How Your Upbringing May Influence Your Style and The Way You Shop

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how have the messages you received growing up influenced what you wear and how you shop today?

In this video with Jill Chivers of Shop Your Wardrobe we discuss how early influences from our years of growing up have influenced the way we shop and elements of our style.

Tell me – has anything from your childhood influenced the way you dress or shop?  Does it still affect you today or have you changed the way you think or act?

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14 Comments

  • This is such a meaningful topic for me. I also grew up wearing mostly hand-me-downs and was very self conscious of not being nicely dressed. I was so impressed by other children who were given lovely clothes to wear. As a result, it is difficult for me to spend time putting myself together. I sometimes want to be dressed like others although it may not be the right style for me. That is why I love this blog and have learned so much from it. Thanks for these thoughtful and insightful videos!

  • Very interesting! In my upbringing, the question was’nt that much about money, but my parents, too, seem to firmly believe that clothes have to be functional, and that’s it. They live in a small town and everybody looks kind of alike there. People (women?) who dress in a way that’s different, elegant or (God forbid!) sexyy are considered superficial, shallow or arrogant, as someone who deseperately seeks attention. I love clothes and use them for selfexpression, so I have totally gotten rid of this believe, but it’s something that I’m struggling with when I’m visiting. What kind of clothes do I bring, how much do I want to adapt? There’s also the eternal fight to put my mother into clothes that actually fit her slim, athletic body instead of oversized fleece sweaters. I think that battle is lost.

  • I didn’t get hand-me-downs, but only because I was the eldest! Everything was the cheapest and most basic, and I was well into my teens before I could make any choices for myself.The results of that are that I hate anyone else choosing my clothes for me, and it’s taken me many. many, many years to be willing to pay even a little more for better quality.
    Oh and one more thing — my grandmother used to buy me lots of blue, because it suited me (and still does). I also wore blue uniforms right through my schooling. I still don’t buy much blue for myself, even at age 60, because i was SO sick of always wearing blue!

  • Bargin shopping- for most of my childhood and adolescence the importance of getting the best deal and never paying full price was reiterated by my mom and other family members. Getting something on sale meant you could afford to buy more which was seen as valuable and I’m still working through that mindset. What’s more interesting to me is that growing up my mom (and a couple other female family members) had their colors analyzed and shopped stritctly within them. I rebelled in my teens and 20’s by buying and wearing every color I could find and embraced the variety. But earlier this year I got my colors analyzed and started paring down my wardrobe and shopping smarter in that respect.

  • My mother was a small town girl who lived at home, but had a good job in the city. She traveled Europe as a young woman, and generally had tastes and experiences that were unusual for our rural town. (Not snobbish, just very refined.). Her ethic was to buy beautiful clothing on clearance when possible and to sew copies when it was not possible. She was an excellent seamstress, so my brother and I were nicely dressed for a low price, and the only”hand-me-downs” I remember were from a wealthy cousin near NYC. (We’re talking things that have been worn once or not at all.) We had cheap play clothes, though. She was an excellent manager of both money and time (I still can’t believe she raised us, worked, and sewed all of those clothes!), and she taught me a lot about quality fabric/clothing and how not to look tacky. I was fortunate to have been raised by her.

    Now I have four children of my own, and those lessons have benefited us greatly. I have never been able to find the time to commit to sewing, even though I love it, but I do know how to buy quality. Since we are raising twice as many children on only one income, the majority of my children’s clothing has been used clothing, but you would never know it. There are many good resale options, but it does take more time to do your shopping. I also learned (from Mom) how to keep laundry looking well cared for, so most of my used clothing has made it through two additional boys or girls. My kids have learned (from me) to see resale shops as a treasure hunt, and The only complaints I really get are when I have to fill in store-bought necessities for the older daughter, because the younger daughter wants to be able shop as well. I do try to buy a few little things for her as well, because I know it’s unfair, but I also try to point but that she frequently has more to choose from than her older sister (all of sister’s clothes plus anything new from gifts or new resale finds). I think at this point she’s beginning to see it as an advantage, and I hope it’s not detrimental in the long run.

    So I guess I owe mother a thank you note! The one thing that my mother never taught me was how to dress for my own shape. She has very classic tastes, which I share, but many are too boxy for my short, curvy shape. The most beautiful Chanel would just make me look dumpy! So that’s what I’ve been learning from you, Imogen, and it’s been a wonderful education. I am now trying to raise my girls to know how to dress best for themselves and not just worry about looking like the latest fashion or what everyone else is wearing. Hopefully they won’t fall into my teenage trap of thinking that if I just lost some weight, the wrong shaped clothing would suddenly look right on me. Thanks!

  • hand me downs from cousins and friend’s kids ( which I loved, a big bin liner chock full of clothes was wonderful) also hand made by mum or her sister’s mum in law and stuff from jumble sales, today I have a passion for vintage and bargains and thrift stores.

  • I was a princess “in my own mind” and remember only wanting to wear skirts and dress. For some reason, unfathomable to me now as I wear pants and slacks a lot, I found them uncomfortable. I was also born with a “frou frou” gene and always wished for pretty, feminine clothes – the bigger the pouf the better. I still remember my outfit for my Grade 1 break-up day – my fine hair had been cut into a pixie (with the aim to ‘thicken it up) and I had on a linen shift decorated with fruit, and pink sneakers. I was oblivious to that this might actually be stylish and longed to wear a dress with a sticky-out skirt like most of the other girls. My mother and father although from modest backgrounds (and post-WW2 refugees) looked tremendously glamourous in the black and white photos of their youth, dressed in their best clothes and immaculately groomed – better than movies stars (I thought). I do like casual clothes but do long for a dressed-up occasion to honour my childhood memories. Maybe you could do a post and ask readers to send in photos of their mothers in their youth to see if they emulated their style or rebelled against it!

  • Similar experience for me, wore my brother’s hand me downs, though I think this was more because my parents didn’t really have the money to buy me new. Though funnily enough, my mum was and is incredibly interested in appearance and always had good quality clothes, though of course she was fully grown, so it probably made more sense. Consequently, I have a slightly mercurial view of clothes. I can be a real bargain hunter most of the time (sales, charity shops etc) but occasionally splash out on more expensive classic items…. Anyway, like my mum, I do like clothes, just because I like them, so it’s important for me to keep it all fun and not slide into the functional fashion of middle age. Probably I think i got away with being unimaginative and unadventurous and stingy with clothes in my youth, (had a more toned body, better skin and hair etc). But I think it’s more important to make more effort now 🙂 xxx

  • Hi,
    I listened to this with mixed emotions. I remember being a teenager in a family of 12 with a mother who struggled with poverty and yet was a lover of fashion. I also have 6 children of my own. I note their different styles and I have always allowed them to chose within reason between 2-3 items. However, I do say to them when you are older you will move into a style that you love, for now you need to realise Mum can only buy what she can afford. My daughter is very tall for her age and very slender. Imagine a 6′ girl wearing size 6-8 and having very large feet. At first she loved business clothes. So we lay-by’d clothes in Target business range and paid them off. Picture her growing at an astonishing rate for 6 years and picture the other kids needing to be clothed and fed. Then at age 12 she changed, she decided she liked surfie clothes and then she decided she liked leather instead of the silver she had loved. Meanwhile the youngest is sprouting at an astonishing rate and at 12 is very buxom and curvy (like Mum) and has changed her style from cute and kiddy to a miniature me in pencil skirts and long boots and sparkly tops. Everyone says, “She’s a mini you.” Suddenly Target jeans didn’t make the grade because they don’t fit nicely in different shapes and they lose their shape after a few wears so Just Jeans was not in. We went from $40 per pair of jeans (2 per child) to $69 and so we of course got the VIP card and use it. My boys… one loves casual and he is an outdoors guy who surfs, ski’s, jamms, hunts and literally anything else. However, he never began to get his own style till he began working and he said to me only last week, “Mum I know you always did your best and I love you for it.” My eldest girl is 25 and still wears frilly romantic chiffon and clips in her hair which I wanted her to grow out of and mature, but now married and living miles away she still dresses in a girly style and says to me, “Mum, help, I have bags and bags of clothes and nothing to wear..” so I give her advice on how to trim down to her favourites and pick only what makes her feel great, choose a few colour and work around that and she inevitably can’t part with a single thing. My eldest son is a style king and he has bought jeans at $300-400 a pop when he first began work. He was always very pristine, scrubbing his shoe laces and whitening them and avoiding puddles like they were a tragedy and he always had the supercool hairdo. He was a knockout looker and every time he went to town came home with a few girls in tow wanting to hang out with him (??) Now all these children are the byproduct of one single mother who was poor. They all have their own personalities and styles. They all managed to style themselves and be how they wanted to be with me as their mum looking for price and practicality. I mean be fair to the mothers! They may have lived through harder times than we and learned lessons that meant food was going to be on your table and a bed at night was waiting for you.
    My girls and my boys have always had 2-3-4 optiions and always veered toward what they wear now. Always. I recall when my 3rd child was 10ish he wouldn’t wear tshirts with prints or patterns or any words on them. He refused time and again and i would say, hmmm, what about this one? No! No words! Now he buys himself things with words and pictures all over them. He loves to wear what I call English Yuppy Style. My 5 child loves Surfie Gear, my 2nd loves Frilly FemininexBoho, and my eldest well, imagine an Italian Designer and you’ve got him perfect. Number 4? He wants me to choose all the time. He’s 18 in April. I will say, do you like this hon? He will say, you chose Mum, you always get good things.
    My Mother was wearing patches on her skirts until they were patchwork. She had 1-2 regular outfits and t-shirts with holes. In my fathers life time he had 4 suits and died at 66 leaving Mum behind. Poor parents give all for their children. I think a pair of shoes and how teenagers feel wanting to be in with the group, and still feeling that Mum may have effected their style shows a lack of understanding and perhaps insight and depth for their care.
    I mean hell, the kids down our street always had the latest and greatest and their ears pierced and coloured cotton jeans and friends over all the time but their Mum was an alcoholic and their dad an absent most of the time truckie. I played at their place and coveted their things only momentarily. When I came back home to our squashy 3 bedroom home with 14 occupants and our nice warm meals and Mum with her old patched skirts, I was home.
    Sure at a young age I thought I had big feet and pretended that my shoes were at home and would go into the lost property and get smaller shoes to make my feet look dainty, but that lasted only briefly.
    The parenting that leaves a lasting impression on your mind & life is the parenting that goes beyond what you to wear. My children, and I can say this without reservation, whatsoever, don’t dress to fit in with any other kids, ever. They each have their own style and they know what suits their body and they know what is valuable in life. Clothes are nice and they make us look better than when we first drag ourselves out of bed, but there is more to life than clothes and shoes. Parents made you who you are and the person you will be.
    Thank them for it and if they didn’t do a good job, take it as a warning to do better in your own parenting. I love my poor old mother and my working hard, poor father and they more than once had to suffer for our sakes.

  • My mother grew up near London during WW11 and her family basically lived on coupons to buy the bear essentials. In her eighties now, she still clips out coupons to save a few cents on groceries – and thats what I grew up with. While the other girls at school had cool patent shoes and simple shift dresses, I had to wear practical leather shoes and home made clothes more in the stylel of 50’s pouffy dresses which I hated. That really affected my confidence. When I got my first holiday job in my early teens, the first thing I went out and bought was a pair of red patent platform clogs and red patent wallet. To this day i still have an obsession with patent and shoes in general and like simple clean lines that gear more towards dressed casual. Think Charlize Theron and thats pretty much my style. I get lots of compliments about how I dress so I like to think I’ve overcome my early style limitations but I do think it impacted me negatively, in that I always think I never have enough. That today will be the last day I’ll have to get that amazing pair of shoes.

  • My mum – she has a total different style than I do and it is so terrible – when I went on a holiday, she came by to give me a ride to the train station and the first thing she said was – oh my gosh, you are not chic, the colours don’t go together – how can you wear that. And your watch – a Michael Kors watch, which is one of his bigger ones and I am plus size – this watch looks as if it is a whoremonger watch or when I wear big jewellery – I can always hear – how can you wear that… although the scale is good for my plus size figure …. if I wear a ponytail, I wear a hairstyle to defend men… those things are normal. Some time ago, I went with her to a shop and the sales assistant said that the likes old-fashioned clothes and that’s true. One big problem is that I live in the countryside – I love to wear ponchos and they have been in style for a while and I am an O-type – so it should be ok – but many of the people in my area don’t know that and so some said that I look like a hobbit when I wore my dark green poncho — in those moments I would love to live in a big city…but all the comments hurt …

  • My mom sewed my clothes and then taught me to sew. I had a lot of double-knit polyester pants in a rainbow of colors in junior high because my mom got a great deal on remnants, so it was not so great for my style (not that a chubby 7th grader with glasses who rode her bike to school with her violin balanced on the handlebars was going to be setting any trends), but it did teach me what a well-made garment looks like, which is why I pretty much despair of almost all clothes that I see now. I sure would like a 5/8″ seam allowance so I could let that blue dress out a schoosch.

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