Paging all TikTok girlies! Or should I say… TikTok grannies?
Barbiecore, gothcore, and every other micro trend might seem like they’re from different ends of the style spectrum. However, they’ve all had one major thing in common: 20-somethings (or, at least, 30-somethings with amazing skin) pushing them up the algorithm. But the fountain of youth is being shut off for a second to make way for on an often overlooked community of total fashion icons.
Obviously, I’m talking about moms.
What is the “Turning My Mom into Me” trend?
The “Turning My Mom Into Me” trend sees moms walk the walk in their usual wear, then strutting a carpeted catwalk in their kid’s Gen-Z-ified ‘fit. (Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” plays in the background for added effect.) Over 364 million users have tuned into the transformations as moms go full on goth and whatever you want to call Bella Hadid’s look.
The common sentiment behind the comments on these viral vids (which range from stepdad applications to praise for post-baby abs) is shock, even though it shouldn’t be very surprising that a 40-year-old can look good in low-rise jeans. A slick ponytail and crop top only have the effect of a sartorial time machine because of strong societal ties between fashion and our expression of age.
Why is the trend so fascinating?
It challenges the idea that you should “dress your age.”
According to Dr. Julia Twigg, a professor of sociology at the University of Kent, the notion that women should “dress their age” has been around since at least the middle ages. Older women who wore shorter hemlines, low-cut necklines, and other design elements that drew attention to their bodies were heavily criticized. “It’s an oppressive set of ideas in that it’s about controlling the degree to which older women display themselves,” Dr. Twigg says. “It’s also part of a set of ideas about how as you get older, you’re to fade from the center stage. We don’t have this same set of ideas attached to middle-aged, powerful men.”
Certainly a lot has changed over the past several centuries. Women wear pants and someone isn’t guaranteed to clutch their pearls if a dress falls above the knee, but a 60-year old in a miniskirt? Some heads would turn, and that’s because fashion still has an ageism issue. Brands like Old Navy or Chico’s—places you visit when you want something “classic” or “nice but not too much”—feature older women in their ads all the time. When it comes to the side of fashion with all the excitement, with all the #cores and cutting-edge campaigns, all that representation disappears.
Does the fashion industry have an ageism issue?
In 2019, the median age for a runway model was 23 despite data showing that the average shopper of luxury brands is 38 years old. During the spring/summer 2020 runway season, only 1 out of 200 models were over 50.
Things aren’t much better on the digital side either. Bells & Becks founder Tamar Miller shared in-house research that found women 40 and up felt alienated by DTC brands like Everlane that have the high-quality products older women prefer but market towards “cool girl” millennials.
It’s true that not every mom wants to keep dressing like she’s 27. But Dr. Twigg says older women approach fashion with much more variety than the mainstream lets on. For the moms who love what I’ll call the #cartooncore look: jeans or slacks, an understated blouse, and comfortable shoes, they’re given the greenlight by Hollywood costume departments and department store stylists. For those who want to play with their look as they enter their 40s or 50s, there aren’t many options to shop or be inspired by.
Some especially stylish women like Carla Rockmore (aka the real Carrie Bradshaw) and Grece Ghanem have found followings on social media thanks to heavily curated wardrobes that can conjure up any look. However, 50+ influencers are few and far between in the fashion space, which is why TikTokkers are so gobsmacked by these “turning my mom into me” videos.
The fashion industry should champion older women who experiment with fashion and encourage others to do the same. Headway is slowly being made as insiders push for more age diversity on the runway and in magazines, but until it becomes not so weird to see a 50-year old abdomen at Target, I’m going to keep watching this video of a grandma in an outfit I swear I’ve seen one of my close friends post on Instagram.
Is “dress your age” a thing of the past? Tell me your thoughts!