Momma’s Empire: Cookie & ‘Bo Stunt Modern Mom Style
Once upon a time, playing a TV mom meant you were relegated to frilly house dresses or sensible slacks/ pantsuits (I’m looking at you Florence Henderson and Donna Reed) and then later still, frumpy pants, sweater sets, running shoes and awful haircuts. In the last few years however, fashion has made TV characters come alive and viewers invest further into shows as they draw style inspiration from their favorite characters. In turn, some of those inspirations have delved into stylish collaborations based on those personas allowing the public to infuse some of the show into their own lives. Audiences also gravitate towards characters whose style they relate and aspire to.
The clothing worn by these iconic TV moms are embedded in our psyche (for better or worse) and have in a way become a secondary character. You could always tell what “mom type” the woman was by her mom-iform. In the same vein as Claire Huxtable and Vivian Banks (the first version) today’s modern matriarchs are bringing black style to the forefront and introducing a variety of designers to those who may not otherwise know their names.
While Claire and Aunt Viv were rocking 80’s and 90’s specific looks they still had a similar overall style, professional and classic with pops of color. Rainbow and Cookie are about as opposite as they come yet they somehow manage to make their opposing styles convey their authority, power and success and their personalities. These days the fashion is just as important as the characters themselves. Clothing is used to define personas and attitudes and gives the viewer the ability to “predict” what will happen when their favorite character is wearing a particular hue or pattern.
Enter Cookie Lyons and of the hit FOX show Empire – fans are RAVING about Taraji P. Henson’s clothing and overall style on screen. It’s resonating with them on a level that’s both personal and aspirational. Cookie slays each and every week in over the top ensembles most of us “moms” wouldn’t think of wearing on a Tuesday, much less to work. The woman has not met an animal print (or any print for that matter) that she won’t wear and a fur that was too hot. But even in her most outrageous get-ups she commands attention, and not because her skirt is too short. Her clothes don’t just make her character, they ARE a character.
This brings us to Rainbow Johnson, fashion forward matriarch on another fan favorite, Blackish. She’s got accessible fashion down to a science and the way she keeps it real in scrubs, pajamas and a mix of stylin’ separates is refreshing to mothers on how we’re being represented on TV. You know her jumpsuits are Isabel Marant and her jeans are designer but you also know she’s earned her closet full of designer clothing thanks to her career as a doctor but Bo’s style is all about mixing patterns, textures and styles in a way that works for her life and that comes across in what we see on screen. Her eclectic look is appealing to women with similar lifestyles and I think that’s part of what draws audiences to her character. Similarly, Cookie leads a somewhat more glamorous life as a record executive with grown children and her wardrobe reflects her current season in motherhood.
But overall, these are not just mothers; they are strong and bold women who happen to be mothers and are using fashion as a vehicle to express themselves. Something women in the real world do every single day.
Women like Cookie and Rainbow are great examples of how diverse women of color are and how personal style is not tossed to the wayside simply because we become mothers, like what we’ve seen in years past where the mother puts her looks on the back-burner while she takes care of everyone else.
Shows like Empire and Blackish are paving the way for more opportunities for black women in the fashion industry to make their mark and allows brands to see mothers as more than just mindless housewives / business women who will just put on whatever is in front of them.
We’re not all sweater sets, yoga pants or business suits and it’s about time the mothers on TV portrayed the same sense of style as mothers do in the real world, don’t you think?