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When it comes to mom pants, comfort and style clash

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Lynne D. Schwabe Lynne D. Schwabe
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Lynne D. Schwabe was owner of Schwabe-May of Charleston, ran her own marketing consulting firm and is a nationally recognized motivational speaker. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Women's Wear Daily, and has appeared on CNBC's Power Lunch. She is now director of development for the National Youth Science Foundation. She can be reached at schwabestatejournal@gmail.com.

I was warned by my daughters when they entered their teens that I mustn't embarrass them. Apparently, there is nothing worse than a mother who says things like "far out" or "gnarly." Additionally, it is nearly a mortal sin to wear clothing that indicates the generation of the wearer, especially if this means the wearer is over the age of 50. 

I am guilty as charged, and it is getting harder and harder for me to get dressed every day. Although I used to spend my life advising women (and sometimes men) on what to wear, I am clearly not able to do so for myself anymore. I mustn't wear a cardigan. Fred Rogers ruined those for the rest of us. What my generation calls "sneakers" are for workouts or sports only.  If either of my children caught wind of the fact that I considered wearing my Nikes to the mall, I might face a wardrobe intervention. Crocs are completely humiliating to the wearer. And no matter how many times I lose my glasses, I am forbidden to wear them on a decorative chain around my neck.

Ok, these rules are clear cut enough. But when it comes to what I used to call "slacks," it gets dicey. According to the two fashion mavens I raised, any pair of pants that fastens around the actual waist of the wearer is a pitiful indication that the wearer is a lost cause. This also applies to any garment that has an elastic waistband. These articles of clothing, often available at Sears, or featured on the cover of "The Vermont Country Store" catalog, are on the verboten list. My daughters refer to them with a great deal of scorn as "mom pants."

It gets worse. There also are mom skirts, mom coats and mom underwear. Mom garments are different from things like "big girl panties," which are desirable, as in, "Strap on your big girl panties and take over the company." Mom garments involve the waistline, which is something we were all born with, but that we mustn't acknowledge by actually wearing anything anywhere near it.  Instead, there are things like "thongs." A thong is a pair of underpants that looks innocuous enough from the front, but looks more like dental floss from the rear. We won't go into what they feel like. Thongs are supposed to solve the problem of "visible panty lines." But anyone over the age of 50 must have panty lines that can be seen from space. And then there are Spanx, a clever little invention — kind of a more modern girdle — that's supposed to hold you together and that made over a billion dollars for the inventor, a woman of about 30, who is a size 0. It was a great idea, and clearly many millions of people bought and are still buying them. But try to wear them! They don't stay put. They roll up uncomfortably — to the tops of your legs or up past the stomach they are supposed to be cinching in. Or they roll down uncomfortably, to just below the stomach they are supposed to be cinching in, giving the wearer the appearance of being six months pregnant. Take it from me: Spanx don't stay put. There is a very funny bit in the movie "The Heat," in which Melissa McCarthy tries to give Sandra Bullock fashion advice that involves Spanx. It's worth watching. And, just for the public record, no one wearing mom garments has ever taken over a company, except possibly on TV.

My closet is full of things that would mortify my girls. I have one or two blazers. No one wears blazers, let me tell you.  Blazers were worn during the Stone Age, often accompanied by archaic inserts called shoulder pads. Any woman considering the adage that "everything old is new again" and contemplating hauling out that classic Harvé Benard orange wool number to wear over jeans is looking for trouble. And remember belts? Worn around the waist?

I do my best. I gave all my Crocs to Goodwill.  I wear sweat pants and cardigans only in the privacy of my own home. I have stopped wearing dresses, because the "no panty hose" rule is impossible, with my varicose veins and in the winter. I never wear shoes that tie, except to the gym. My girls will actually be seen in public with me.

I rebel occasionally. I went out to lunch yesterday, and I wore a V-neck sweater. It was a chilly day, so I wore what looked like a white turtleneck under it. 

It was a dickey.