My Cool Mum & Me

You know when your mum looks younger than you and has better style? No? Us neither. We’re still begging our mums to stop wearing full look Wallis and correcting them when they call Per Una 'designer', but there are fives – possibly tens – of achingly cool mums out there, going about their day not using words like “trendy” because they are, and wearing 7/8 black chinos with fucking pool slides. Enter, our collective mum-style hero: Sonia Pang, who happens to be the mother of our massive goth fashion crush, Lydia Pang – who you may recognise from such blockbuster hits as Here's To Always Wearing Black and How To Create A Work Uniform. We are drawn to these Pang women and their style lines like moths to fire emojis. So we asked each Pang to write about the other in a mother-daughter, nature-nurture exploration of the deepest, darkest, style. If Morticia and Wednesday wore Comme des Garçons...
Lydia on Sonia My style was born out of my Emo upbringing and my eternal adoration for my mother. I dance the line between a grown up goth and a fashion twat, a minimalist and a punk. I love tailoring, powerful structured clothing and luxe materials. As a child my mum would dress me in Petite Bateau monochrome stripes and a Coco fringe. I was the only child to arrive on the first day of school with a vintage briefcase and a felt bowler hat with a black bow. I wore patent ankle boots and grey tights and got made fun of by all the boys in acrylic. Clothes were fun and part of expressing ourselves and I don’t remember it being any other way; they’ve always made me feel happy and confident.
I used to sit and watch my mum getting ready; she would freshly blow out her hair every morning, pencil her brows, shove on thrift store five quid army trousers, roll up the legs and slide her foot into a clog, a biker boot or a sling back. Mum has effortless grace. She is resourceful and smart in the way she expresses herself, through clothes, interiors, drawing, photography, even food. To her, every medium is a form of artistic expression and her thirst for beauty is infectious. She is the reason I do the job I do now (creative director). She has the ‘eye’ – and then some. Sometimes I find myself adding a collar to an outfit, a belt over a dress and I’ll think, stop! Strip it back, keep it uniform and purposeful – no mess. "Never over-gild the lily”, she would say. You got sharp tailored pants on? Then you just need a crisp shirt and a swipe of lippy. Let simplicity do the shouting. STEP AWAY FROM THE HEADBAND. Mum’s resourcefulness is what I love most about her style. She never threw money at fashion, we just didn’t have it, and so we would wander the halls of fashion museums and she’d run home and alter or drag out an old jacket and cut the sleeves off, ta dah! Like magic. She has this ancient pinstripe jacket that I remember her wearing when I was a child, and when DKNY rocked out the look last year, she scoured through the wardrobe, landed on the cheeky pinstripe and voila, with COS slides and slick hair, she was DKNY Spring/Summer 16 Public School debut in one authentic instant. What did she teach me? To be relevant. So what, you look overdressed – at least you made an effort and arrived with purpose. To be remembered, never be caught off guard, game face, eyebrows on, shoulders back. So I have my style and my confidence to thank her for. She’s that perfect balance of disarming softness and sharp confidence. Mostly I’m thankful for the day she rocked up to my school wearing a skintight pencil skirt and a vintage rock tee to bollock my teacher for pulling me out and using me as an example of ‘how to not dress’ because I was wearing a long punk pleated version of the school skirt, an army jacket with a painting of an African woman on the back and an enormous spike in my left ear. My mother politely asked them if the school was especially against self expression and creativity? And kindly asked them to turn their attention to the hundreds of clones wearing arse-cheek skimming skirts. Sigh... I’ll never be as cool as you mum.
Sonia on Lydia My girl, fashion and me… An army jacket and a three-inch quiff, that’s how it all started. The importance of clothes and how they relate to our family history is that they have created a bond between us as mother and daughter, a constant thread; our connection. What are you going to wear? – is the precursor to many of our conversations. Shallow? To quote Linda Grant, author of The Thoughtful Dresser, “you can’t have depths without surfaces.” Lydia knew from an early age how to set the stage. At four years old she was off to read in the garden, straw basket in hand filled with books, straw hat on her head, blanket for the grass. She dressed for the part, always with an element of theatre… composed and constructed. In those early years, I indulged her clothing fads… Disney themed T-shirts and costumes, from Pocahontas to Ariel to Princess Jasmine, all the colours and sparkles... the celebration of the metamorphosis, the power of the ‘fancy dress’ changing how you look and feel. As a young mother, I followed trends but also wore what was comfortable and practical. Boyfriend jeans were exactly that and my husband’s jeans fit me, so I wore them, with a white tee and a pair of biker boots. They gave me confidence in their reliability and the boots gave me security. I could stomp through my day!
I have always loved high end fashion, labels, the catwalk, and I consumed my monthly Vogue with relish. but I was very resourceful and happily wore home-made short skirts with thick black tights and DM’s, a black biker jacket and sometimes a red lip. I adored the style of Paula Yates, wanted to be Debbie Harry, loved Audrey Hepburn, was in awe of what Coco Chanel had achieved, and wanted to wear Vivienne Westwood. Then there came the point in Liddy’s teens where she found her direction, discovering the effectiveness of a simple black tee or fitted black sweater with a voluminous skirt and birthday Gucci (at 16) heels. She was spotted at The Clothes Show and signed up with a modelling agency in this outfit! As Liddy and her sense of style developed, encouraging self expression in my two girls was easy, explaining that with their dark hair and pale skin they needed no gilding. Keep things simple! She grew and I watched, as everything I had taught her she expanded upon and made better, cooler.

My daughter taught me that I don’t have to blend into the background of my life at 52, during these years where women my age start to feel like they are disappearing. I can still be relevant, present and make an impact in my day with my choice of clothing.

I loved – and when discarded – stole her second-hand, cropped army trousers that she had bought from a charity shop for £4. She had worn them low on her hips, rocking a dropped crotch and an outsized men's shirt buttoned to the neck and open at the waist – this has today become my daily style staple; the shapes worn in different textures and fabrics and predominantly black but the basic shapes the same. Liddy’s style journey was like a fast moving train, and I got on. I started to look to her for inspiration, ideas and approval. It wasn’t always about buying or coveting the best, but pulling things together cleverly. She embraces androgyny and I feel proud that she doesn’t adhere to the stereotype. Her lack of convention is liberating.
Liddy teaches me that loving clothes isn’t the same as loving fashion, it’s more about how you feel than how you look. I feel feminine in silky elasticated-waist, wide-legged, awkward length, black crepe pleated trousers, that are basically pyjamas in public, and work with a simple tee and slides but also heels and a dinner jacket. Now she lives in New York, Liddy’s instagram account, articles and interviews inspire me from across the miles, encouraging me to clean out my wardrobe, remove things I don’t wear and stick to a monochrome, palette; I love the strength and reliability of black. I know that if she’s wearing it now, it’s just a matter of time before me and everyone else wants a slice! Lydia reminds me every day that clothes have power, and have the ability to transform, uplift, confront. That I don’t have to blend into the background of my life at 52, during these years where women my age start to feel like they are disappearing to make way for fresh new things… that I can still be relevant, present and make an impact in my day with my choice of clothing. When my body shape changed because of illness, presents of little triangles of lacy bras arrived as a celebration of something I had gained not as compensation for something I had lost. I now know that sportswear is actually my friend and that pool slides are comfortable and look great with an ankle bone and a 7/8 black chino, and yes, sometimes even a cheeky little sock! Lydia gives me the confidence to believe in what works for me and to dare to be different instead of curling up in the predictables. I used to say to my girls as they grew up: “Never grow a wishbone, daughters, where your backbone ought to be.” – C. Paddleford. Well, Lydia gave me mine.

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