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Keke Palmer dresses like a motha

Her body-conscious look at the Usher concert rejects traditional mom clothing

When Darius Jackson tweeted “It’s the outfit tho … you a mom” in response to a video of the internet’s sweetheart Keke Palmer being serenaded by Usher Raymond during his Las Vegas residency earlier this month, he was implying that her new status in life requires a change in wardrobe. But what should a mom wear exactly?

That evening, Palmer wore a $1,690 Givenchy long-sleeved, sheer black tulle maxi dress with a turtleneck featuring the brand’s 4G logo. Instead of wearing a mini slip dress underneath as advertised on the company’s website, Palmer swapped the slip dress for a black bodysuit. So, yeah, not “mom clothes.” But for Vegas, the look could be considered almost modest.

Jackson and Palmer share a 4-month-old, Leodis “Leo” Andrellton Jackson and the dress wasn’t modest enough for Jackson, who doubled down on his response amid the backlash, tweeting: “We live in a generation where a man of the family doesn’t want the wife & mother to his kids to showcase booty cheeks to please others & he gets told how much of a hater he is.” He continued, “This is my family & my representation. I have standards & morals to what I believe. I rest my case.”

Actress Keke Palmer arrives at the AFI Awards Luncheon at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on Jan. 13 in Los Angeles.

Steve Granitz/FilmMagic

Jackson believes that mothers shouldn’t put their bodies on display. That once you become a mother — please note the sarcasm is ours, not his — your body is no longer yours, it’s in service to your child and you should dress in a manner that makes it easiest to do so. 

Despite having a child as proof that you’ve had sexual relations, you’re banished to shapeless sartorial choices to cover your entire body. It’s why certain items are labeled “mom clothes.” You know the ones: muumuus, stained sweatpants, loose sweaters with baggy necklines, highwaisted jeans, usually paired with minimal jewelry and flat shoes. Oh, and either no handbag or one big enough to double as a diaper bag.

Few high-end fashion designers are clamoring to dress women who have just given birth. There is a dearth of stylish options if your body’s measurements differ too greatly from the fit model. 

“Mom clothes” aren’t just loose-fitting but also typically out of style. Take mom jeans, for instance. Highwaisted denim fell out of the trend cycle in the early 2000s as the rises on the jeans became lower and lower. Saturday Night Live famously parodied the style in a 2003 skit. A fake commercial urged viewers to get “the perfect gift for mom,” jeans that fit “just the way she likes with a nine-inch zipper, front pleats, and cut generously to fit a mom’s body.” “Don’t give her that perfume,” the narrator said, “give her something that says ‘I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom.’ ”

Actress Keke Palmer shows off her pregnant belly during her monologue while hosting Saturday Night Live on Dec. 3, 2022.

Will Heath/NBC via Getty Images

Palmer addressed Jackson’s comments in The Cut’s most recent cover story. She was interviewed for the piece the day Jackson’s comments went viral. “I’ll be honest, I think before I even had the baby, I was really actually quite self-conscious,” she said. “After having my baby, I’ve gotten so much more powerful. We’re going to lean into this new body, and I think that is the whole aura of what’s happening with me in this big boss era as I come into my 30s, and I have my baby boy, and I’m just continuing to spread my wings as a young woman.”
Palmer also dropped new merchandise, a $45 white crewneck sweatshirt printed with the phrase “I’m a MOTHA” in case anyone had any questions on where she stood on the matter – or what a mother should wear.

Channing Hargrove is a senior writer at Andscape covering fashion. That’s easier than admitting how strongly she identifies with the lyrics “Single Black female addicted to retail.”