Right, but back then you had to conform to what was expected. At a certain point she pulled us to one side and said, “What would you say if I told you I was gay?” and I said, “I wouldn’t have a problem with that.” Then she looked at me and said, “Well I am,” and for some reason I was really shocked!

Anita: It was always something that I kept hidden because my mom used to abuse me because of the way I was. I didn’t understand why until much later on. She explained that she didn’t understand how to deal with a gay daughter. She thought beating the hell out of me and shock treatment was going to make me “normal.” I don’t think she was trying to dislike me, she was trying to change me, but it didn’t work. In all my life she never told me that she loved me. All she did was hurt me. I’m not going to continue, because I will become too emotional...

Ryan Pattie / BuzzFeed

Aya Kanai is the Fashion Director for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Seventeen, Good Housekeeping and Redbook. Her mother Jun Kanai, is the US Representative for the Miyake Design Studio.

On dressing up:Jun: It’s amazing how in one generation it’s a totally different world. My mother always complained that I didn’t dress up, that whenever I arrived [in Japan] my suitcase was boring. Every generation has become less dressy. She forgot that her mother complained to her that she didn’t dress up.Were you influenced by your mother’s style?Aya: I was definitely influenced by my mother’s and my grandmother’s personal style, and kind of how fashion and style has influenced all things in their lives, even the stuff you don’t know it’s influencing. It’s never all about the stuff or things, it’s more about what do these things express about how I’m feeling. I have definitely watched my mother’s style evolve over the years and see it in my own self.
Ruthie Darling

On dressing up:

Jun: It’s amazing how in one generation it’s a totally different world. My mother always complained that I didn’t dress up, that whenever I arrived [in Japan] my suitcase was boring. Every generation has become less dressy. She forgot that her mother complained to her that she didn’t dress up.

Were you influenced by your mother’s style?

Aya: I was definitely influenced by my mother’s and my grandmother’s personal style, and kind of how fashion and style has influenced all things in their lives, even the stuff you don’t know it’s influencing. It’s never all about the stuff or things, it’s more about what do these things express about how I’m feeling. I have definitely watched my mother’s style evolve over the years and see it in my own self.

On working at Vogue:Jun: The women who worked at Vogue in the early '70s didn’t really work for money. They were society people. The photographer was Patrick Lichfield, he was a count or an earl or something, and the other one was a German aristocrat, and of course there was Lord Snowdon. It really was that weird time. Luckily, I was able to work the last six months of Diana Vreeland's tenure. She loved anything exotic, and I was exotic! I think I was the only Asian there.Aya: The only Asian?Jun: Yes. No Asians, no black people.
Ruthie Darling

On working at Vogue:

Jun: The women who worked at Vogue in the early '70s didn’t really work for money. They were society people. The photographer was Patrick Lichfield, he was a count or an earl or something, and the other one was a German aristocrat, and of course there was Lord Snowdon. It really was that weird time. Luckily, I was able to work the last six months of Diana Vreeland's tenure. She loved anything exotic, and I was exotic! I think I was the only Asian there.

Aya: The only Asian?

Jun: Yes. No Asians, no black people.

Did your mother's career inspire you?Aya: Definitely. I have always been interested in fashion. My grandmother had the most amazing kimono collection and handmade pieces, and she was also truly interested in fashion.On kindness in the workplace:Jun: I was working under [stylist] Julie Britt and I came back from a photo shoot with a major photographer and the editor, Carrie Donovan, didn’t like it at all. I was just devastated and Julie said “You know Jun, it’s so easy to criticize, but it’s so difficult to create. Just let it go.” I still remember it. Since then, I try not to criticize anything that people try to do because, who am I?
Ruthie Darling

Did your mother's career inspire you?

Aya: Definitely. I have always been interested in fashion. My grandmother had the most amazing kimono collection and handmade pieces, and she was also truly interested in fashion.

On kindness in the workplace:

Jun: I was working under [stylist] Julie Britt and I came back from a photo shoot with a major photographer and the editor, Carrie Donovan, didn’t like it at all. I was just devastated and Julie said “You know Jun, it’s so easy to criticize, but it’s so difficult to create. Just let it go.” I still remember it. Since then, I try not to criticize anything that people try to do because, who am I?

Ryan Pattie / BuzzFeed

Nancy Knox Talcott and her mother Elaine are a mini fashion dynasty. Nancy is the US Representative for Issey Miyake and her mother worked at Condé Nast as a pattern maker for Vogue. Elaine suffers with mild dementia and in 2001, Nancy moved home to take care of her.

Ruthie Darling
How much do you love fashion?Nancy: I was in Paris once and it was a Sunday morning and I was taking the noon flight. I took my last walk and my last croissant and I saw this dress in a window. It was this silver sequined dress and I thought: I have to have it. The shop was closed and there was no name on the door, but I saw a business card on the desk in the back. I was wearing my camera around my neck and used the telephoto lens to zoom in on the card that had a phone number written on it. I got off the plane in New York and of course by then it was Monday and I called them and talked them through how to mail the dress to me.Did she get this from you Elaine?Elaine: Oh, I think so.What do you admire about your mother?Nancy: My mother has always been a lady. When I was in college and younger, she would be up in her pearls and in her skirt at 7:30 in the morning! It's beyond the dress though. She never says what she thinks if it's unkind. She always has a dignity that I totally don't have! She's very capable. I love her and her enthusiasm for new things. We take her to see the Christmas windows every year and she critiques them. If they do a bad job, she's the first one to let them know!Elaine: I love the creativity. It's so incredible to see how a store that has been in business for fifty years is still coming up with new ideas.
Ruthie Darling

How much do you love fashion?

Nancy: I was in Paris once and it was a Sunday morning and I was taking the noon flight. I took my last walk and my last croissant and I saw this dress in a window. It was this silver sequined dress and I thought: I have to have it. The shop was closed and there was no name on the door, but I saw a business card on the desk in the back. I was wearing my camera around my neck and used the telephoto lens to zoom in on the card that had a phone number written on it. I got off the plane in New York and of course by then it was Monday and I called them and talked them through how to mail the dress to me.

Did she get this from you Elaine?

Elaine: Oh, I think so.

What do you admire about your mother?

Nancy: My mother has always been a lady. When I was in college and younger, she would be up in her pearls and in her skirt at 7:30 in the morning! It's beyond the dress though. She never says what she thinks if it's unkind. She always has a dignity that I totally don't have! She's very capable. I love her and her enthusiasm for new things. We take her to see the Christmas windows every year and she critiques them. If they do a bad job, she's the first one to let them know!

Elaine: I love the creativity. It's so incredible to see how a store that has been in business for fifty years is still coming up with new ideas.

How has your relationship changed?Nancy: I think that the mother/daughter relationship is very complex. There are times when we're so much alike that we do clash. When I was younger and more extroverted, I think she didn't understand me at all for a while there. I was wilder, but we've always had that essential bond. Now it's very different because I'm taking care of her.Elaine: It's hard to grow old. Suddenly you have to give over control to someone else.How important is a relationship between a mother and daughter?Nancy: I think it's sad when I see mothers and daughters who don't get along, because we women run the show. Whether it's working, or having children, if we don't have the benefit of one another's knowledge or just strength or enthusiasm, I think we really lose out.
Ruthie Darling

How has your relationship changed?

Nancy: I think that the mother/daughter relationship is very complex. There are times when we're so much alike that we do clash. When I was younger and more extroverted, I think she didn't understand me at all for a while there. I was wilder, but we've always had that essential bond. Now it's very different because I'm taking care of her.

Elaine: It's hard to grow old. Suddenly you have to give over control to someone else.

How important is a relationship between a mother and daughter?

Nancy: I think it's sad when I see mothers and daughters who don't get along, because we women run the show. Whether it's working, or having children, if we don't have the benefit of one another's knowledge or just strength or enthusiasm, I think we really lose out.

Ruthie Darling

In the year I’ve spent asking the question: ‘what do you admire about your mother’ to the women of this project, I realized that I’d never asked it of myself. The minutiae of life takes over the relationship and we assume that our mothers (or our daughters) know what it is that we love and admire about them. Perhaps they don’t.

Next time I visit England I plan to go shopping with my mother as usual, but when we stop for our coffee break I intend to tell her what it is that makes her such an amazing woman and mother. I encourage you to do the same.

If you’d like to be a part of this project please visit Stylish Mothers and Daughters I’d love to hear about your own experiences and, if you haven’t already done so today, call your mother!


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