Why I’m embracing mummy-and-me chic

·5-min read
 Emily Cronin with her daughter Ella mummy and me fashion - Rii Schroer  
Emily Cronin with her daughter Ella mummy and me fashion - Rii Schroer

When my daughter was small – or smaller than she is now, aged seven – one of her favourite books was Dress Like Mummy. In it, a little girl named Poppy shares her greatest joy: the moments in which she gets to match her mother (“When mummy wore a pebble-grey coat with birds on it, I wore one too. It completely matched. Hooray!”).

Daughters have always delighted in dressing like their mothers, even when the mothers have been less enthusiastic. I admit that matching my children has never been my main area of interest. Whenever anyone coos the phrase, “mummy and me”, I have to subdue a gag reflex (other expressions that have the ick factor: “me time”; “guilty pleasure”; “mum’s night out”. Shudder.).

But a growing number of fashion brands and designers are expanding into childrenswear, giving mother-daughter matching skeptics like me reason to reconsider. Maybe even making dressing to match enticing. Sweet, without being cloying. And… something I might like to try?

mummy and me dressing ella emily cronin - Rii Schroer 
mummy and me dressing ella emily cronin - Rii Schroer

Last month, & Other Stories introduced its first kidswear collection: a capsule collection of six matching dresses and sets for mothers and daughters. US brand Reformation also released a Mummy + Me capsule (though this one may be more like Babysitter + Me, based on the brevity of the hemlines).

La Coqueta is doing shoes, and a set of matching mother-daughter dresses in florals and fruit prints is at the core of the new M&S x Ghost summer collection. The coordinated sets have been “incredibly popular”: over 70 percent of the mini-me dresses sold so far have been purchased in a bundle with the equivalent women’s dress.

& Other Stories
& Other Stories

Wrap dress, £95, and kids dress, £45, & Other Stories

Even London Fashion Week star Rejina Pyo is at it, with a range of puff-sleeve dresses and workwear jackets for kids that take after her main line. It’s not strictly matching, but the fact that the collection uses offcuts from Pyo’s ready-to-wear collections means there’s a definite family resemblance.

And British brand Yolke, which has offered matching mother-daughter pyjama sets for some time, recently expanded into coordinating daywear for mere et fille.

yolke mummy and me dressing
yolke mummy and me dressing

Meadow Flower Sienna dress, £245, and pinafore dress, £60, Yolke

“When we launched daywear, my daughter Scarlet always saw me in these amazing dresses and wanted to wear the same,” says Yolke founder Ella Ringner. “This collection is to include her. It’s nostalgic and lovely for a child, seeing your mum dress up and knowing there’s something for you to wear, too.”

Mummy-and-me dressing has been around as long as women made dresses for themselves and their families from the same bolt of cloth. If at first it was economical, it soon became twee. What it hasn’t been is chic, which is why I was so intrigued by Seraphina. The Wiltshire-based brand offers sweet smocked dresses in the same fabrics as its womenswear styles, but different shapes.

“That’s the key,” says Ringner. “It’s less about exact matching, and more about a consistent feeling.”

Emily and Ella Cronin - Rii Schroer
Emily and Ella Cronin - Rii Schroer

One-shoulder midi dress, £295, and little puff-sleeve dress, £75, both Seraphina London; Black suede Mary Janes, £75 and £49, La Coqueta

Indeed, none of the brands getting into the mummy-and-me zone these days advocates putting a child into a miniaturised replica of a mother’s dress. The new era of mummy-and-me is more about sharing a print but applying it in a way that’s optimal for an adult, on one hand, and a child, on the other. “It was important to me to reflect a much dreamier and playful aesthetic style, rather than a direct mini-me copy of the designs in my ready to wear collections,” says Han Chong, founder and creative director of Self-Portrait, who just introduced a children’s line.

So while I might wear a one-shouldered midi-dress, my daughter gets a puff-sleeve dress with an elasticated waist and tiered skirt. Wearing the coordinated Seraphina set, I didn’t feel the ick; I felt like myself, and like my daughter was in a lovely dress that she enjoyed – charming, age-appropriate and liberated enough to climb trees in.

marks and spencer ghost
marks and spencer ghost

Mini-me floral dresses, £97 for the set, M&S x Ghost

Trust me, I know the pitfalls of mummy-and-me dressing: it risks infantilising adults or oversexualising children. It can be tacky, especially when it’s rolled out to the whole family and the dog. It’s so American (heaven forbid, says the American). No wonder most of the stylish women I know balk at the very idea. “It’s quite a statement, isn’t it?” one friend says. “I can’t bring myself to do it.” But prod a little, and you’ll find that these are the same women who leave the house en famille in harmonious mixes of cream and beige, not an errant ice-cream drip in sight. They’re doing it too, in their own way.

There’s something pleasing about coordination that underpins the appeal of the new mini-me dressing. It’s a visual cue of togetherness. And it’s a way to harness, for a moment, the fleeting instant in which children want anything to do with their mothers. “What’s the only thing more fun than dressing up?” asks Tara Ryan, M&S head of kids design, who gets it. “Dressing your little one [to match you], before they are too old to say no.”

rejina pyo self portrait m&s ghost
rejina pyo self portrait m&s ghost

Nora dress, £95, Rejina Pyo; Strawberry-print dress, £28, M&S x Ghost; Lace dress, £150, Self-Portrait Kids; Black suede Mary Janes, £75 and £49, La Coqueta

Plus, it won’t be an option forever. Eschew it all you want – but soon your daughter will get bigger, and more opinionated, and start leaving Dress Like Mummy on the bookshelf. And suddenly you’ll be posing in the back garden in coordinating dresses, feeling like a minor nincompoop but also moved nearly to the point of tears, because… it turns out she’s still excited. To dress like Mummy. Surely that’s worth enjoying – at least until one of you outgrows the dress.

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