The Olsen Effect: What It’s Like to Be a Twin in Real Life

The Olsen Effect: What It’s Like to Be a Twin in Real Life



Photo: Larry Busacca/ Getty Images

Growing up, the question I was asked most wasn’t “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What’s your favorite book?” It was this: “So, are you a Mary-Kate or an Ashley?” While Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were arguably the coolest role models my twin sister and I could have had, I think they’d find that question kind of annoying, too. Liz and I had our canned responses—I was Ashley, widely considered “the girly one” when we were kids, and Liz was Mary-Kate, “the sporty one”—but we both found it a little strange that people were so quick to pigeon hole the Olsens (and, consequentially, us). Even when they were shown as polar opposites in a movie (like 1999’s Switching Goals, when Mary-Kate played Sam the soccer star and Ashley was prim, platform-sandal-wearing Emma), everyone viewed them as a single entity.

Fame and fortune aside, Liz and I always felt like people saw us the same way. No one could tell us apart, and it didn’t help that we wore uniforms for the first nine years of school—they were literally seeing double. The boys in our class simply gave up and referred to us as “Farra,” and we could’ve done without our classmates and teachers constantly scrutinizing our faces in search of minor differences. “Emily’s cheeks are rounder,” I recall my friend’s mom saying—just as my crush walked by. Others would zero in on the faintest, tiniest freckle above my lip and claim it was the only way they could tell it was me. I heard about it so much I convinced myself it was a hideous flaw I’d somehow never noticed. Total self-esteem boost!

Of course, Liz and I are best friends—our twin bond is next-level. We’ve even had similar dreams on the same night living in different cities. Looking back, I think those early experiences prompted our lifelong obsession with clothes. I don’t remember a time when Liz and I weren’t concerned with what we were wearing. When we were really young, we loved “dress-up days” at school, which happened once a month. Other kids complained, but it gave me and Liz a chance to wear our favorite clothes and look just a little different. We often loved the same things, so we would just buy them in different colors: In sixth grade, we had kaleidoscope-print skirts from Nordstrom’s BP section—mine was green, Liz’s was pink—and when Uggs were all the rage in eighth grade, our mom bought me the pale pink ones and Liz got baby blue. (They were total game-changers with our plaid skirts.) I think our greatest style coup was probably in kindergarten, though, when I insisted on buying a pair of burgundy patent-leather Dr. Martens boots and Liz chose navy.

By the time we got to our liberal high school, it was like unleashing the kraken—we were finally free of uniforms, and even better, there was hardly a dress code at all. There were 800 students in the entire school, and for once, Liz and I stood out not just because we were twins, but because other girls liked our style. Girls we didn’t even know would stop at our lockers to ask where we bought something, and when our younger brother started there a couple of years later, all the freshman girls in his grade told him they loved our clothes. Mind you, we weren’t wearing designer labels or anything particularly cutting-edge—it was mostly Free People and random finds picked up at local stores in Indianapolis. But suddenly, we weren’t just “the twins”—and it felt great.

Since graduating from college, we’ve spent the past two-and-a-half years living in different cities, but I still text Liz for her opinion when I’m shopping, and if I score something incredible at a sample sale, she’s the first person I tell. I’d like to think Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen launched The Row partially because of a similar connection. While everyone else was dwelling on the fact that they were twins and refused to see them as unique individuals, they were bonding over their love of vintage and quietly became the best-dressed women in the industry. I’m always excited to see their new collections because I can sort of picture what it’s like for them to spend each day talking about clothes, sharing their ideas, and appreciating each other as sisters, codesigners, and, above all, best friends.

The post The Olsen Effect: What It’s Like to Be a Twin in Real Life appeared first on Vogue.

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