Infant Actors to Fashion Moguls | A Fashion Future Foreshadowed in VHS Films
Back when the Olsen twins were amassing their millions and eventual joint billion— they were my fashion idols. Many a millennial tween were card carrying members of the Mary-Kate and Ashley’s fan club. Girls wanted to be them, boys wanted to kiss them (oh, innocent simpler times!). With straight to home video 90's tweeny bopper classics as super duper snoopers solving mysteries and powerhouse party planners with a pension for pre-auto tune spontaneous song and dance, they encompassed everything I wanted to be: fearless, crafty, and stylish. They had style from the moment they crawled onto the scene.
As you probably know, Mary-Kate and Ashley had their big hollywood break at the ripe old age of 6 months old on the 90’s sitcom “Full House”—sharing the role of Michelle Tanner and splitting the acting responsibilities in order to work around strict child labor laws that limit infant set time. Multiple babies meant more Michelle! They stole our hearts as the runt of the San Fran Tanner clan with catchphrases like “You got it, Dude!” and “You’re in big trouble, Mister!”
At the peak of “Full House” popularity, The Olsen twins started churning out solo straight to video films with Dualstar—their very own production company. It all started with “Our First Video” a compilation of catchy kid music videos with sassy hits about sibling tension like “Brother for Sale” and “I Am The Cute One” that played on repeat from my mom’s minivan tape player. And the rest is history. Sure, I could regale you with my in-depth knowledge of Mary-Kate and Ashley’s underage IMDB credits or brag about my ability to tell the two apart (a skill honed over years of obsessive Olsen twin movie consumption)—but I won’t bore you with all the lengthy details. Heck! These ladies made movies for two decades straight. It would take a seminar course to unpack it all. So instead, let’s revisit the good stuff—the clothes!
I tried my darndest to dress just like them growing up. The only problem... they're clothes were all custom made. With petite pre-teen frames—kids clothes looked childish and ladies garments swallowed them whole. I hunted in Limited Too for similar pieces from their vast filmography, but came up empty handed.
The Olsen twins first foray into design—aside from the collaboration of their own custom pre-teen wardrobe— landed at Wal-Mart in the early 2000’s. The straightforward brand “Mary-Kate and Ashley: Real Fashion for Real Girls,” (as opposed to fake ones?) clothed elementary to middle school aged adolescents. Every Olsen Twin go-to style from their Dualstar filmography made the cut, only with cheaper materials and outsourced labor. I made my Mom drive thirty minutes out of the suburbs into the Valley to get my grubby little adolescent hands on some authentic Olsen approved fashions. I would have bought every article of clothing with their name on it if my mom had allowed it. They slung barbie-esque dolls in their own image along with nail polish and perfumes before expanding into junior room decor. While it may not have been an ideal intro into the fashion industry, the twins soaked it all up like two pretty petite sponges and went on to study business and design in college.
After busting their butts to become legit fashion designers with two established, contrasting brands—Elizabeth and James AND The Row—it’s clear Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen know fashion! And unlike most of the fashion week elite, there is archived footage from their youth documenting their rise to fashion stardom. They were my style icons as a kindergartner and they are still my style icons as grown-woman millennial. To better understand my Olsen twin fierce fashion fandom, let’s take a trip down memory lane with some of their best filmography fashion hits.
Just some sassy fraternal twins leading an identical existence. Whose ready for a hoedown?
The trenchcoat twins could "solve any crime by dinnertime!" and always had matching contrasting outfits for a myriad of mystery locales.
Flannels feel SO Elizabeth and James! (named after the twins older brother and little sister.)
Billboard Dad! A top Olsen twin film for sure! Spot the chilled out artsy Venice vibes?
Finally! A break from matching twin sets. Mary-Kate was often a tomboy and Ashley a boy crazy girly girl. I related to Mary-Kate's style and Ashley's emotions.
Passport to Paris takes the cake! Best film by far. Tres chic twins with french bohemian flare ala Jane Birkin peasant blouses and a plethora of bandana headbands.
The Middle School dance "party"—when muscle tanks and zig-zag parts ruled the school!
Winning London required book smarts for the model UN and wool overcoats to keep out the cold. Take off the hat and scarfs, change it all to tan and you've got yourself a minimal winter collection for The Row.
At the tail end of their Wal-Mart design reign and film career. With college came city gal bohemian street style and bag lady chic.
Kicking ass and taking names! Check out their entire filmography for more snapshots into the style evolution of the ultimate powerhouse twins. The songs alone provide a warm wealth of nostalgia laced with fits of laughter.
(Images via Who What Wear, Olsen Daily, Popsugar, Buzzfeed, and Bustle)