The Fashion Our Moms Made Look Good First

When my parents used to go out for the evening and leave me at home alone, I always made it a mission to dive into my mother's closet to rummage through her clothes. My mom has always loved clothes — she used to blow her entire paycheck on flea-market dresses and barettes when she was a young book editor living in a big city in China, and eagerly kept up with the trends when our family immigrated to the United States in the late '80s. Our suburb in Minnesota might not have been an epicenter for fashion, but that walk-in closet that housed many lives' worth of clothes was my Mecca. I used to make my way through the boxes and suitcases and steal away garments I thought I could secretly retool and wear to school, because, hey — if it was hidden away, she must be through with it, right?

I still cringe whenever I think of all those silk maxi dresses I haphazardly shortened or those Lee jeans I chopped into short-shorts. There was one particularly beautiful chambray shirt that I turned into a not-so-beautiful vest (those hacked-off sleeves still haunt me). With my scissors, I was trying to get rid of the "mom-ness" of the clothes. Now, I recognize that all I was doing was taking all the fun out of them. Sure, high-waisted jeans and ribbed turtlenecks might have seemed matronly to someone who saw sparkly butterfly decals as the epitome of sophistication. But, with a few more years under my own belt, I mourn all of my Mom's ruined clothes.

Yes, she knows about my secret trips to her closet — and she knew about it back then, too. Even though she says she's not mad about it, I'll still be spending every single Mother's Day from this one until eternity attempting to pay her back. Consider this ode to her — and moms around the world — the first gesture.

Photographed by Christopher Schoonover.
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Tommy Hilfiger sweater.

Awesome Oversized Sweaters — Hearts, teddy bears, gigantic pastel lighthouses...oversized sweaters festooned with graphics weren't relegated to the holidays. Bonus points for anything that lit up or played music.
Photographed by Christopher Schoonover.
Markoo top; Giles skirt.

Comfort Sandals — Moms were the brave pioneers of ugly-pretty shoes, and rocked them when most of the world called them plain ugly. Even though everyone else has hopped on their game since then, moms have too much integrity to even call you out on it.
Chanel 'Painted Tweed' Pants.

Bags That Hold Everything — Need a tissue? Mom's got it in her bag. She also has hand sanitizer, a poncho, three kinds of lipstick, a wrench for emergencies, snacks, your social security card, and Beaches on DVD.

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Photographed by Christopher Schoonover.
Roomy Chambray Shirts — It was super-soft and super-roomy. Whether your mom wore hers tucked into her stonewashed jeans or with a giant Tweety Bird patch on the back, her chambray shirt was always a staple.
Photographed By Christopher Schoonover; Modeled By Britt Bergmeister at Next; Make Up By Sophie Haig Using Chanel at BA Reps; Hair By Eloise Cheung/ Walter Schupfer Using Oribe Hair Products; Styled By Emily Holland.
A Détacher cardigan; Valentino Garavani 'My Rockstud' Calf Leather Bag.

Knit Twinsets — Your mother probably pulled out her shell-and-cardigan set when she felt like getting a little dressy. Did it come with a knit pencil skirt? That's a triple threat right there.
Mom Jeans — High-waisted, baggy, and a light wash were the holy trinity of a good Mom jean. You might have only recently realized the genius of this style, but you-know-who has been on this tip for much longer.

Ribbed Mock Turtlenecks — Slimming and sophisticated, the ribbed mock turtleneck went from the office to T-Ball games without skipping a beat.
Chanel scarf.

Summer Scarves — Chances are, you have a couple scarves in your own arsenel passed down from your mama. Tie it around your neck like she did for that Jackie O. effect.