My Teenage Daughter Borrows My Clothes

31 Comments

Daughter hugging her mom

Some mornings my 16-year-old daughter emerges from my not-so-tidy closet with one of my shirts or sweaters. She holds up a navy fitted tee or a heathered beige hoodie in front of the oval-shaped bathroom mirror, where she sizes up whether it passes muster as a potential frontrunner for that day’s school outfit.

I try to stand at a distance, but can’t help but watch her assess her options, as she tilts her head from one side to the other—her hair still up in the messy ponytail she had slept in the night before—as if she’s carefully thinking through her decision.

At times she walks out, chooses one of her own things; but on other days, she goes for one of my favorites—a soft black cardigan—and asks, “Can I borrow this today?” five words which seem to make my day, and at 6:50 a.m.—the idea that my clothes are good enough for my teen to wear—that’s a good place to start.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Emily’s not a fashionista. She has never worn much makeup and often opts for an oversized sweatshirt and leggings. But some days she takes more time, carefully deciding between the green or blue v-neck tee, or tall black boots vs. charcoal Converse sneakers.

But it’s on those particular mornings when it’s my closet she chooses to weave in and out of that I find myself quite elated, like it’s an endorsement that maybe her mom is kind of cool. Something about her pulling out the black and white stripped shirt I had worn the week before or an olive sweater I had forgotten I owned, reminds me not just of a shared sense of style but of our closeness, that even in these adolescent years, we are still connected. That our relationship is more than just me driving her to and from swim practice and her presence at the dinner table for family taco night.

Growing up, I never once borrowed an item of my mother’s clothes. Her pristine closet, with blouses lined up, every button precise, every wrinkle perfectly ironed. Her sweaters and shirts neatly stacked, as if a Talbots employee had come in every day, several times a day to fold and refold each article of clothing. With her shoes and slippers meticulously in a line and her belts neatly hung, the smell of her lavender scented sashays lingered sweetly in the air. She has always had good style, my mom. And we pretty much wore the same size. It never would have occurred to me though to borrow her clothes. Maybe I didn’t look in her closet enough. Maybe I should have spent more time sorting through her shelves and her hanging shirts, pushing over the navy velour robe she sometimes wore while making our bologna and swiss cheese sandwiches. Or maybe I just didn’t want to.

When I think of my mother’s closet, I didn’t know then what it meant to borrow or not borrow her clothes. The constant “who am I?” question lingering in my teenage years. But now that my daughter sometimes chooses to wear some of mine, I realize it’s not just that my mother and I had a different sense of style, we had a different type of relationship. Perhaps it’s today’s generation with this mother-daughter closeness; because this level of intimacy I have with Emily I didn’t have with my mother growing up.

Relationships now are often defined by a sense of immediacy, an instinctive moment in time; Emily and I “check in” and often stay connected throughout the day: Please bring a suit and towel to the pool; will pick you up in 15; got an 89 on Chem test!!! And when she tries on and borrows my clothes before school, it’s something even more personal—like she’s not just giving me a stylistic thumbs up with multiple smiley face emojis. Rather, it’s more like a validating exclamation point, as if she’s taking a sliver of my identity, all without a tinge of self-consciousness.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I remember when I held Emily’s little hand as we walked through the Nordstrom’s kids department at the Westchester Mall, her lopsided pigtails swaying from side to side. In an oversized corner dressing room I sat her on my lap as I helped put one leg and then the other into a pair of bright red leggings. “Hands up, cutie,” I said before slipping on the white long sleeve tee speckled with tiny strawberries. Holding hands, we faced the full-length mirror together to assess whether we liked the outfit. Today the decision is hers rather than ours. But, on the days when the white long sleeve tee she chooses comes from my closet, it’s as if, like years ago, I’m a part of her decision making process.

When my daughter walks out of the house in the morning wearing one of my sweaters, it represents to me more than just, “I like borrowing your stuff.” Rather, it subtly says, “I am connected to you, I am in your care” as if by wearing an item of my clothing, she somehow knows she is in my protection. And I feel it too, when I drive her to the high school and she gets out of the car and walks toward the front doors. Most days she doesn’t turn around to wave good-bye. And that’s ok. My teenage daughter has chosen to borrow my clothes. Maybe that makes me feel sort of hip. Maybe it’s like a rubber stamp on my style choices. Or maybe it’s just for that particular day, by wearing my shirt or sweater or jacket, she feels me wrapped around her.

Comments

The Scary Mommy Community is built on support. If your comment doesn't add to the conversation in a positive or constructive way, please rethink submitting it. Basically? Don't be a dick, please.

  1. 1

    Athena says

    That’s a really sweet senitiment. I wish my mother felt the way you do. When I used to try to borrow her clothes she just got angry about how she couldn’t have anything of her own.

    Show Replies
  2. 3

    Diana.P says

    Ooh goodness…I am going through this at home. Our Ryan is 14 and when she dives into my closet I stand back and awe how her thought process develops. “My little girl IS growing up”, is all I can help think. I enjoyed your article and reminded me how fleeting are these moments. {tear}

    Show Replies
    • 6

      Randi Olin says

      Thanks for your comment and for identifying with the piece. There are certainly many teenage “moments” but it’s nice having this connection with our daughters.

      Show Replies
  3. 9

    Sarah says

    Thanks for putting a different perspective on this! I get upset when my 16 yo borrows my stuff. I think I do b/c she doesn’t ask so that is part of the problem and then a lot of times she will stain something or I will never get it back. My husband tries to tell me to be flattered by it as well but I feel it is lack of respect mainly b/c she doesn’t ask. We’ve talked about it and she is getting better at that. And I am also realizing that it is just clothes, no big deal.

    Show Replies
    • 10

      Randi Olin says

      Thanks, Sarah. Good point – not everything comes back the way it went out. A spot or a missing button here or there, etc. But I still like it when my daughter borrows my stuff:)

      Show Replies
    • 12

      Randi Olin says

      Thank you Shelley! My daughter used to borrow my shoes but her feet are bigger than mine and she would stretch them out. So, now it’s just shirts, sweaters, jackets, etc.

      Show Replies
  4. 13

    says

    When I was in high school, my Mom would have thought I was nuts to borrow any of her clothes because she was 30 years older than me, and we wore completely different styles. But, that was in the olden days, when it was not a goal to be the "cool" Mom.

    Show Replies
    • 14

      Randi Olin says

      When my daughter borrows my clothes it makes me feel like we have a stronger connection. The added bonus is that it also makes me feel kind of cool. I didn’t borrow my mother’s clothes when I was in high school either. Now, thinking back, I’m wondering if I missed anything good in that meticulously neat closet of hers. Thanks for your comment.

      Show Replies
  5. 15

    says

    My daughter sometimes shops in my closet, too, and I feel flattered on those days she chooses a sweater of mine or asks to borrow boots. I can completely relate to all you have so beautifully written about the closeness you feel to your daughter and how sharing clothes represents your connection. Next fall, when my daughter goes away to college, I secretly hope she will ask to take along one or two things of mine….I, too, would love to think that my (symbolic) arms are wrapped around her when she is miles away. Lovely, lovely post.

    Show Replies
    • 16

      Randi Olin says

      Thank you! I hadn’t really thought about her going off to college in a year and a half, and how I will feel if (and when) she slips a few of my things into her bags. The idea that she will take a piece of me with her is a lovely image. And I will welcome it:)

      Show Replies
  6. 17

    says

    Oh I love this! As a new mom to a teen and trying to adjust to the changes in my little girl, this gives me hope that we might be able to remain close on some level through these years that are feeling a little scary to me right now.

    Show Replies

Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>