Dress like father, like son

Despite 28 years separating them, Ms Serene Soh considers her daughter Venus Yap, her style sister.

Ms Soh, 42, says she and her daughter shop monthly at haunts which "youngsters like", such as Bugis Junction, Cotton On, H&M, Forever 21 and Uniqlo.

"I am the one who dresses like her. It's pretty all right because the brands we buy are trendy, so there's no age limit," says the assistant retail manager (women's accessories) at Takashimaya department store.

Venus, 14, who shows the lookalike pictures of mummy and her on her mobile phone to close friends, says: "My friends are surprised my mum is so sporting and cool to wear the same clothes as me."

When Venus and her mother see an outfit they like, they buy two of it - mum gets the "more mature" shades (blacks, greys or blues), and daughter, the bright hues (pinks and greens).

Ms Soh says: "At times, if we want the dress in the same colour, we argue. But I'm the paymaster, so she gives in to me. And we take two of the same pieces."

Their dress-alike practice began when Venus was about 12 - mum used shopping jaunts as a way of spending time with her daughter.

Ms Soh is fine wearing cartoon character tops too. On a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland two years ago, she bought a Mickey Mouse T-shirt, that Venus liked, for herself as well.

"I don't feel childish. The cartoon character is older than I am," she says, laughing.

Ms Soh, who says she has not received funny looks from strangers, is undeterred by questioning from her 49-year-old husband, a deputy senior manager in a construction firm: "Why do you have to dress alike? Are you afraid people won't know you are mother and daughter?"

Nor does her 17-year-old son's typical comments - such as "Mum, you are not a teenager" - put her off.

If she had her way, she would be her daughter's dress double "for as long" as possible, says Ms Soh.

But she senses otherwise.

"Lately, she seems to feel slightly awkward about us wearing the same dresses," notes Ms Soh.

"She'll say, 'Mum, don't you think this is too young for you?' or 'Don't you think you're too old for that?'"

Time is on Mr Anup Mirchandani's side - he has a few more years to don the same sporting gear as his sons.

When elder child Zayden, now four, was tottering around in his Michael Jordan onesies, dad wore Michael Jordan T-shirts.

Says Mr Mirchandani, 36, managing director of investment firm Uner Investments: "We're like a home team. For the boys, they look good in similar clothing and feel happy looking like daddy. For me, it makes me feel young again through my children."

Father and sons' coordination is evident in colour (reds, blacks and whites), patterns (checks, stripes and plain) and styling (say, military shorts or sports T-shirts supporting dad's favourite basketballer LeBron James of Miami Heat).

They shop at Armani Exchange or online at the National Basketball Association shop, for instance, adds Mr Mirchandani.

His wife Neetu, 36, says if she had a daughter, they would "definitely have a few matching outfits". But teaming up to look like the boys, including two-year-old Xavion, is out.

"It looks cute when dad and sons dress alike, but it would just be a bit too much if all four of us dressed the same," says Mrs Mirchandani, vice-president for strategic alliances and communications (Asia Pacific) at digital publishing firm, Tickled Media.

But all cute things must come to an end. His older son is already "branching out", with requests for superhero T-shirts.

Says Mr Mirchandani: "It's up to him. Anytime he tells me, 'Daddy, don't dress like me', I'll stop. The younger one is still okay."

Ms Shandy Tee, 36, whose mum used to dress her and her older sister in the same garb "for convenience", now dresses like her 12-year-old daughter Tricia instead.

She says cheerfully: "It's so fun to buy matching outfits. I like it that we dress alike, so she can be a mini me. For example, the I Love Zara T-shirt at Zara Kids - I took a size 14-16 and she took a size 10-11. For Uniqlo items, she takes an extra small and I take extra large."

Mother and daughter have several dresses and tops in stripes and polka dots (fashionable but not faddish, mum says), two pairs of similar Converse sneakers in blue and red and similar Havaianas thongs.

They share Ms Tee's Nixon watches and Tricia sometimes borrows mum's Givenchy shoulder bag in lime green while mum slings on a similar brown one.

The preferred pairing colour is blue, which is slimming for mum. Blacks and browns are out because they are too sombre for a teenager, says Ms Tee, an assistant manager (marketing) at Tangs department store.

In fact, she is enthusiastic about dressing the whole family according to a theme.

For a casual buffet wedding early this month, she got everyone - including her 37-year-old husband and twin nine-year-old sons - to don combinations of blues, earning her husband's protest.

Ms Tee recalls: "He said, 'Do we need to dress like we had our clothes cut from the same cloth?' But I feel it's nice. It's easy to recognise us as a family."

Tricia says her friends have not seen her and her mother as a dress duo because the match-up happens on weekends and at parties held by her mother's friends.

But if she were spotted by friends, she says: "I won't feel embarrassed - she's my mum. We bond."

Ms Elaine Heng, founder of Elaine Heng Image Consultancy, 37, feels it is "perfectly fine" for parent- child pairs, even the entire family, to be clothing clones.

That is, as long as the fit is right and the adult person dressing young "looks good".

She adds: "Some parents are pretty well- maintained, so they look younger than their actual age."

However, she feels the dress-young approach works best for parents from their 20s to mid-30s. Otherwise, arm flabs and tummy folds may render them as mutton dressed as lamb.

Ms Evelyn Chye, 32, counsellor at Family Central (under Fei Yue Community Services), says it is all right to show "family solidarity" by dressing alike.

But "when kids don't wish for parents to do so anymore, parents should allow room for negotiation", and consider their children's views.

Mrs Amita Menon, 44, is not even going to start. She feels it is "so not cool" for her to be togged out like her daughters Tara, 12, and Madhavi, six.

"The kids won't like it because their style is their space," says the director of Mathnasium, a mathematics learning centre.

Young Tara, who likes shorts and T-shirts and neon colours and denim, says: "I'll freak out because it's a really weird thing for mum to do."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.