Matchy-Matchy Mother and DaughterPosted: May 9, 2021
The matchy-matchy look flourishes in “time periods when there is more cultural emphasis on the family and the mother-daughter relationship,” said the fashion historian Jennifer Farley Gordon, who researches children’s clothing. In practice, the matching style can also signal affluence: a mother with leisure time to sew—or money to shop for—mirror-image outfits, and who is more likely to be a stay-at-home mom. Part of the idea, also, is that there’s not much point in being one half of a matching set if you’re not spending significant amounts of time together in public.
Life nailed the appeal of mother-daughter dressing when it declared: “‘Look Alike’ means ‘Look Young.’” The mommy-and-me looks of the 1940s and ’50s were decidedly girlish, emphasizing the mother’s youthfulness rather than the daughter’s maturity. In her memoir Mommie Dearest, Christina Crawford remembered posing for publicity photos with her adoptive mother, Joan, in the late 1940s, at the age of 8. “I had to get dressed in one of the many ‘mother-and-daughter’ outfits we were always photographed in … Mother and I would go through the whole day doing things for the camera and changing from one matching outfit to another.” Often, these outfits consisted of ruffled pinafores or skirts with suspenders worn over frilly blouses with puffed sleeves, with matching ribbons in their hair—clothes more appropriate for an 8-year-old than a grown woman. Tellingly, if a woman had more than one daughter, she was advised to twin with the youngest, according to Life.
Ladies’ Home Journal—one of the leading women’s magazines in America—had strong ideas about how the country could spend its wealth. From 1939 into the early 1950s, the magazine published a series of covers illustrated by Al Parker, a contemporary of Norman Rockwell, depicting mothers and daughters in matching outfits engaging in household chores and leisure activities such as baking cookies, riding bicycles, raking leaves, knitting, skiing, and wrapping Christmas gifts. One memorable image portrayed a rosy-cheeked mother and daughter pair, ice skating hand-in-hand above the headline: “Is Society Committing Suicide Today?”
These days, however, the mommy-and-me looks are usually store-bought. The likes of Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Lanvin getting into the luxury children’s wear market and they come with decidedly grown-up price tags. There are plenty of budget-friendly version, like Target’s collaboration with Victoria Beckham, or Drew Barrymore’s line for Crocs.
Though a few halfhearted attempts to launch father-son fashions in the 1950s never really took off, family fashions have surged in recent years as many dads have become more hands-on. Often focused on holiday dressing, vacation clothes, or sleepwear, these collections—which are diversified enough to accommodate a broad range of ages and genders—offer a less literal interpretation of twinning, one intended for special occasions. Which is to say that “daddy, mommy, all my siblings, and me” might be the new mommy-and-me.
What brought this delve into Mommy and Me Fashion? dievca had a flashback of 1976-1977 where her Mom and her had matching outfits and hair which consisted of a rust-colored Corduroy Oshkosh B’gosh Overalls Dress, off-white turtleneck, rust cable knit tights, brown leather Bass platform wedge shoes with rubber sole and Toni Tennille hair:
It was the first time and the last time dievca and her Mom matched. They shared a lot of clothing throughout the years (still do), but the matching thing? One great go – then that was it.
HAPPY MOTHER’s DAY!
A Thank You to KIMBERLY CHRISMAN-CAMPBELL is a fashion historian based in Los Angeles and the author of the forthcoming book Worn on This Day: The Clothes That Made History. Most of the information was gleaned from and article she did for The Atlantic Magazine in 2018.