How to Wear: Your Mom’s Clothes

Creative styling in Quarantine and embracing outfits that “aren’t quite you”. The sequel to How to Wear Overalls In Your 20’s.

As a teenager I tried my best to steer clear of my mom’s closet, but since I’ve moved into her house in order to weather out the COVID-19 storm, my clothing options have been limited. I always pack light when I visit the suburbs, because the only streetwear audience consists of my two dogs and they don’t mind when I re-wear outfits. Besides if I do get bored of my own clothes, I can resort to borrowing from one of two female closets in this house, my mom’s and my sister’s. For the most part, their styles have always differed from my own, so I mainly reserve closet access to comfy sweaters and leggings. But now that the pandemic has extended my stay to two months, going on who-knows-how-much-longer, my duffle bag of items just isn’t doing it for me. My wardrobe has always been a creative outlet, but in the last year it has started to feel like a well crafted artistic process. To use my personal vocabulary, I no longer have “a closet” of clothes, but rather a collection of beloved pieces. Mostly because I discovered how gratifying second hand shopping is for it’s sense of search and discovery. Over the past two years, I’ve fallen deeply in love with the thrifting process, and that affection has infused my wardrobe with artful passion. When hours of sifting through the local value village produces a one of a kind show stopper, I feel morally obliged to debut it to the world. As a result, I no longer purchase pieces that I never end up wearing. This reform has led to outfit experimentation that is still growing in confidence and in turn has helped break me out of stagnant perceptions of fashion and personal style. As you may have read in How to Wear Overalls In Your 20’s, I used to think that having personal style meant having consistent style and that being fashionable, meant mastering one look. When I first started caring about fashion, I wouldn’t let myself buy something unless it fit in with my other clothes, and so each purchase was also a question of how I wanted to represent myself. Was I boho? edgy? preppy? girly? tomboy? artsy? Or maybe a combination of two? Some sort of hybrid? My young mind was overwrought, and the result was an uptight, overly safe approach to dressing myself. You know the drill: follow the trends, wear tight pants, shop at Artizia. Your basic high school origins, pressure on young girls to conform, bull shit. I’ve only really begun to allow myself the freedom to experiment with my personal style in my twenties. There were trends I wanted to enact that I’d formerly considered outside of my comfort zone. For instance, last year I wore overalls in public for the first time since I was a toddler, and I was terrified. But after a couple of wears, they started to feel like they belonged in my wardrobe and that left me with a triumphant feeling that I wanted to keep experiencing. So I started wearing bucket hats, and the same feelings ensued. Then Teva strappy sandals, wide leg jeans, patterned sweaters and vintage night wear that doubles as club clothes (namely the hot pink corset shown below~).


Now here I am self isolating in the suburbs, with every desire to coordinate new outfits out of my already existing pieces, and those pieces are back in Toronto. I’ve already exhausted every possible outfit combination of the clothes I brought with me.

Hesitantly, I ease open the door to my mom’s walk-in closet and flick on the light. Like I said at the start of this post, I avoided my mom’s closet for most of high school. Even if I was scrambling to find a cardigan to pair with a dress for a school dance, I would frown at any suggestion of her own. Which is unfortunate, because looking now, my mom has a pretty impressive cardigan collection.

I’m particularly in awe of that faux fur lined one on the far left. Needless to say, I have a renewed appreciation for cardigans and their flexible potentials: to be layered over collared shirts, sweaters, long sleeves, or tank tops, paired with a dress, paired with jeans or simply strewn over pyjamas, since at the end of the day we are in the midst of a pandemic.

Most instinctively, I believe that I dress myself to feel self confident, and to feel comfortable. My clothes become a second skin. But borrowing clothes from another person, feels like wearing someone else’s skin. Specifically, my mom’s skin. Playing around with her clothes to create outfits that I can identify with, has pushed me to think outside of the box. In attempting to feel comfortable in clothes that I wouldn’t normally feel comfortable in, I’ve realized I would have to expand notions of what I want from the outfits I wear. Previous to delving deep into my mom’s colour coordinated closet, I would have told you that I want my clothes to make me feel cute, laid back, fashionable, and occasionally sexy. Together those things amount to a sort of comfort. But now I realize that the clothes I wear also have the potential to make me look at myself from an outside perspective, to feel intentionally unlike myself. There’s something both clarifying and inspiring about looking at your work from an outside perspective. In the same way that reading a writing piece out loud helps me hear it differently, wearing someone else’s clothes, (specifically a person who isn’t surrounded by the same style conventions of my peers) provides me with a fresh set of outfit inspiration.

Of course there is a bonus to borrowing from your mom’s closet: recall the phrase “everything that’s old is new again”? My mom just delivered that one to me. Translation: you’ll find artifacts of the trends you’re now coveting in the back of my closet. That’s why I’m practicing the art of indoor cowboy boot sporting via my mom’s second impressive collection, (pictured below). At least until we’re released into the streets from the sweat pant ridden recesses of quarantine, and I’m able to debut them in the real world.

That’ll be another scary clothing endeavour for me. Part 3, “How to Wear Cowboy Boots In the Streets”? Well, until then- Happy rummaging through your mom’s closet!

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