Professor’s study offers new insight into the modern mother-daughter relationship, in which the mothers mimic their daughters.
Two women, within at least 20 years of each other, share a large three-way mirror. They inspect their derrières in dark-washed denim, slip their feet into sky-high stilettos and run their hot pink-manicured fingers through their perfectly-styled tresses. A scene not unknown to the retail associate, the mother-daughter shopping team coos each other with comments such as “Oh, that’s cute,” and “You look so hot!”
The age-old challenge of young girls trying to look older, and older women seeking to preserve their youth is reaching new heights, as a recent study suggests moms look to their daughters for style inspiration, but the inspiration doesn’t go both ways.
Dr. Ayalla Ruvio of the Fox School of Business conducted a study this past summer, and her findings give psychologists new insight into the relationships between mothers and daughters.
According to Ruvio’s study, it seems mothers turn to their daughters for inspiration; they mimic their wardrobe and style as a means to look younger. Their teenage counterparts, however, do not seek this same doppelgänger status. Instead, Ruvio found that daughters turn rather to the styles of celebrities to appear older.
Her study took 343 mother-daughter pairs, with moms an average age of 44 and the daughters at an average age of 16, and polled them with questionnaires on shopping habits and fashion.
“The one thing the girls do not like is to look like their mothers. They’re trying very, very hard to establish a separate, distinct image of who they are, and then the mother goes out and mimics them,” Ruvio said in an interview with Live Science.
Safya O’Rourke, a junior environmental studies and political science dual major, said she and her mom enjoy spending that quality time together shopping, but doesn’t think Ruvio’s findings have a negative implication.
“[My mom] believes that what you wear signifies how you feel about yourself, and it can also signal how successful you are, so she likes to buy me a lot of investment pieces,” O’Rourke said. “Now that I’m getting older, I’m appreciating those classic pieces more, and our styles are starting to balance out.”
While O’Rourke said she sees other moms trying to dress younger, she thinks it’s an attempt for them to find common ground with their daughters.
“There’s the whole generation gap, and moms and daughters really can become very separated in that,” O’Rourke said. “Partially in the fact that a lot more mothers are working, and daughters are involved in school and extracurricular activities, so fashion can be just another thing that they can share together.”
Though O’Rourke said there are a lot of moms who dress too young, she likes seeing a mom still able to dress trendy while maintaining the grace of her age.
“Some moms definitely take it overboard,” O’Rourke said.
While O’Rourke’s mom isn’t trying to be like her daughter, many moms are taking extreme measures to look younger.
In May 2009, ABC News profiled a British mother and daughter pair who prove that imitation truly is the highest form of flattery.
Janet and Jane Cunliffe, 52 and 30 years old, respectively, appear to be identical twins rather than mother and daughter. But that was Janet’s goal all along; in 2009, she spent more than £10,000 in plastic surgery to look just like her daughter. Now, the two dress alike in leggings and denim skirts, do each others makeup and go out to bars, where they said they are often mistaken to be sisters.
“I never want to see a mother in leggings,” O’Rourke laughed. “A jean that’s a more fitted cut, not a mom jean…I can appreciate that.
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.