According to research that will be published in the Journal of Consumer Behavior, women are more likely to buy clothes and make-up their teenage daughters like than the other way around.
A press release explains:
The study, conducted through questionnaires, sampled 343 mother-daughter pairs, with an average age of 44 for the mothers and 16 for the daughters. The researchers found that if a mother is young at heart, has high fashion consciousness and views her daughter as a style expert, she will tend to doppelgang her daughter’s consumption behavior.
Heavens to Betsy. I can no more imagine my mother “doppelganging” (way to verbify a noun, guys) me when I was a teenager than I could imagine her robbing a bank. The thought makes me giggle.
My mother was very stylish—she made her living designing dresses for little girls—and favored classic lines, elegant pumps, and discreet gold jewelry. I, on the other hand, passed through fashion phases from hippie chick to disco queen to punk rocker, none of which my mother would ever have dreamed of trying, even on a lark
My mother hated the way I ringed my eyes with dark makeup. (“It makes you look tired.”) She was always pushing my hair out of my face. (“You have such a pretty face.”) She thought my disco platforms were Frankenstein shoes. (“Ick.”)
The research also found that today’s teenage girls don’t look to their moms for shopping and style tips :
… even if the daughter has high interest in fashion and an older cognitive age –thinking she’s older than she is – she still is less likely to view her mother as a consumer role model and to doppelgang her.
Well, duh. What teenage girl would admit that her mother is a fashion influence? Even while I recognized my mother’s style, I didn’t want to emulate it. Why would I do that when my generation was doing other things? She dressed like a grown-up and I dressed like a teenager and that was that.
That was in the olden days.
Today teenage girls dress in increasingly provocative styles, looking far older than my generation did at their age. Meanwhile women old enough to be their mothers try to look like them.
This research is aimed at consumer behavior; it’s the kind of thing advertisers want to know about women so they can sell to us better. What it seems to indicate is that they are narrowing down the range of age that women strive for.
If I were to put a number on it, I’d say the ideal age for women in our advertising and media culture is somewhere between the ages of 24 and 32 years old. That’s what girls and women shoot for with clothing, products, cosmetic procedures. It’s exhausting and expensive.
Also intimidating and futile, since time is time and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. But with all the pressure and product and procedures out there, we have become as confused about age as we are about size.
Eventually you reach an age when you look in the mirror and think: Am I dressed appropriately? Do I look like I’m desperately clinging to my youth? Does my outfit make me look matronly or is it the other way around? Just because I can wear it, does that mean I should?
I don’t have a daughter to tell me how to dress (and, more likely, how not to dress), so I’m shooting in the dark here. I know the junior department is off limits. Beyond that it’s all a little fuzzy. Maybe I dress all wrong. The rules of grown-up clothing are not as clear anymore.
When my mother passed away, I held on to some of her clothes. The first time I wore her black boiled-wool cardigan with the gold buttons, my husband looked at me curiously. “Is that one of your mother’s sweaters?” he said. “It looks like something you would wear.” Then he rolled his eyes. “Well, duh.”
I realized he was right. It was my mother’s sweater, and my style. And for at least that moment, I was appropriately dressed.