For my entire working life, I’ve worked as a fashion editor. I told readers what they should wear and what not to wear in a number of different magazines that were read by millions of women. In my work and in my personal life, I embraced a classic style. Khakis or loose-fitting jeans and a blazer, with maybe one splashy, trendy piece mixed in, to avoid fashion-victimhood.
My daughters never really read fashion magazines. Ah, those millennials. (Didn’t they know print magazines were the mainstay of this single mom’s livelihood?) The girls sat on my lap at fashion shows but never grew up wanting to follow in my footsteps. Which is probably fine, given the demise of my industry.
You might wonder if my daughters—now 21 and 28—dress the same way I do. Not at all! While they insist “we always looked up to you for advice!” I call BS. They have gone their own way with fashion, taking risks, loving whatever is new and different—which makes sense. I always hoped to raise my daughters to be strong and independent.
But the funny thing is, now that I’m over 50, I find they are influencing my style sense, and suddenly I’m trying things I never, ever thought I’d wear. Which may be for the best so that I don’t default to a boring uniform!
Getting a Leg Up
My daughters have never had a problem with disagreeing with me. I guess that makes me a pretty normal parent. We used to argue about a certain item of clothing in particular: leggings. I (and many other fashion editors I worked with) would exclaim, “Leggings are not pants!”
But my born-in-the-90s daughters grew up in them. I remember seeing them leave for high school wearing t-shirts and those black leggings, which were very anatomically revealing. I feared for their safety in the big wild world.
I complained for years, and they’d roll their eyes at me. My older daughter would say, “Do you think your baggy jeans are doing you any justice?!”
Even in my clubbing days in college, I never wore leggings. I left them to a then up-and-coming singer called Madonna and my Candies-shoe wearing roommate. I was the girl who wore cargo pants and what are now known as “boyfriend” jeans. I hid behind my tomboy charm and questioned women who wore tight, cleavage-baring clothes. Over the decades, I continued to wear loose clothing, whether that meant slouchy blazers to the office or sweatpants to the gym.
When I found myself single again, I had to re-evaluate how I dressed. My daughters were there to cheer me on and help me rediscover myself. They taught me how I could show off my body a little bit without losing my personal style. And guess what item showed up in a starring role for me? Yep. Black leggings.
Since legs are the “last to go,” I found them amazingly versatile. I would wear them with an oversized sweater or tuxedo jacket and wedge booties to create first date outfits where I could be comfortable—though anxious.
Now, the black cotton-Lycra legging is a mainstay in my wardrobe; I especially like these high-waisted ones from Spanx. Gone are the snarky eye-rolls when I see other women wearing them, believe me. I run hard at the gym, and I want to show off what still looks good on a regular basis! They cover whatever wrinkliness at the knees or varicose veins I might want to hide. I stick to solid black and only black, thank you, because it’s simple, slimming, sophisticated and goes with everything.
A Pop of Pattern
But leggings were not the only way I was schooled in fashion by my kids.
I was never one to wear prints. Stripes were about as print-y as I got. As I said, I’m a classicist. Solids can be mixed and matched forever to create new outfits, but prints—no thanks. They just didn’t work for me. When I wore a floral top, I felt everyone had seen it and would remember it, and I couldn’t wear it again for … well … forever.
But that changed when my daughter walked in the house with a camo jacket one day. The way she wore it with ripped skinny jeans and high-top sneaks looked so cool and chic—and so different from my boring stripes but equally easy to wear with all kinds of things already in my closet.
Suddenly, I found a new love for this print with its utilitarian vibe. I’ve been borrowing her jacket and wearing it with the long bias-cut skirts that are really big right now with a fun logo tee under it or with a blouse and jeans. I’m hoping when she eventually moves out she’ll have forgotten all about it! Ah, the joys of having your daughters still living at home. If not, I’ll snag something like this one.
Color Me Happy
Much of my wardrobe is about easy-to-wear colors … khakis, white shirts, a navy blazer. Again, this was another fashion-industry truism: Buy neutrals that you can wear forever. I was never big on color, especially neon. There was a brief moment in the 1980s when I wore hot pink socks with my penny loafers, trying too hard for “Michael Jackson on MTV” style. But otherwise, I’d steer away from brights, which just felt as if they were trying too hard.
But, recently, I noticed my daughters wearing touches of dayglo color—a fanny pack (yes, they’re back) or cute handbag—and I loved the bright spark. It struck me as a fun way to draw attention (even just a little) to myself. Why not? I’m very comfortable with who I am right now, and it feels fun to wear these hot hues, plus they look great with my (fake) tan.
So I decided to brighten up my clothes and even one-upped my girls. I went crazy for hot pink and found a skateboarding-style long-sleeve t-shirt from Comme des Garçons and had to have it. It has a fun, casual feel, with logos on the long sleeves, and I love to wear it with worn-out jeans … an instant energy and mood boost!
If you choose this kind of attention-getting color, make sure you opt for just one piece (I’m loving this top, too) or accessory to wear at a time. What I’m coveting now: a pair of neon baggy pants! What can I say? Now that I’ve started taking style cues from my kids, I’m ready for some style risks. How about you?