As modern women, we all like to think that we’re in control, unique and independent, steering our own destinies and careers – and wardrobes – to the beat of our own drum (or the latest Beyoncé single).
We are, however, pulling the merino wool over our eyes: those go-with-everything black skinny jeans you treasure so much? Your mum was rocking them back in the eighties, Debbie Harry style.
Loving the boho jump suits that have cropped up now the spring sunshine is (finally) making an appearance? Hippy mum was floating around in those with flowers in her hair and Joni Mitchell on the radio, years before you were a mere twinkle in her eye.
We’re not as out-there and one-of-a-kind as we’d like to believe, and our mums are most definitely not just the people that chucked lunchboxes at us as we left the house for school as kids, or the voice on the end of the phone now, kindly reminding us about the ticking of that nasty biological clock.
The young women they were before we came along has shaped how we turn out, whether it’s in terms of fashion, politics, music or attitude to life.
Here, in preparation for Mother’s Day, some east London-based daughters take a look at their mums as they once were, and tell us what it means to them.
Mum: Tecla Capello
Daughter: Chiara Rimella, 23 year old journalist from New Cross
Here’s Mum back in 1972, I think she would have been about 15 here?
Mum doesn’t show us old pictures of herself very often so there’s always a sense of mystery to this image – most of what I know about her youth comes from the stories that she tells all the time, she’s just got so many.
In terms of style, pretty much 80 per cent of my wardrobe comes straight from her. We have very similar taste and the afternoons spent together digging through her closet and dressing up are some of my favourite memories with her. She refused to throw away so many ’70s and ’80s gems because she knew one day I was going to want them – it’s funny how your mum can know things about you before you even do!
In particular I remember how she gave me her proper hippy seventies floral skirts that I was so proud to wear when I was a teenager– you know, with the whole rebellious thing, and the ‘alternative’ look.
Mum had all those floral skirts and the rest because she was a proper, proper feminist – a militant one. She was always very political and would only hang out with people from this quite radical left wing party in Italy. I never contemplated not being political, or not being a feminist: I grew up with it and to me it’s just the only way to be.
Mum told me something when I was a teenager that should go down in history: “if you’re not an anarchist when you’re 16, by 60 you’re a fascist”. It’s just so good!
I just really, really admire her I guess. She’s a dude.
Mum: Vicki Browne
Daughter: Saskia Wickins, 26 year old art director and curator from Hackney
This is my mum in her twenties, she was living in London and training to be an art teacher, which was a childhood dream.
As well as her training, she was an active member of the Labour party and a strident protester against the policies of the Conservative government in power at the time.
Her style has always been very important to her. She was always in Biba clothes and a completely outrageous pair of tights. This navy, sheer pair are her attempt at looking smart, but she still can’t resist teaming them with a flash of colour with the shoes.
On her wedding day she wore a purple dress, shocking neon pink tights and red shoes. Amazing!
She actually still owns all of her crazy tights and is convinced she will open a tights museum one day, which I totally expect her to do.
My mother is my biggest inspiration, she has never wavered in her political integrity and has taught me everything I know and stand for (including never owning a pair of plain black tights).
Mum: Paddy Elson
Daughter: Kitty Knowles, 26 year old journalist from Stockwell
This is Mum in 1982 in Hong Kong. She was 30 and probably pregnant with my older brother. She looks so happy and confident.
She’s always heading off to new places (Hong Kong is one of many) and trying new things: trekking, dancing, skiing and sports, even swimming with dolphins. She’s hoping to take up surfing soon too, which is pretty cool. This curiosity and go-getting attitude is something that I really admire and try to live up to.
When it comes to style, my mum’s always just worn what she wants, which really reflects her nature. She likes statement jewellery, bright colours and bold monochrome patterns.
I have a lot of clothes handed down from her (I wore this yellow dress on my birthday last year) and from my great aunts and my granny too. Wearing these clothes reminds me that Mum was once a twenty-something rebel, as was my Granny!
She’s always encouraged me to wear what I want, whatever phase I’ve been going through, and never judged me for my choices as a teenager – whether that’s short skirts, crop tops or whatever – when I know that other parents might have objected. I think she had a feminist approach to parenting, which definitely helped me feel empowered in my choices, in life as well as style.
I’m pretty sure the only rule Mum’s ever enforced with me is no clothing with holes in when visiting grandparents!
Mum: Marguerite Bowers
Daughter: Emily Bowers-Clark, 22 year old fashion and business student from Brighton
This is my mum in her twenties, wearing her British Airways uniform – perched on a great car – and later me wearing her uniform when I was little.
I love these two pictures because it shows me pretending to be her: I just looked up to her so much.
Now that I’m an adult it goes both ways: she borrows my clothes too!
We have pretty similar tastes in style, and have both worked in jobs where we have to be presentable – airline, hotel, fashion house, tailors – which means we’re both more comfortable dressing smart but chic.
Her mother was the same. My grandmother lived in Leeds when it was an incredibly fashionable city and apparently she always looked impeccable. I have some of her old clothes and jewellery too, and still enjoy wearing them – I think our styles must all have been very similar.
Mum and I have similar taste in music, which maybe isn’t reflected in our style, like the Stones and Pink Floyd. She was really elegant and cool on the outside, but inside had a crazy rock-chick side to her.
My friends say I’m turning into her, and that makes my pretty proud.
Mum: Reeta Mahmud
Daughter: Hajera Blagg, 26 year old journalist. Hajera is from Houstan, Texas, but now lives in New Cross.
This is Mom on the left, back in 1971, in Jakarta, Indonesia. She was in a troupe travelling around Asia, performing Indian classical dance, so she’s in costume here.
She’s from present-day Bangladesh, which was East Pakistan at the time. The photo is a little bittersweet as it reminds me of a Pakistan that doesn’t really exist anymore – it was very progressive, and ‘hip’ I guess, but now it’s associated with religious extremism and conservatism.
Just a few years after the photo was taken, the country began shifting to a much more religious and conservative position. Mom left Pakistan because of this in the ’80s, as that’s not the sort of place she wanted to live. This photo reflects how she still had the freedom to do what she wanted – dance – and travel, and celebrate her Asian culture, and a happier time for the country.
Mom’s so graceful and stylish – I wish I could be more like her! And I’m a terrible dancer…I guess I get that from Dad. She’s also really strong and confident and independent, and just very sure even from a young age what she wanted in life.
It’s really inspiring to have her as an example to follow.