So many style icons cite their own mother as their ultimate source of inspiration. Whether or not that’s true for you, venture into the back of your mom’s closet when you get a chance. Even if you don’t think of her as fashion forward, her closet may be full of long-buried vintage gems by any standard. The following are our best guesses for what to seek out and steal.
1. Denim. Definitely your first stop when raiding your mom’s closet. Denim is always in style in one form or another and chances are what she was wearing before you were born is back in style now. Look for belted shirt-dresses, jean jackets, high-waist wide-leg trousers, and culottes. Don’t rule anything out without trying it on first. If fit proves to be an issue, don’t rule out custom tailoring, either.
2. Vintage turquoise jewelry. Perfect with her ’70s-era wide-leg jeans? A chunky turquoise bib necklace. A silver cuff dotted with turquoise and coral. Or intricate Novajo earrings she wore with her hair parted in the middle. It’s tough to think of a turquoise piece that wouldn’t be worth stealing.
3. Handbags. Next up? Her handbags! Look for designers like Chanel (obviously), Louis Vuitton (of course), Coach (think backpacks and bucket bags), Gucci (any era is a good era), Prada (black nylon styles are still de rigeur), or Pucci (allover prints forever). Your mom might own a gem by an unknown designer, too. Remember: reading tags is just a shortcut—keep your eyes open for anything with lasting style.
4. Watches. Apart from looks, how cool would it be to resurrect the watch your mom wore when she was your age? Don’t be deterred by timepieces that aren’t ticking anymore. It might just be a matter of replacing the battery—a small job by any jeweler’s standards. A classic style by Hermes or Cartier would be an amazing coup, but be on the lookout for beauty in any form.
5. Fisherman sweaters. These might just as likely live at the back of your dad’s closet—but maybe your mom co-opted them. Look closely at cable knits, shrunken or oversized. Top designers reinvent this style of sweater every season, but classic ivory styles still reign supreme. They look so fabulous with blue denim, buffalo plaid, and boots in winter.
6. Trenchcoats. Like denim, trenches never go out of style. Look for anything camel-colored—whether it’s a belted ‘60s style or an oversized menswearish take from the ‘80s. Remember: you can’t judge a trench by the way it looks on the hangar. Try it on and play with it—flip the collar, roll the sleeves, button it, belt it. Attitude is a big part of pulling this kind of coat off.
7. Mumus. Or anything that could pass as a swim cover-up. Inspect everything from long caftans to short tunics to maternity dresses for one-of-a-kind pieces you could wear to the pool with your Birkenstocks. That’s the look. Certainly, if you’re bold enough, wear these styles to the office, too. With the right underpinnings and ankle boots, a tented vintage dress can be singularly chic.
8. Cocktail rings. Last but not least. These are the most fun pieces in her jewelry box—so don’t forget to snag them. Any jewelry that would fall into the more-is-more category qualifies. And by all means—pile it on. The more unique vintage baubles, the merrier.
Happy hunting, readers! Should you raid your mom’s closet and come up empty handed, read our guide to unearthing vintage gems on eBay just like she used to wear.