As it so often does, at least on TV shows, it all comes down to the clothes.
In Nickelodeon's "Instant Mom," Sundays, Tia Mowry-Hardrict plays Stephanie, who goes from being a single, carefree young woman, with a wardrobe to match, to being the stepmother to three children.
One of those children is Gabby ( Sydney Park), who like most 15-year-old girls, thinks she's 29, especially when it comes to wearing outfits that will show off her cute figure. And unfortunately for all involved, she fits well into her stepmom's party dresses.
In the pilot, Stephanie has no problem with lending her stepdaughter a skimpy dress that most moms would object to. Stephanie's mom, Maggie ( Sheryl Lee Ralph), has the good sense to bring to her daughter's attention how inappropriate the dress is for a 15-year-old.
The show does a great job of dressing three generations of stylish women, and that's because of costume designer Michelle Cole.
"She has some of the cutest clothes," Cole tells Zap2it about Mowry-Hardrict's character. "I shop a little higher end for her, Barneys, Beige, Fred Segal." This is the type of character who is always pulled together.
"When she is cooking breakfast, she is always fabulous because she is young," Cole says. "She is mature. She will wear leather with lace, leather coats. She looks her age, a little funkier. She also realizes she is a stepmother and that she is learning and going through that process, and maybe you don't wear bikinis at the pool party."
"She is very much her own person," Cole days of Gabby. "She is a little bossy. She is very independent. And I think she has a gift of knowing who she is."
Cole buys clothes for the character at Urban Outfitters, Fred Segal and Forever 21.
"She is a person who has traveled and goes to Broadway shows and goes to the arts and travels abroad," Cole says of the family matriarch. "I like where she is able to keep it real. This is what motherhood is."
Maggie teaches Stephanie what being a mother really is about, and yes, sometimes that means pouring yourself a robust glass of wine, and sometimes that means shading the truth to your children.
"She loves colors," Cole says. Her wardrobe comes from Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy's, and she wears a lot of cashmeres and silks with brighter tops and, usually, darker bottoms.
Though the three women span three generations, they're all fashionable and age-appropriate. Stephanie has toned down the party vibe, but she's not exactly wearing mom jeans and her husband's discarded T-shirts.
And Gabby, like all teens, is learning that a dress that works on a grown woman is not right for her, but a pleated mini and a little jacket are perfect. And Grandma, well, Cole says, "She is old school, and you wear gloves and hat to church. She is not dated. She looks fabulous."
Photo/Video credit: Nickelodeon