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29. Did your parents teach you things about clothing, care for your clothing, dressing or style? What lessons do you remember? Or did you just pick things up?

My mom’s idea of ideal little-girl style involved sashes, pinafores, and old-fashioned hats. Mine ran more towards neon leggings, clashing patterns (plaid! Zebra stripe!) and oversized T-shirts with giant multicolored animals on them. To her credit, she did not try to force anything on me, even when my choices might have reflected poorly on her (“Oh,” our neighbors would carefully say in the elevator, “I see she’s dressing herself.” “She sure is,” my mom would reply, and leave it at that.)
I came to appreciate my mother’s tolerance of my early sartorial choices more and more as I learned how she had grown up -- in the South, with the dictum “You can tell a lady by her hairbrush.” Though she escaped most of the trappings of her upbringing, she continued to carry the idea that it was some kind of moral failing to look slovenly. The idea was: it’s inconsiderate to dress sloppily, because it’s other people who have to look at you. One day, after a trip to an upstate New York K-Mart, I remember her turning to me and saying, quite seriously, “If you ever see me in a purple jumpsuit, please take me out back and shoot me because I have clearly lost my mind.”

My parents believed in quality and not quantity.

My dad is blind so he has very minimal opinions on clothes. He likes material that feel good and things that are well made. My mom is a feminist artist and I consider her pretty anti-fashion. I feel they influenced me by letting me look elsewhere and everywhere for style advice.

My dad didn't really teach me anything about clothing besides that I need to regularly do laundry. He is more about the functionality of clothes and less about being 'fashionable'. I learned almost everything I know about dressing and style from my mom and my grandma.

I remember absorbing a sense that belongings were valuable and we should take care of them accordingly. I was taught explicitly to dress modestly and to save money whenever possible.

You could not have found two people more indifferent to clothing.

My parents and my brother make clothes for a living, so I tell people that my mom still dresses me! It’s true though, because every time she comes over she’s got sample clothes to give me. Fashion and style were huge influences in their youth. My birth father was a fashion photographer and my mom was a model who later started her own clothing company. I still call her for advice on how to take care of certain clothes or fabrics. Some families discuss food, but we see each other’s clothes and talk about them. It’s getting passed down to my kids, too. There was some CP Shades clothing in the Sundance catalog, and recently my older daughter, who’s now 11, was circling items she liked and asking my mom about them.

She always gave me cool hand-me-downs in the ’80s, but the result was I ended up wearing “fashion” pieces to school when the other kids were wearing more normal clothes. I always tried to work them up into great outfits—sometimes it was a total flop and made me stick out. That was when I started to understand that clothing is an artistic expression, and my mom encouraged me to follow my own ideas.

My parents did not teach me anything about clothing, dressing or style. Everything I've learned I picked up from looking at books, magazines, films and talking to other women.

I was pretty much left to my own devices, growing up. Both my parents had mental illness and had separated when I was infant. I lived with my Mother, and my Father took me out for afternoons until he was deported back to the U.S. from Canada when I was about 10. It’s not all as dire and spare as it sounds. Despite, my Mother’s mental illness encumbering her ability to be fully present to me, I experienced some wonderful freedoms from within that partially-abandoned place.
At 15, during one of my Mother’s hospitalizations, it was decided by workers who were empowered to make such decisions that I would be left to live in our apartment on my own during weekends when the social services-dispatched homekeeper left for her weekend off.
My Mother had given me money to buy my food during my time alone. I bought a dress with the money. When home again, my Mom saw the dress, duly loved it, and when I told her how I bought it she gave me a sly, approving smile. Her contentment was genuine: through me and my act of defiance and self-indulgence, she was happy and reassured in the knowledge that there was pleasure to be had in the world: there were seemingly irrational, frivolous purchases made by people who were so often diminished and overlooked, and there were no regrets.
My Father, a struggling poet who struggled mostly with his mental illness, enjoyed inhabiting characters in his day-to-day life. So on one of his visits with me, I remember he was dressed like a French sailor. We wandered Vancouver’s Chinatown where he lived, entering shops he knew where he’d tell tall tales about where he’d been and who I was. I loved this. I understood instantly the great power in clothing, and its connection to stories and identities – from that day forward, I’ve understood the narrative current that runs through clothing, and flows from it, and that invites playfulness and freedom.

They’ve absolutely contributed to my love of color. Mostly they just gave me the room to express myself through dress without judgement.

I didn't learn anything from my parents about clothing. I have always had very specific ideas about what I like. I am a film scholar and I would say that everything I learned about clothes has come from watching films. Like every young girl, I went through an Audrey Hepburn phase and more latterly an Anna Karina phase. I also read Vogue magazine voraciously from a very young age, which I am not sure was particularly healthy!

I don't think they taught me anything directly, but with two older sisters, I got a lot of hand-me-downs, so I was aware we were on a budget. Even aside from clothing, my parents were not wasteful. By the time I was in my teens, we were doing better financially, and then my mom would take me along when she went clothes-shopping, and would always buy me something (on sale). She had tremendous style and grooming—I definitely absorbed a sense of glamour watching her getting dressed and putting on her make-up.

My father was gone from our home because of his job as a porter on the railroads most of the time and so I have very little memory of him growing up. My mother divorced him when I was seven. My mother was the sole breadwinner and she took immense pride in being able to do so, declining to accept child-support from my estranged father.
Much of the answer to this question was given above; but I’ll be more direct. My mother insisted on our knowing about how to appear well-to-do based on apparel. Taking care of your clothes was right up there with getting great grades. The lessons I remember are much more trauma based as she never made getting dressed fun; it was an obligation to her to always look good. It had absolutely nothing to do with how either of us felt. Just spending hours sitting in the shop (the hair salon, if you will) after school would be the closest example of lessons offered. It is a cultural thing about growing up in black beauty shop. Here you learn about the importance of how a woman looks and how she can expect to be treated based on what she wears. And what she wears includes her hair style and the amount of make-up worn. It was never just about the clothes. It was always about the entire presentation which includes the shoes, matching bag and belt. Every article was a statement: high heels versus flats, a flower or barrette in the hair, plucked or unplucked eyebrows, lipstick or gloss, pressed or kinky hair – every iota of one’s appearance made a statement and one never ever went out of the house for any reason not fully cognizant of one’s appearance. We weren’t even supposed to associate with folks who dared leave their home in fluffy slippers or with rollers in their hair; they were not to be trusted; they were considered to be sloven. The purpose of a job in my teens was in order to purchase my own clothes; the purpose of any job was to insure what had the appropriate appearance. Clothes make the person was the main message growing up. And this message was not something you randomly picked up; it was a mandate, a requirement.
True trauma came when I turned about fourteen or fifteen and wanted to assert my own style of dress; no longer appreciating the way my mother wanted me to dress. But don’t get me wrong here. There was never a time when one in our family could dress rebelliously like I’ve seen with young folks dressing “Goth” or with piercing. Heaven forbid! I just no longer wanted to dress sensuously, as did my mother. She was exceptionally voluptuous and dressed to reveal her curves. I chose to dress in long flowing clothes that draped without showing any part of my body during one phase of my life and she announced that I was imitating nuns (which I was).
I actually remember various phases in which she and I banged heads. In the 8th grade I wanted to wear “stockings” like the other girls for graduation. She insisted only women could wear stockings; so I was the only one in my class who had to wear socks at graduation. I was 15 before she let me wear heels and stockings and I was naturally mortified to be held back that way. When I decided to wear my hair in an Afro in my early twenties, she quit speaking to me for a year since she felt I was an embarrassment for a woman who made a living pressing and perming Black women’s hair. There are few words to express how ashamed she was when in my mid-twenties I began wearing mini-skirts for a while; but it didn’t take me long to figure out that attracted all the wrong people. I was one of the first to resort to maxi-skirts with long tunics and have remained a fully clothed individual ever since.

yes, but the didnt do it like school, all of the information was coming to my subconscious.

I learned the most about style from the women in my family. They were all so different and influenced me in specific ways. I think my style now is made up of parts of theirs. My mother was super stylish, and always setting trends. She always looked of the moment, but put her own twist on things that made the look uniquely hers. She was also a pro at taking seemingly simple clothes and putting them together in amazing ways, it really wasn’t about the clothes at all, it was all about how she wore them. That is true style.
Now, her mother, she was incredible! She taught dress design and was a painter. She mixed her classic silhouettes from the 40’s and 50’s with the kookiest accessories. She always had on so many colors, and the more jewelry the better. She had terrible arthritis and had this theory that wearing these huge intricate rings on every finger would distract people from the way her hands looked, but instead it just made them want to look closer. For a party she once wore a simple black straight dress and a real bullfighters bolero she got in Spain! She wore kimonos from Japan, Concho belts, lots of blue eye shadow, a stack of ten African necklaces, purple tie-dye, antique embroidered vestments… nothing was off limits for her. She always had so much fun with what she was wearing. I loved this about her.
And my other grandmother was quite different. She was classic, very feminine: Valentino suits, Pucci sundresses, pearls, Dior shoes and handbags to match. She was stunning and always perfectly put together, and yet comfortable and relaxed looking. She wore chic like it was a second skin.

My mother taught me a lot about taking care of my clothes. What to handwash, how to block a sweater, never put bras in the dryer. She taught me how to wear vintage clothing and how to make men's clothing look beautiful on a woman's body. I remember having a tie collection when I was thirteen. My mother used to take me to the cheapest thrift shops and she would buy me whatever "practical" clothes I needed and then gave me five dollars to spend on whatever I wanted. I remember being so excited by the possibilities. I would usually end up getting something wild to play dress up in. My dress-up box was pretty famous amongst my friends. I had a 1940's ballerina outfit, an amazing gypsy costume made from the thinnest and softest cotton paisley, cat's eye glasses, a 1960s pink and red polka-dot neglige, a ship captains hat, and so on. I love how clothes transform you. I am a pretty quirky, sexy gal, but not drop dead gorgeous, and I learned when I was very young how to work with clothing in order to achieve the perfect amount of drama.

My parents have no interest in clothes so they taught me how not to do things. I picked up any care tips later in life but I still treat clothing appallingly

Cover up—for instance, nothing too far off the shoulder (it was the 80s). My father on wearing too much black: “ Who died?”

They taught me to buy sensibly, e.g. not spend a lot of money on clothes. Buy comfortable shoes rather than pretty ones. Throw out the stuff that's worn down - though I still have a hard time doing this, because they're mostly the clothes I like best.

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