As our children age, our personal battles against frumpy fashion reach a fevered pitch. We all know we shouldn't wear those high-waisted mom jeans, but when designers trend toward the juvenile, we're left searching for a middle ground.
That's why it's tempting to wear the same styles as our tweens. After all, tween fashions are en vogue and easily accessible in stores (or as close as your tween's closet). Unfortunately, stealing ideas from your tween's repertoire is a slippery slope. Tweens don't want to be mimicked by their moms. At this age, they're working hard to develop individual identities. Looking like your tween won't impress her; it will probably freak her out -- and could push her to more extreme fashion sensibilities (read: black lipstick) as she seeks to further separate her look from yours.
If you simply must borrow a look or two from your tween's closet, go right ahead. Just don't steal any of the items that made our top 10 -- unless you're more interested in dressing like a Kardashian than talking to your tween. Because once she gets a good look at your tween-based style, she may never utter another word in your direction again.
Even if you happen to look great in a tennis skirt on the courts, don't borrow a mini from your daughter's closet. Still tempted? It may help to gain some perspective: Before a fashion staple like the mini-skirt goes mainstream, it begins as a design for women in their 20s and is then adapted for younger ages -- like your tween who now pairs her mini with colorful leggings.
Why does this matter? Skirts more than four inches (10 centimeters) above the knee were never intended for those of us in our 30s or beyond. But that doesn't mean we can't adapt the trend. Pair a knee-length skirt -- it's the most universally flattering design -- with knee-high riding boots. It allows you to show off your curves without pretending you were born during the Clinton era. Trendy? Yes. Desperate? No.
Forget skinny jeans. Jeggings -- super-stretchy jean-like leggings -- are form-fitting in the extreme. So snug, in fact, that your tween may have trouble fitting her phone in the back pocket.
Conan O'Brien may have the chutzpah to wear jeggings on his late night talk show, vowing the stretchy pants are "a woman's fashion look that I absolutely love." But don't feel like you have to follow suit. Even if you're as lanky as O'Brien, leave the jeggings to your tween, whose pencil-like figure is built for the look. As for us, we'll stick to a pair of straight-leg jeans as we make this trend our own. After all, we're old enough to remember the siren song of spandex bicycle shorts.
This tired take on bohemian sensibilities is making a comeback with tweens -- but don't even think about distorting the natural shape of your body by covering it with waist-less overalls. Thanks to the tween whose closet you're continually feeding, you've probably got a few curves. Don't hide them under billowy overalls and hope for a good outcome. It just isn't going to happen. And for goodness sake, don't put your hair into low-slung pigtails.
Instead, tap into the trend by wearing a relaxed boyfriend jean in a natural indigo hue topped by a loosely styled tunic top that skims the hips. Add a scarf with a jolt of color to brighten the face and draw the eye.
The right to express yourself through clothing isn't reserved only for tweens. After all, what we wear says a lot about our inner ambitions. But when it comes to emblazoning "juicy" in an Old English font across the seat of your sweatpants or slogging through the mall in a too-tight tee with a glittering slogan, it's definitely tween territory. The same goes for bedazzled rhinestone jeans.
Your tween may be able to pull off these very specific looks, but the fun stops there. If your T-shirt has a reference to the "Twilight" movie series, it's time for an update. Steer clear of seeming a bit out-of-step by tossing out the logo tees and replacing them with high-quality scoop-neck tees in solid, vibrant colors. You'll look relevant without veering into the ridiculous.
Worried you're just one accessory away from being confused with Miranda Cosgrove? Then step away from the scrunchie. And the flower-festooned barrette. And by all means, put down the Hannah Montana hair wrap.
Juvenile hair accessories simply aren't flattering for moms of tweens, so swap your tween hair doodads for the grown-up version. Instead of bright colors, opt for the subtlety of bands and barrettes that are the same color as your hair. This way, your hair accessories can still add trend-friendly style, but in a more intuitive way. If you're ready to go sans accessories, update your hairstyle (bangs soften the face and are oh-so-forgiving). And take care of those roots. Nothing dates a mom more than hair color that should have been touched up two weeks ago.
Admittedly, it's possible to rock a pair of grown-up Mary Janes. But only if you have a penchant for dressing like a pin-up girl or wearing sexy Halloween get-ups. Otherwise, moms who wear Mary Janes -- shoes with a rounded toe, low heel and buckle strap across the top of the foot -- risk falling into the "socks with sandals" category (trust us, we've done it, and it's hard to live down).
Mary Janes are cute on kids -- and tweens sometimes prefer this shoe style, if only for the irony of its schoolgirl vibe. But this is one shoe that doesn't bridge the mom/tween divide. Instead, steer your tootsies toward trendy flats or sophisticated kitten heels.
The last time we donned a top held up by nothing but teensy spaghetti straps, "TMI" immediately came to mind. If your tween-like shirts are offering "too much information," as well, it's time to opt for more coverage. Even if your bra is expensive and cut from a stunning shade of red fabric, don't feel compelled to expose it. Wear a strapless bra or buy a handy plastic gadget that can turn any bra into a racer-back.
Keep in mind that if you want to keep your bra under wraps, white isn't necessarily the most secretive color. A white bra is easy to spot, even under a white T-shirt. Instead, wear a nude or tan bra that closely matches your natural skin tone.
Ruffles, if you must have them, should be considered an accessory. And, you should only have one funky accessory per outfit. Period. If it has to be a ruffle, keep these truths in mind. Ruffles add bulk, make you look sweet (not a great look if you're a power broker) and, if worn in great quantity, make you look older than you are. All in all, not a trio of traits we're looking for.
Your tween, however, is at just the right age to flounce a tier or two of ruffles, and manufacturers are zeroing in on the trend by offering ruffles on everything from scarves to skirts. So satisfy your ruffle addiction by buying her plenty of flouncing fabrics. When it comes to your own apparel, a soft lettuce-ruffle around the edge of a neckline should suffice.
It's possible to prefer dark tones and jewel colors without sporting a languid and mysterious affect. Black is, after all, slimming. This should help you explain your actions if your tween suddenly recoils in fear because she suspects mom is going goth.
Still, if you're slipping into your tween's makeup bag to borrow her black nail polish and eggplant-hued lipstick, there's a problem afoot. Goth, in all its drama-inducing glory, is for the young -- not the young at heart. So let your tween outfit her personality in lace-up boots a la "Clockwork Orange" and pair them with long black skirts and lacy tees. As for you, momma, let your goth flag fly by layering a black lace shirt under your blouse or buying a velvet skirt.
Your tween may secretly applaud your move to remain a chic sophisticate, as evidenced by the low-rise jeans you're wearing around town. But there's sure to be trouble in store. Low-rise (as in really low) jeans may translate into a continual tug to keep your jeans northward after every bend or stoop. Plus, a low-rise style can reveal a lot about your "personality," thanks to gaping waistbands. And this is something no tween wants to see.
The trick is to adapt a current style of jeans to your body type and personal style. You can wear boot-cut, mid-rise jeans with great aplomb, knowing you're in style but not baring your, ahem, "soul." This way, you look relevant -- not ridiculous. It's all part of modeling ageless fashion sense to your tween.
From the bikini to the Hermès Birkin bag, fashion favorites are often named for the people and places that inspired them. HowStuffWorks looks at 10.
- Battaglia, Emily. "Mom Jeans, Visible Panty Lines and 8 Other Fashion Disasters." July 5, 2008. (Jan. 7, 2010) LifeScript.com.http://www.lifescript.com/Body/Style/Your-Look/Mom_Jeans_Visible_Panty_Lines_and_8_Other_Fashion_Disasters.aspx
- Brown Shoe Co. "History of Brown Shoe." (Jan. 8, 2011) http://www.brownshoe.com/history/
- Fischer, Rachel. "Top 10 Items You're Too Old to Wear." Jan. 19, 2010. (Jan. 7, 2011) LifeScript.com.http://www.lifescript.com/Body/Style/Your- /Look/Top_10_Items_Youre_Too_Old_to_Wear.aspx
- Haver, Sharon. "Put an End to Frumpy Mom Jeans." (Jan. 8. 2011) FocusOnStyle.com. http://www.focusonstyle.com/In-Focus/Trends-Style/ageappropriatejeans
- MSNBC. "Dress Your Age: Spring Trends for Moms, Kids." May 11, 2009. (Jan. 7, 2011)http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/30685918/ns/today-today_fashion_and_beauty/
- Tyler, JoJami. "My First Fall Purchase: The Ruffle White Blouse." (Jan. 8, 2011) FabulousAfter40.com.http://www.fabulousafter40.com/tag/ruffle-blouse/
- Weiss, Shari. "Conan O'Brien Struts his Stuff in a Pair of Jeggings: 'I'm Never Taking Them Off.'" Dec. 3, 2010. (Jan. 7, 2011). New York Daily News.http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2010/12/03/2010-12-03_conan_obrien_loves_his_jeggings_im_never_taking_them_off.html
- Wilson, Cintra. "You Just Can't Kill It." Sept. 17, 2008. (Jan. 8, 2011). The New York Times.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/18/fashion/18GOTH.html