Fashion Advice From Mom: Week 80

“I have the most beautiful silk shirt for you,” my mother declared as she stroked the polka dotted black fabric.

“Mom, it’s a large. It’s too big.”

“No!” Then, with a tone of gentle persuasion she explained,“It’s a Ralph Lauren and it was only three dollars.”




“Stephanie. It looks stunning on you.”

“I don’t need it.”

“Fine,” my mother conceded as she put the shirt away. “I just don’t know your taste anymore.”

My mother is tenacious though. Despite frequent rejections she sends clothes in care packages, picks out items for my boyfriend, and every guest at our house leaves with heavier luggage.

It was during my last week at home, when my mother was trying to convince me to take her woolen pageboy cap back to New Zealand, that I thought: what if I just went with it? What kind of outfit could my mom really create? I had never given her that much power over my wardrobe, so I decided to throw down the gauntlet and issue a challenge: produce three complete head to toe looks using her personal styling collection. The winning look would be the one I wore for the rest of the day.

Here, in my mother’s words, are the outfits she chose for both Wellington and Manassas, VA.

Our model’s first look addresses nature; taken into consideration are weather and terrain concerns, and the suitability of the garments relating well to frolicking amongst goats in Manassas and sheep in Wellington. The model is at home in her woodland setting, and is stylishly protected from head to toe against the elements; not so the goat who unfortunately disintegrated shortly after the fashion shoot.

The second look, with a nod once again to nature begs the question: what would a young lady wear on a Tennyson’s summer’s day beside the Occoquan River? The answer lies in a light and flowing dress, mimicking the mood and colors of the river. The sunlit sparkle on the water’s surface is captured by the model’s necklace. “And by the moon the reaper weary, piling sheaves in uplands airy, listening, whispers “‘Tis the fairy Lady of Shalott.”

But even fairy models have to earn their keep. Ours must emerge from her forest dwelling, and take that long walk down the road to gainful employment. Our model looks both fashion forward and purposeful in a dynamic, darker color palette. Her hair is swept up, her shoulders and arms unexposed. She wears sensible yet feminine footwear. She is perfectly ready to do battle in a political campaign in Manassas, or to cheer on hobbits in Wellington.


As my mother said, “both cities exude an air of practicality and an affinity for nature.” Considering river nymphs and goat frolickers are an unusual sight at the post office, I picked the third choice. My mom was happy I was wearing her clothes and I was happy I didn’t look like a clown. Maybe she does know a thing or two about fashion, just don’t tell her I said that.

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