Give and Take : Mothers in the Business of Dressing Well Swap Clothes With Their Grateful Daughters

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If actress Claudia Christian suddenly realizes she doesn’t have a thing to wear, she knows where to get a quick, free fix.

Her mother’s closet.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, the word sharing comes to mind. In the case of Christian, 25, and her mother, Hildegard Coghlan, the striking 51-year-old director of Giorgio in Beverly Hills, some exceptional closet sharing has been going on since Claudia was 15 years old.

It all started with a sweater, says Coghlan. And while the rules might sound familiar (ask before taking, use with caution, return promptly), her fashion connections make this an above-average arrangement.


Coghlan’s wardrobe tends to be sophisticated, classy and expensive. In addition, during her days as manager of the original Giorgio boutique, owned by Fred Hayman, she acquired an extensive collection of evening clothes.

When Christian needs something very special, she dives into that collection. This year, she borrowed a strapless Chloe cocktail dress for the Academy Awards. “In turn, if I want to look sexy,” says Coghlan, “I can take one of her slinky Azzedine Alaia dresses.”

For Los Angeles retailer-designer Malina Gerber and daughter Anna, the closet sharing involves less give and more take. Malina, who recently added a new women’s line and store to two children’s stores--all called Malina--says her borrowing is limited to “some basics, like a jeans jacket that I don’t have and certain sweaters from secondhand stores.”

Anna, a high school senior, believes her friends don’t closet-share to the extent she does: “Because my mother is a designer, she has a different look. It’s not that she constantly gets new clothes. It’s just that you can arrange them in different ways.”

The borrowing between Allison Ross and her stepmother, Patty, tends to be on a high but limited plane. Patty, who with husband Ron owns Ron Ross in Tarzana, says Allison is tall, which reduces closet sharing “mostly to jackets and once in a while a long, easy skirt.”

Allison, a college freshman, receives some clothing from the store as part of her allowance. Other items she must purchase and still others she can only dream of owning or borrowing. “If it’s something like a very expensive Moschino jacket in Patty’s closet, I know not to ask,” she says. “I’ll just casually walk by and touch it.”