Because I am adopted, I share very few (read: zero) physical traits with my mother. She is blonde and waifish (we're talking size double-zero) with a freckly Irish complexion and sparkling blue eyes. I have brown hair bordering on black, am naturally olive-toned and a healthy-looking five-foot-eight (when I bother to stand up straight).
My mom was an actress-turned-costume stylist when I was little, so fashion was part of my vernacular from the very start. Most of my earliest memories are of playing on the escalator in Macy's while my mom carted racks of clothing up to Studio Services to be loaned out for a shoot. The women who worked in the corporate office on the top floor (and their strawberry-flavored candies) were my best friends.
Until I was about six, my wardrobe toed the line between eccentric, prim and bad-ass on a daily basis. This was at the point when my mom (and my abnormally stylish dad) maintained full autonomy over my sartorial choices. They chose it, and I put it on. In hindsight, I couldn't be more grateful. It's given me some awesome archival material for Instagram, not to mention quite a few stellar Facebook profile photos.
But as it goes with most "normal" mother-daughter relations, the latter grows into her own, and finds herself needing to rebel. In my case, this meant going full tomboy. A head-to-toe denim outfit was my uniform for the entirety of first grade. Then when I was 11, I insisted on shearing my long, straight hair into a (totally unflattering) bob. To this day, despite having grown beyond my "sporty" phase, my obsession with jeans is a vestige of that "non-fashion" period -- black skinny J Brands are my both my weakness and weekend uniform.
In middle school, my mother and I took trips to the mall in which the inevitable would occur: she would present me with options (probably perfectly fine choices that I've blocked out to make myself feel better) and I would freak out at how crazy/awful/stupid she was for thinking that I would ever wear [insert perfectly normal article of clothing here]. It could not have been pretty to watch. I would counter by asking for some outrageously overpriced item (Von Dutch jeans, anyone? Juicy velour sweatsuits?) and we would fight over what was an "appropriate" price range for a 13-year-old's wardrobe. Half the time I would leave with the purchase I wanted. The other half I would head to the car sulking at how terrible my life was. Ultimately, I ended up with a half-baked wardrobe of expensive things that didn't match and have since been thrown away. Maybe that's some weird, poignant analogy for middle school.
At some point between these uncomfortable, middle school years and "adulthood," I came to a subconscious realization about why I had needed to rebel so fervently: the style that works so well for my mother just does not work for me (refer back to the traits listed in paragraph two). Even by age 10, my body had matured to the point where it was clear that the clothing that best suited us was vastly different. My mom's attempts to fit me in her nice, little cardigans only exaggerated my already broad shoulders. Her love of mismatched silky florals with a leather skirt or boxy jacket looked freakish on a girl of my age and stature. Instead of continuing to swim upstream, so to speak, I needed to learn how to embrace her point of view while also creating my own.
Only now that I have "matured" into adulthood have I been able to see what a blessing having a stylish mother is, even if we don't have similar body types or ideas about beauty. She has taught me the importance of being fearless when it comes to trying colors, prints and textures, while also holding true to your basic style principles. She has instilled in me the ability to differentiate between value and cost: just because something has a large price-tag does not mean it is of high quality. Equally importantly, there are things that are absolutely worth spending money on (handbags, boots and watches come to mind).
Perhaps the most important lesson from my mother's textbook on style is how to be resourceful. Consignment stores and the sale rack are our secret weapons. Mixing a t-shirt from Target with a jacket from J. Crew and a vintage designer handbag found at Decades is not just an experiment in frugality; it's embedded in how we choose to dress. So while I may not look like my mother or dress like her in any way, you can be sure that the underlying tenets of style were passed down from one generation to the next.