The new dos and don'ts of mother-daughter dressing

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Angelina Jolie at the Eternals premiere in Los Angeles on Monday with her children (from left) Maddox, Vivienne, Zahara, Shiloh and Knox - Axelle/Bauer-Griffin
Angelina Jolie at the Eternals premiere in Los Angeles on Monday with her children (from left) Maddox, Vivienne, Zahara, Shiloh and Knox - Axelle/Bauer-Griffin

Before I had children, I was staunchly against any kind of matchy-matchy dressing. It’s a bit tacky, I thought. It’s only a small step away from Danniella Westbrook, her daughter and her daughter’s pram in full Burberry checks circa 2002.

Just you wait, I’d like to tell my former self. I had twins 14 months ago, and let me tell you, the temptation to put them in matching outfits, or twin my outfit to theirs, is extremely strong. No wonder so many childrenswear brands have diversified into womenswear – Newbie, Seraphina and Polarn O Pyret all offer adorable mother-daughter looks, and while I still have some reticence, I know plenty of very stylish women who love it.

There’s a skill to keeping mini-me dressing sophisticated though, as Angelina Jolie clearly knows. At the premiere of the new Marvel Studios film Eternals – for which she wore a strapless khaki Balmain corset and trousers from the spring/summer 2022 collection – she arrived with five of her six children. Sons Maddox, 20, and Knox, 13, both wore black, while daughters Zahara (16), Shiloh (15) and Vivienne (13), wore dresses that coordinated with, rather than matched, Angelina’s.

A perk, of course, of having an A-list parent, is their red carpet wardrobe and Zahara is now old enough to raid it: she chose the Elie Saab couture gown that Angelina wore to the Oscars in 2014. Shiloh wore a deconstructed beige dress with a mullet hem, and Vivienne wore a cream dress with a square neckline.

Former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, her daughter Julia Restoin Roitfeld and granddaughter Romy at the Balenciaga show at Paris Fashion Week - AFP via Getty Images
Former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, her daughter Julia Restoin Roitfeld and granddaughter Romy at the Balenciaga show at Paris Fashion Week - AFP via Getty Images

Together, it made for a family photo that was stylish and coordinated, without looking too twee. This is not a picture that the Jolie-Pitt kids will cringe at in a few years, bemoaning their mother’s questionable taste in clothes. This one will stay on the mantelpiece.

We’ve seen other chic examples of mother-daughter dressing recently too, like Kate Moss and daughter Lila, both wearing velvet at Paris Fashion Week but very much in their own ways. Kate’s belted blazer was a grown-up take on the look, while 19-year-old Lila’s slouchy trousers were more fitting for a teen.

There was triple generation coordination courtesy of former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, her daughter Julia Restoin Roitfeld and granddaughter Romy, nine, who all wore black with sharp lapel jackets for the Balenciaga show.

Meanwhile, back in July, we saw Heidi Klum and daughter Leni, 17, coordinate in contrasting shimmery gold evening gowns (Heidi in Elie Saab and Leni in Versace) at the AMFAR gala in Capri.

Heidi Klum and daughter Leni, 17, at the AMFAR gala in Capri - Getty Images Europe
Heidi Klum and daughter Leni, 17, at the AMFAR gala in Capri - Getty Images Europe

There’s a lot we can learn from these fashionable family outings, the key lesson being that mother-daughter dressing is more nuanced than taking a garment and simply sizing it up or down – and many fashion brands have evolved their childrenswear to appeal to women who want to take this route. 

Take the cut of the childrenswear at Yolke, which is completely different from its celebrity-loved womenswear even though the prints are the same; Self-Portrait’s childrenswear reflects the aesthetic of the womenswear without mirroring the styles exactly; Rejina Pyo’s kids’ collection shares a palette with the ready-to-wear.

Angelina and co also prove to us that our children’s clothes don’t need to be from the same brands as ours. If I buy a special dress, it’s with the intention of wearing it for years to come, but it seems foolish to do the same for my children who need bigger clothes every few months. Hand-me-downs, whether from mother to teenage daughter or from older child to younger child are not only charming, but tick that eco-friendly box. 

Kate and Lila Moss in velvet at Paris Fashion Week - Getty Images Europe
Kate and Lila Moss in velvet at Paris Fashion Week - Getty Images Europe

Instead I might follow Kate Moss’s lead and match textiles - me in a corduroy blazer, the kids in their H&M cord dungarees. Or perhaps I’ll do a tonal palette, with all of us in different shades of beige, a la Angelina. We could all don different takes on Breton stripes, another cool, cohesive look that doesn’t demand a big budget or styling skill.

The trick to keeping it chic, in my opinion, is to just coordinate on one element – be it print, fabric or colour – and not all of them. But if you want to do full-on twinning, I won’t judge you, as the mummy-and-me fashion offering has never been so strong.

Watch: 6 Special Mother-Daughter Traditions You Should Start This Year

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