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Oct 17, 2010

Mom Style

Good morning Gothic Lolita fans and others!  Friends, today I want to talk about another provocative and potentially explosive topic: Mom style.

I spent yesterday with my own Mom, for a drive outside the city to see the fall foliage and to visit a farmers market.  It was a lovely day, albeit a bit on the windy side.

I awoke this morning to read that a favorite TV Mom, actress Barbara Billingsley, had died at the age of 94.

Was there ever a Mom as perfectly coiffed and pulled together as Leave it to Beaver's June Cleaver? 

If you answered yes, you're probably thinking of Jane Wyatt on Father Knows Best.  

What was it about Fifties Moms that made them so easy to poke fun at?  Was it because they were soft-spoken, subservient, and always flawless in a sheath dress and pearls?  Or because they never held a job or yelled.

There were so many stylish Moms back then, from ghoulish-but-glamorous STAHM Lily Munster to sweet and sunny Donna Reed.

By the late-Sixties times were a-changin' and TV Moms were allowed a little more leeway -- but just a little.  Moms were now widows (but never divorcees) raising children alone.  Remember all those Whose life is harder episodes where the girls do the boys chores and vice-versa, or some reference is made to -- mercy! -- Women's Lib?

TV paid lip service to feminism, but Carol Brady, Shirley Partridge, and Doris Martin were always slim, perky, and stylish, and had lots of free time to spend with their kids.

By the late Seventies, America was ready to surrender the perfect Mom ideal.

Florida Evans had her hands full raising three kids in a Chicago housing project on Good Times.  Actress Esther Rolle made Florida a real person and the lack of glamour was a welcome nod to reality.

Ann Romano seemed very real and truly liberated.  But I always found One Day at a Time a little depressing, maybe because it felt a little too much like my life.

Marion Ross on Happy Days evoked the Fifties ideal, but Marion was more Seventies Mom in vintage clothes, a whole lot hipper and more outspoken than June Cleaver.

By the Nineties, we could no longer deny that Moms were often stressed-out, financially strapped, overweight, and strong.  And they screamed a lot.  Roseanne was a true game-changer and TV Moms were never the same.

We've pretty much been in meta-Mom territory ever since.  It seems we can no longer buy the idealized TV-Mom thing. So we get cartoon parody Moms like Peg Bundy and Marge Simpson.

Wise readers, is there any important Mom I've missed?

Which of these Moms was your Mom most like (if any)?  Were the Moms on TV only impossible ideals that made your life (or your Mom) seem miserable and dowdy by comparison?

If you are a Mom, do you model yourself after any of these women, either style-wise or in your approach to parenting? 

Do they have anything to teach us? 

Happy Sunday everybody!


  1. Although not a mom, I adored the ideal of Shirley Booth as Hazel. She is my all time favorite mom-ish TV character. Whitey Blake who played the mom, was most similar to MY mom. We had a Hazel type person in our lives who came once a week to clean the house. Her name was Albina Chamberlin and we called her Mrs. Chamberlin. She had 13 children and her husband had passed away...thus her life as a somewhat 'domestic'.

    I used to love watching "Leave It to Beaver" and was sad to hear that Barbara Billingsly had passed. I could watch these old shows for hours.

  2. Joan Allen as Betty in Pleasantville was my favorite satire of a 50's tv mom.
    Oh the clothes in that film....

    My mom, a fifties child, was a tom boy of the highest order, coonskin caps and trail rides with Roy Rogers, for reals. So as a 70's mom she was women's lib without knowing it. No makeup, playing sports, riding horses, pool sharking, and watching baseball were all her things. Not a domestic bone in her body.
    While her mother was the 1950s housewife down to the cocktail hour she served for my grandfather and his colleagues. I'm so happy to have had both and come out somewhere in between.

  3. Claire Huxtable! As a teenager in the 80s, I think everyone I knew wanted to grow up and live the lifestyle of The Cosby Show.

  4. My mom is only two years younger than Barbara Billingsly, I was surprised to find out. And there has never been a TV Mom like her. Oh, perhaps you last picture comes a little closer than most, or some of the scary women in Lifetime movies. That reminds me, she wants me to make her some clothes, and probably won't understand why I'm not done, full time job not withstanding. Better go off and sew...for her. For me? I don't remember the last thing I made for myself. Can you tell I have mother issues? ;-) You'd be right!

  5. Laura Petrie is my favorite TV mom/wife. She's my ultimate style icon in her flats and cropped cigarette pants. Not to mention her flip!

  6. Yes, yes, Claire Huxtable -- another too good to be true Mom. Laura Petrie was, let's face it, never very convincing as a Mom, imo. That kids could have been the neighbors'.

  7. I was going to mention Claire Huxtable as well. But then I thought of the mom on Family Ties. I think she was my favorite.

  8. I like Claire Huxtable too. When I was young, she was an ideal: smooth, put together, smart, professional and had it going on. My life was much more like a smalltown "Goodtimes" though. We didn't have same level of drugs/poverty/violence they were dealing with/satiring, but the interactions and characters were much the same. Now, even though my life is ostensibly "middle class," we are midwestern transplants in California and our values are much more protestant work ethic than CA is used to. The reality of my life is more like Rosanne. I'm tired and surly and would feed my kid canned slop if he'd eat

  9. Oh, dear, not a 50s mum on my list! I always thought Lily Munster and Morticia Addams were more like real mums: serene and sensible in the midst of the family zoo, and no need to grin and agree like your bobble head 50s mum stereotype. Feminine and strong.

  10. My mom is a Roseanne, hands down.

  11. I am a mum, and I tell people that I'm parenting "70s style". That's code for "I tell my kid to occupy herself while I drink wine and sew".

    In truth, I hope that my kid learns from this to develop her craft and to enjoy her creativity - it's hard to be an artist with a day job.

    I don't see myself in any of the TV mums you've mentioned. Nor do I see my own mother, intriguingly.

  12. Because I am more of a 50's and 60's child, Marion Ross of Happy Days strikes more of a chord for me. Mom was her own person but with Dad not being around that much allowed her freedom. Just tell my mom that she can't do something and watch her get it done...even at 82! Total spunk!

    I look at the Huxtable's as being the ideal family. Oh how I wish I had that life as a child and as an adult.

    You have your mom's smile. Looks like you had a wonderful day.

  13. Another Claire Huxtable fan, but then I am a professional woman with a happy marriage and four kids...and Claire had to have been taking as much Zoloft as I am.

  14. K. Line: That's my parenting philosophy as well, though I refer to my version as "benign neglect." Basically, I remove obvious sharp objects from reach, then turn my DD loose on the world.

    My mother used to tell us when we went out, "Just don't embarrass me." That one rule pretty much covered all parenting issues, I think. :-)

    As far as TV moms go, I think I'm most like moms Grace Kelley ("Grace Under Fire" with Brett Butler) or Jill Taylor ("Home Improvement" - Patricia Richardson).

  15. My all time fave mom was Morticia Aadams. Her and Gomez loved their kids and the kids seemed to feel the same. They seemed to have the steamy marriage that i thought was ideal and still do plus i've been into Gothic Revival since i was iddy biddy.

  16. I always loved Harriet Nelson from The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. She was a 50's TV mom, but had a wry sense of humor and clearly was the brains in that marriage. She was a great, involved Mom and was independent and resourceful. I think she still holds up as a pretty good role model today.

  17. I grew up in the Good Times setting without the Florida Evans type mother, so of course my ideal was The Cosby show. I don't think I'm like any TV mom in particular. I subscribe to K. Line's way of thinking. I have four kids, one a bit older than the rest, so they do a masterful job of occupying themselves. I just swoop in to enforce rules and provide meals and baths. This seems to work well most times, but we have our days.

  18. I used to love The Brady bunch mom she was my ideal mom. Now that I am a mom I'm afraid I'm more like Rosanne Barr. She is more true to life I think.

  19. My mother was more like Aunt Bea of Mayberry, except she would have demanded Barney's gun and a pocketful of real bullets including a full clip in the pistol. Widowed and alone, she developed a reputaion for having a complete arsenal at hand. What she really had was a .22 rifle that frequently mis-fired and a biting dog.

    Personally I waver between identifying with Thelma Harper of "Mama's Family" and Golden Girl Sophia. Get.a.grip.

  20. I think the mom, Lois, from Malcolm in the Middle was the best TV mom ever. She was just so real!

  21. I'm with K-line and Christine B, I remember being glad my mother and her two best friends were ignoring us kids while intently gossiping and needlepointing on a row of lounge chairs beside a friend's pool. I can feel the chlorine in my nasal passages now from all the water-logged fun I had because she was ignoring me. I like to feel that I'm giving my kids the same joy. Also, I once heard Isabel Allende regret in an interview that she had given her own children such a stable childhood. There wasn't an artist among them. She said she was doing her best to traumatize her grandchildren! LOL! On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I need an intervention from Mrs. Piggle Wiggle . . .

  22. Did anyone else notice that there are three moms in the photos who are wearing choker-length pearls/beads: Barbara Billingsley, Jane Wayett and...Marge Simpson. I'm not sure what that means at all. None of these moms was my mom. My mom looked like Lucille Ball (actually looked like her in the 30s, not the "I Love Lucy" model), was a very swanky dresser, used to knock off designer dresses she saw on our yearly New York shopping trips, and was frankly a tough act to follow. She went to college when my sister and I were little at the encouragement of my father, got a job teaching, took her MS and PhD, taught college, published a textbook that I think is still in use in junior high health classes, and looked fab all the way through her last illness. I still meet people who had her as a teacher who tell me what an effect she had on them in their lives, and when I introduce myself, they always say how my mom used to use me as an example in her class. Somehow being 'Little Toby' at my age is sort of weird but whatever...

  23. What about Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show? She was smart, strong, stylish, fun, sexy and awesome mother and a loving wife. Always so calm and collected. A great role model.

  24. As far as satire mom's, my favorite is the mom from The 70's Show.

    None of the TV moms reminds me of my own mom - she was wonderfully unique. :)

  25. Roseanne, without doubt. If I had to pick a mother from this bunch it would be her. She loved her family and she wanted the best for them. She was tough, but fair and she was always there for her family in one way or another. Like shams said, none of these mothers are like mine. In fact, I think I agree with anonymous who mentioned Lois from Malcolm in the Middle. She was probably more like my mother in personality, but she always wore heels and was very, very well dressed.

  26. ChristineB and Erzulimojo: I'm so glad there are others of us out there! I love the term benign neglect! PS - As I write this, I've been sewing for hours and I'm tipsy :-)

  27. I just want to be one of those mums who doesn't work AND has a nanny. Where's my Alice from the Brady Bunch, I frequently lament? The mum from Mary Poppins is pretty funny too, going off on her women's lib marches all dressed to the nines while Mary Poppins looks after the kids.
    Peter, I love the topics you make us all think about!

  28. I think my post got eaten earlier, but I would have to say Joyce Summers from the series "Buffy". She had style AND helped her daughter fight to save the world!


    Joyce: Have we met?
    Spike: Uh, you hit me with an axe one time. Remember, uh, "Get the hell away from my daughter"?

  29. my favorite Mom was Lucile Ball in the original "Yours,mine and ours". Now that was a mom

  30. Diahann Carroll- "Julia"
    She was beautiful, single a AND a working, well educated Mama in the 1960's!!! Just like my Mama!!!!

  31. As a kid I adored Morticia Addams. The US TV mums were all somewhat unreal for an Australian kid.

  32. My much older brothers got the June Cleaver version of my Mom.

    After I came along, she became a single parent and she was closer to Marge Simpson, but still tried to look like the 50's ideal.

    I was Roseanne as a single Mom most of my kids life at home.

  33. Clare Huxtable was pretty much the ideal TV Mum without being nauseating, and oh boy wouldn't it have been lovely to be raised by intelligent parents where the dad had a sense of humour?
    I loved Roseanne for the humour too. My favourite line when her kids were fighting: "I want you lot to fight it out to the death!" and who else would have taken her son to school in full clown costume then put on three rounds of lipstick as she was dropping him off?
    Loved it.

  34. I'm the kind of mom that reads the world's most popular male sewing blog to calls of "Mom! Mo-om!" from across the room. :-)

    Beautiful picture of your mom up there.

  35. Peter, your mom is beautiful.
    I am more of a Roseanne type mom.

  36. I seriously thought Donna Reed was my mom on the TV. They looked so much alike. My mom wasn't even blond, but the black and white tv was more confusing to a little kid. I must have been 3 years old. My mom's answer to being asked if she was on the tv, was "I don't have those clothes."

  37. I am definitely most like the mom on Home Improvement. Let 'em run and hope they don't do too much damage. They never did, bless them. Now my 27 yo eldest has told me several times that he is grateful that I gave them freedom AND high standards to live by. In the last few years it really clicked in for him and I am so relieved. Wasn't looking good there for a while! It is an amazing feeling when you look at your boy and realize he is a good MAN. Tears welling up right now.
    I lost my other son to meningitis at 18 yo in 2005, so having my troublemaker come full circle is something. He is building his second custom home and told me one of the reasons that Mrs. Customer picked him is how he treated his mother. She spoke of the the old saying, "if you want to know how a man will treat women, look at how he treats his mother".
    My mom fits no mold, she is a cross between June Cleaver and Hilary Clinton and is my dad's business partner, an intense business man. I grew up helping with business dinner parties to make any Mad Men fan swoon, but my mom was right there in the mix of it - part of the team, never a figurehead (but she did all the typing). And of course I was not allowed to watch PG movies until 16 ~ in 1980! Always been amazed I was so sheltered, but out in the world. She did a good job in what was a very unusual family. I could tell you stories!!! Thanks for the question - it was nice thinking about it. Enjoy reading every day, although I only post when I feel the need to spill. You have a great blog to be proud of and looks like a great relationship as well. Tip of the hat to ya!

  38. Thank you, Katherine. Great to hear from you!


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