At age 9 months, Colette Walker dresses only in natural fibers and primarily in layers of loose knits--just like her mother, Judy.
Sierra Helvey, 5, leans toward the romantic and feminine when it comes to clothes. She will only wear dresses. Adores ruffles. And to her mother's amazement, she refuses to wear pants--or shorts.
Amy Lyne, 10, has her own distinct look too, as she has had, according to her mother, since she was 6. It combines the best of everything she gleans from MTV, reads in her mother's fashion magazines and picks up on her European travels with her parents, Samantha and Adrian Lyne, who directed "Flashdance."
A generation ago, mothers tended to dress their daughters as their mirror images. If mom bought a pink gingham pinafore, then daughter got the exact same thing, only several sizes smaller. If it was a special occasion--perhaps Mother's Day--they may even have worn matching hats and bags.
Now a new mother-daughter look has evolved. Daughters have their own sense of style. It starts early, and sophisticated mothers recognize it. But mothers also attempt to "pass on" some of their own fashion know-how, as if it were as integral a part of the child's education as mastering a computer terminal.
For instance, since Colette Walker was born, her mother has been conscientiously returning any gifts of clothing that she doesn't consider "understated."
"I normally wear understated clothes, and that's how I feel Colette should look too," Walker of Santa Monica says. "I think little children in frilly dresses look like manicured poodles."
But the older the child, the less mothers can--or will--dictate how their children will dress anymore. "I don't lay out her clothes and say, 'This is what you wear today,' " Samantha Lyne says of Amy. "She does her own thing, really."
Indeed, what tends to happen is mother and daughter influence each other.
"Sometimes," Lyne says, "I pick up things from Amy that she might have seen on her schoolmates. And she's good at pointing how I look, telling me that she prefers this or that, and quite often she's right. She's good at putting clothes together."
Actress and writer Carol Schlanger-Helvey of West Los Angeles would prefer to see her daughter Sierra, 5, dress a little more like she does--a look she describes as an "aging Cyndi Lauper."
But Sierra has a mind of her own. "I try to mess up her hair, but she won't go for it," Schlanger-Helvey says. The only area where mother and daughter agree is dance clothes. Mother likes the comfort of leg warmers and leotards. And Sierra loves her tutu.
In fashion designer Cara Robin's case, she has watched with pride as her daughter Miranda, 4, has developed her own strong sense of style.
Robin, who lives in Santa Monica, likes to make clothes for Miranda out of fabric left over from her collections. But she says she lets Miranda make the final choice. "She's really aware of color," says her mother. Recently, she recalls, Miranda dressed herself for school in bright yellow pants and a mint green sweat jacket and announced: "Mommy--look, I'm spring."