5 Lessons I Learned From My Fashion Editor Mom That Women of All Ages Can Apply

Five fashion tips my mother taught me for a closet filled with pieces I love and that are applicable to women of all ages.
Amelia Brennan

I was an opinionated, feisty, charismatic five-year-old who did not like being told what to wear. Between the ages of five and fifteen, I put together some of the worst outfits imaginable. My mother, a long-time fashion editor, was unwavering in her support of my wacky color combinations, inventive accessorizing, and my occasional need to wear a tutu for a grocery store run.

Now that I'm older I’ve not only figured myself out, stylistically speaking, but I’ve also realized the impact my mother had on my look. Here are five fashion tips my mother taught me that have led me to have a closet filled with pieces I truly love and that are applicable to women of all ages.

It’s Better To Be Overdressed Than Underdressed

The look you’re going for is “a belt notch above presentable,” as my mother would say. That doesn’t mean you need to whip out a ball gown for dinner with friends, but putting some effort into your look goes a long way. Brunch with friends? Do better than exercise clothes—add a blazer or jacket to jeans for both style and warmth. If you’re running errands, swap out the sweatshirt for a cashmere sweater. Low key work day? Instead of sneakers, try ballet flats.

Mom loves a jacket—blazers, leather jackets, bombers—as a way to add style and texture and accommodate temperature fluctuations (I know about hot flashes well) and arm or butt coverage (yep, I know about this, too!).

Eileen Fisher Stand Collar Boucle Jacket

I happen to love the J. Crew cashmere sweaters - they’re good quality, they fit great, and they are always up-to-date on styles and colors. I like to pair them with well-fitting jeans, which can easily upgrade a basic tee into something very chic yet still comfortable.

J. Crew Cashmere Classic-Fit Crewneck Sweater

Ballet flats are an excellent alternative to sneakers, which everyone seems to use as their fallback (Mom would say “women default to sneakers too often these days”). Mom also likes loafers and brogues, and all of these shoe styles are trending right now.

Born Brin Ballet Flat

Leggings Aren’t Pants

Leggings are great for working out, doing chores around the house, or watching a movie marathon. No matter what color or design or style of leggings, no matter how great of shape you’re in, if there’s one phrase my mother has said a billion times, it’s “leggings are not pants.” Besides, there are so many alternatives!

Get a pair of black pants with some stretch in them, find yourself a brand and a cut of jeans that’s right for you, or consider joggers (a new-ish trend and a great casual option that works with everything from sweaters to blazers).

Athleta joggers are great staples to have in your closet. They’re comfortable, fit well, and are great for activities that may be too strenuous for a pair of jeans. They’re also amazing for travel as they don’t take up a lot of space in a suitcase and can be easily rinsed out in the sink if need be.

Athleta Venice Jogger

Like you, I may not care for the “Mom Jean” name, but what they do fit-wise can be flattering—the high waist holds in a pooch and a tapered leg is modern right now. Zara has some great jean options that are affordable, and come in various styles, fits, and colors… providing an option for everybody.

Zara Z1975  Mom Fit Jeans

These happen to be one of my mother's favorite pants, and I understand the attraction. They’re lightweight, chic, and are a perfect mix of style and comfort. She especially likes how breathable the fabric is and flattering the high-waisted fit is.

Rag & Bone Miramar Cotton Denim High Rise Ankle Jogger Pants

There Is No Such Thing As Color Rules

Full disclosure: As a New York City kid, I dress in shades of black. However, my five-year-old self still craves the rainbow. Mom’s advice? Don’t get caught up worrying about color clashing within an outfit because there’s no such thing as color rules.

A navy blue dress with black shoes won’t alert the fashion police. A red dress with a yellow bag isn’t a federal offense. You don’t need to save the pastels for the spring. Your fashion choices should be made based on what you like, what you want to wear, and what you feel comfortable in. On top of that, color is a huge mood booster and skin brightener. Feeling color phobic? Mom says “start with accessories:” a bright scarf, fun bag, and colorful jewelry.

Spoiler alert: this is my mom’s business! Even if it weren’t hers, I’d still recommend these pieces because they’re just that good. The necklaces come in three different sizes and many colors to choose from, and they are hand’s down the easiest way to add a pop of color to your look.

The EM Original Necklace Big Sky on Black Cord

I think scarves are one of the most underrated accessories; Mom is a super fan of French style so she wears scarves allll the time, from silk to chunky cashmere. They check so many boxes - they can be used for warmth, color, style, and comfort.

Tuckernuck Accessories Blue Zinnia Bloom Scarf

This is one of my favorite bag companies—they’re incredibly lightweight, can go in the washing machine (!), and come in multiple sizes, colors, and designs. The company was also founded by two really smart and stylish women, which I love.

MZ WALLACE Medium Metro Tote Deluxe

Buy Investment Pieces In Every Category

I’ll start off by emphasizing the fact that this endeavor doesn’t need to break the bank, as one of my biggest tips is to buy these pieces on sale or in consignment stores. Investment pieces also don’t necessarily need to be high-end, but they should be well made, in great fabric, and, most importantly, fit you perfectly. Starter staples include a good blazer, the perfect day dress, black slacks, and riding boots.

Everyone needs a good blazer in their closet. Everyone. A regular day in the office? Blazer over a button-down. Work event? Blazer over a dress. Family lunch? Blazer and jeans. The list goes on, which just goes to show how useful a blazer can be in your repertoire. Mom says you should have a winter (wool) and summer (linen) version.

Lauren Ralph Lauren Wool Crepe Double Breasted Blazer

I love loafers. I think they’re chic, comfortable, and can be dressed up or down, making them incredibly versatile. Mom has replaced every single pair of heels she had with loafers or flats, and she couldn’t be happier.

Birdies Starling Flat

Eileen Fisher has GREAT closet staples (and it’s another badass woman founder!). These dress pants are a perfect example of a simple, chic, and flattering pair of pants that easily replace a pair of jeans or slacks to elevate an outfit. My mom loves these because of the fit- they’re straight-leg and high-waisted which elongates her legs and torso.

Eileen Fisher Slouchy Ankle Pants

Pay Attention To Fabrics

I jokingly call my mother a “fabric snob” due to her obsession, but I’ve learned the value of it, whether buying pajamas (silk is too hot, polyester is hot AND doesn’t feel great), tailored clothes—look for fabrics that hold structure (linen, wool blends), summer clothes (you want it breathable), winter warmth (wool, silk, cashmere).

I’m a sucker for a matching pajama set, and Roller Rabbit is one of my (and mom’s) favorite brands. They’re 100% cotton, incredibly cute, very well made, and come in so many colors and designs—it’s hard to choose.

Roller Rabbit Amanda Loungewear

A neutral-colored long cashmere cardigan is a staple in every woman’s wardrobe. No matter what your age, pick a color that compliments your skin tone and can be mixed and matched with the rest of your clothes.

C by Bloomingdale’s Cashmere Cashmere Duster Cardigan

M.M. La Fleur has redefined workwear for all generations, especially with their use of luxurious Italian fabrics that hail from traditional menswear suiting. Since the underneath tends to be more basic, I always like a little flair in a blazer. This one gets an update with its feminine shape, flattering pleating, and hook-and-bar closure. The plus for women seeking extra coverage is that this one hits at the mid-thigh.

M.M. La Fleur The Carmen Jacket
Amelia Brennan

Amelia Brennan is a Senior in the Advertising program at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. She’s a true NYC girl at heart, and she loves to travel, read and buy sneakers.

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