This post is sponsored by AARP through their campaign to #DisruptAging. All opinions are my own.

For as long as I can remember my mother has taught me “how to be.” She taught me etiquette, table manners, proper public behavior, and how to dress.

My mother grew up in a middle class family in a diverse, but racially segregated Midwestern city during the 1950s and 60s. My grandparents were determined to give her, my aunts and my uncle every opportunity life had to offer.

My mother as a child in the 1950s

As an African American family during the rise of Civil Rights their effort was often met with opposition. The goal my grandparents had for their children became the goal my mother had for her own.

And that goal was to ensure I was equipped to compete in a world that would make it’s first judgement about me based on my appearance. So her style was more than color, cut, and fabric. Her tips on fashion were life lessons that stand the test of time.

Buy Timeless Pieces

The best fashion advice I’ve gotten from my mother is to wear timeless, classic pieces in neutral colors. A black skirt suit or navy pinstriped blazer will never go out of style. And you can always wear them – through flash in the pan fashion fads and at any age.

Wear Natural Fabrics

As a new college graduate headed off to my first job my mother gave me two pieces of advice. Keep some rainy day money and wear natural fabrics.

I grew up in the 80s when the twins Poly and Ester became highly popular. Although natural fabrics like cotton, wool and silk can be more expensive, clothes will last longer and fit better when you wear natural fabrics.

She taught me to invest in clothing that will look and feel good on me at any age and any size.

Simple cotton top and pants accessorized with a scarf

A Touch of Lipstick

In high school I didn’t make much effort with my appearance. I suffered a traumatic hair loss just before 9th grade and decided that hair and makeup just weren’t my thing.

My mother begged me to try lipgloss and eyeliner. The harder she pushed, the more I refused. She was trying to teach me that image and style extend beyond clothing.

The recent popularity of the red lip/shaped brow 5 minute face proves she was right. As I’ve aged and my skin changes I realize a touch of makeup can truly pull together my look.

Always Pack a Dress

My mother was never a scout, but this fashion tip could also be translated as “be prepared.” You never know when the occasion will call for a dress.

As much as I travel I have adopted this rule. A classic, no-iron dress is an easy travel piece that packs well and lightens your luggage. Especially when you don’t want to check it.

Me in my extra dress and pearls

Get a Good Set of Pearls

There is something classy about wearing a single strand of pearls or a pair of pearl studs. Pearls are a symbol of style and class. She knew if I wore a set of genuine pearls the perception of my status would automatically rise in the eye of the beholder.

What have you learned from your mother’s style that will carry you through the ages and stages of life?