Three months ago, when 17-year-old Ella Potter was weeks away from graduating high school, she shared a video of her mom, Larissa Mills, on TikTok. Wearing trousers, an overcoat and black Converse, Mills looked desperately chic. It wasn't just me who thought this: To date, the comment section consists of 4,200 pieces of tiny fan mail, like, "Need to see more of her outfits!!!" and, "i wanna be her when I grow up."
Potter, not being one to neglect such pleas, began giving the people what they wanted by way of "outfits of the day" (OOTDs) featuring them both. While she continues to post fashion-adjacent content of her own over at @ellapottersays, the OOTDs with her mom outperform everything else, regularly racking up views in the six digits. The original video introducing Mills to her account clocks in at north of 7 million views.
Mills' style is classic and artfully deconstructed, much in the same way the J.Crew catalogs of yore made you want to buy an oversized men's button-down only to untuck it at just the right angles. Potter's is the same, albeit a little less traditional, with surfer-girl hair that drapes down to her mid-back. Together, they're even cooler — but Mills suspects the series' popularity is not all about clothes.
"I get a lot of DMs about this — to be 50 and to not have given up," says Mills. "I also get DMs about parenting that say, like, 'I wish my mom supported me more,' or, 'I want to have a relationship like yours.' So there is something that I do feel is an emotional component in this capturing of a relationship."
At the start of Potter's last summer at home before heading off to college, I spoke with the mother-daughter pair about their secret sauce and where we can expect to see them next.
Ella, how did this "OOTD" series start?
Ella: I don't know if you know the trend, "Show your mom, then show her pantry."
Ella: I posted one of those and everyone was commenting about her outfit, like, "Oh my God, I love her jacket." And then a couple people commented, "Can you share some of her other outfits?" So I did, and I think it got something like 10,000 likes. Someone also commented that I should do an outfit of the day for her, and the first one I posted has, I think, a little more than 300,000 likes. So I just kept doing them.
I have to ask: What was the jacket?
Larissa: It was just a long, beige overcoat. [Laughs]
Ella: I think people liked it because she was also wearing black Converse. But I'm used to how she dresses, so I wasn't taken aback by it.
No, I understand. Historically, there's this expectation that when people have children, they just become this amorphous figure without the ability to express themselves.
Larissa: It's interesting. When I was pregnant with her, I wore a lot of cotton-knit sweater dresses because they were comfortable, but they were also form-fitting. One in particular was a halter, and it just fit my little bump. I loved being pregnant, and I was proud of that bump. But I remember women coming up to me and being really kind of nasty about it, like, "Wow. You're really showing that bump. In my day, we did not do that." I think it's definitely changed now.
Ella: I mean, Rihanna.
Larissa: Exactly. It wasn't that long ago, and it's weird to me that the mom thing is still sticking — like, once you're a mom, you cut your hair and you can no longer be seen as a fashionable person in your own right. But Ella never had rules around fashion. Someone asked us if I dressed or styled my kids, and I never did. She always wore whatever she wanted to wear. She got to express herself as an individual.
I'm wondering, Larissa, if you might be able to describe Ella's style.
Larissa: Well, when Ella was little, she would put on some crazy combinations of things. I remember her always wearing a million patterns, and putting tutus around her neck instead of her waist. One Halloween, when she was three or four, she was Cinderella, but she decided to wear a bright green towel as a veil. My neighbors were like, "Why are you letting her wear that?" And I was like, "She thinks it's a veil. Just let her wear it. Who cares?"
She's sometimes a little extra compared to her companions. But her style has morphed into this combination of California and New England. She has a casual vibe, but it's feminine, and because my in-laws, her dad's side, are in Sun Valley, Idaho, there's definitely this West Coast influence. It's funny, she reminds me of some of those girls I'd see when I was at boarding school who would come in from California.
Ella, is that accurate?
Ella: Yeah, I'd say that's pretty good.
Okay, then Ella, could you do the same for your mom?
Ella: We both have that Scandinavian influence, but you also have a little East Coast vibe, the Coastal Grandmother thing.
Larissa: Okay, I keep hearing the Coastal Grandmother thing...
Ella: She does a lot of monochromatic outfits and a lot of neutrals.
Larissa: Preppy is in there, too, because when I grew up, "The Preppy Handbook" was like the Bible. You can't even shake that, so you have to use it in a way that's now current. I tried to get rid of it for a little while, but it's just not going away.
Beyond prep, can you two tell me more about where and how you source your style inspiration? Do you ever look to social platforms like TikTok?
Ella: I've gotten inspired when I've traveled. I definitely adapt to where I am. We were in Iceland and I started braiding my hair and wearing some big Icelandic sweaters. I like to embrace the culture I'm in, and I think some of that comes back with me. Obviously I like to use Instagram, too, but there's not necessarily one person who inspires me. I follow Josefine HJ because I like her Danish influence, but I also follow some people with West Coast vibes.
So it's not a copy-paste style iteration, which I don't think is inherently a bad thing, but it doesn't leave much room for creative experimentation.
Ella: I agree.
Larissa: I find that I get bummed out if I'm wearing something that I then start seeing everywhere. It's not that I did it first, but it's inevitable. It's how trends work. That's why I wear the classic looks, because they've been around forever. I'm also 50. Even still, I'm incorporating new things, but at 50, you do find your groove.
Ella, you graduated from high school recently — is the Outfit of the Day going to continue when you head off to college?
Ella: She has her own Instagram where she posts her outfits, but we're also starting a YouTube channel. So when I'm home, we'll do 25-minute videos when we can. I don't know what kind of stuff we're going to post yet, but I think we're starting off with a Q&A so people can get to know us a little better.
Larissa: I don't want to be on her TikTok, to be honest. [Laughs.] She's 17, going to be 18. This is a moment to be independent from your mom.
Ella: But I'm not going to cut her out of it.
Larissa: I might be on there together randomly, if she's home or she wants me to.
That seems like a natural next step for the community you've built.
Ella: Yeah, there have been a lot of people asking for parenting advice, and I think YouTube would be a good place to do that. All my friends think of her as a mother figure. She's young-spirited. I think she just resonates with people, in that she's very open and welcoming to other people.
Larissa: I'd take them all in if I could. [Laughs.] I'm interested in their world. It's not a nosy thing. I'm interested in learning more about who she is, if she allows me to. It's imperative, and it's very different from being the "cool mom." There's a respect level there. She's still a kid, I'm still a parent and an adult, so there's definitely a line. We have friends who tell me, "Oh, you're the cool mom." No, I don't want to be the cool mom — I'm not aspiring to be.
Ella: You're actually the opposite. You've never tried to be like, "Okay, the house is open for parties."
Larissa: No, they'll wreck my stuff. [Laughs]