Why mums now dress like their daughters

By Rob Hastings

A report, in the 'Journal of Consumer Behaviour', found the impact adolescents have on their parents is much more profound than has been credited to them. Photos / AP, AFP
A report, in the 'Journal of Consumer Behaviour', found the impact adolescents have on their parents is much more profound than has been credited to them. Photos / AP, AFP

Mothers may pass their genes down to their daughters, but it appears the reverse is true when it comes to their taste in jeans.

Among females, at least, the mimicking of fashion styles passes up the generations, according to research in the United States which has identified a "consumer doppelganger effect".

Teenage girls were found to exert a strong influence on their mums' choice of makeup and clothes, not just for individual items they bought but in the overall "look" they wanted to present.

The survey of 343 pairs of mothers and daughters, with average ages of 44 and 16, showed that mums with a high fashion consciousness will deliberately adopt the looks of their daughters if they believe them to be stylish.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, even teenagers who are mature for their age show little interest in taking fashion tips from their mothers.

The report, in the Journal of Consumer Behaviour, found "the impact adolescents have on their parents is much more profound than has been credited to them" in a phenomenon known as reverse socialisation.

"I've been to England and women behave the same there," said the report's author, Dr Ayalla Ruvio, an assistant professor of marketing with the Temple University Fox School of Business in Philadelphia.

"There are a large group of women in their 40s who look like teenage girls when they go out," she said.

"When you're a 40-year-old woman and you have a full-time job, you have kids and you have a house to take care of, you don't have time to monitor fashion and what's cool to wear, so they just use their daughters as a shortcut for what it's good to dress like. It's not just mimicking in terms of 'I'm buying the same jeans as my daughter has', it's mimicking their whole appearance and using their possessions to mimic their whole identity."

She continued: "We know that kids influence consumption behaviour within a family, telling us which cereal to buy for example - that's not new. But we found that children don't just influence their parents when it comes to what they consume as a unit, they affect the products mothers consume purely for themselves to affect their own identity."

Justine Roberts, the co-founder of parenting website Mumsnet, said mothers are "always looking for style inspiration and no doubt some do channel their teens", but added: "We're also aware what we should probably approach with caution - jersey miniskirts and playsuits are possibly a step too far for most of us."

But this copycat behaviour is rarely popular with the teenage girls involved.

"They actually get very upset if their mothers look like them," Dr Ruvio said.

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