Shopping Advice From My Mom

13 May

Looking stylish at Valley Forge. Photo by me.

Looking stylish at Valley Forge. Photo by me.


During one of the rare occasions I found myself at TJMaxx without my mom, I overheard a humorous exchange between a mother-daughter shopping duo in the dressing room. It went something like this:

“Mom, I really like this dress!”

“Oh? Let me see it.”

“Whaddya think??”

“That’s not a dress, that’s a blouse!”

“No it’s not, Mom. It’s a dress.”

“Honey, that barely covers your bottom. It’s a blouse! You need to wear some shorts under it, or a skirt like what your cousin wore that one time.”

“I don’t care if it’s a shirt. I like it as a dress!”

“You are NOT wearing that as a dress!”

The conversation reminded me of similar banter between my mom and I while shopping. Though my grown-up style permits me from selecting clothing that can be mistaken for something else, my mom and I enjoy reacting to each other’s finds with expressions ranging from euphoria to utter disgust, usually laughing through the process.

And then there’s the involuntary sound I utter when I’m trying desperately to escape from a garment that’s way too small. We’ve dubbed it the “baby dinosaur” for lack of a recognizable comparison, and it signals the acceptance of defeat on my part and the need for her assistance.

Ultimately, some of my very best memories are of my mom and I shopping together. She’s the one who taught me that paying full price for quality clothing is unnecessary, thanks to the availability of discount retailers and consignment shops. Her background in visual merchandising for I. Magnin, Lane Bryant and a host of independent clothing retailers makes her a maven in pulling together an outfit. She’s my go-to for fashion advice — among many other things — and there’s no better time than Mother’s Day to impart some of her shopping wisdom.

Know Thy Brand — Anne Klein (who I once thought was related to Calvin until my mother told me otherwise), Donna Karen, Willie Smith, French Connection — all quality and totally covetable brands. MyFriendsBoyfriend, not so much. And while we’re on the subject, my mom’s biggest pet peeve is when people refer to Ralph Lauren’s name as “Loren.” “He’s American, not French!”

Good Fit is Paramount — “What is it doing there?” and “What’s going on here?” are common questions my mom asks when a garment is behaving badly. Ultimately, poor fit looks terrible regardless of the brand name.

Bra Straps are a Fashion Fail — Racerback elegance and tube-top chic are instantly sabotaged by exposed bra straps. Adjust your undergarments accordingly or forego the style completely.

So, this Sunday I wish my frugal and fashionable mom a Happy Mother’s Day and offer an emphatic “thank you” for sharing with me your enthusiasm for sophisticated style. And even though we don’t always make it to the shops together, you’re voice is the one I hear when I look in the mirror, and you’re response is the one I need when I feel a “baby dinosaur” moment coming on.

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