If “Clothes Make the Man,” Should You Dress Your Twins Alike?

Every morning, I see a dad walking to school with his two young boys. The children have to be twins. How do I know? Both kids are always dressed identically right down to their bright blue jackets, light-up sneakers and Spiderman backpacks. And nothin’ says “twins” like two children dressed completely alike. So why do I bring this up? Because it drives me crazy.

Let me be fair, I have always thought it was odd when anyone dresses alike, not just multiples. While traveling in Australia a full decade before I gave birth to twins, for instance, every time a tourist bus would pull up, dozens of identically dressed Japanese couples would emerge! If a man wore tan dockers, a white polo shirt and a yellow argyle sweater vest, his wife would inevitably have on the same outfit right down to the penny-loafers on her feet! (Hey, it was the 1980s.)  For me, there was a certain oddness to it. Why did they do it, I wondered? Was it easier to spot your significant other while on a crowded tour in an unfamiliar city? Or was it something more? Were they trying to prove to me that they were so in love that they were one in the same? Did they finish each other’s sentences, too? I didn’t know. But I’ve never forgotten it.

When I ask other parents of twins why they choose to dress their multiples alike, their usual response is, “Because we’re proud of our twins and want everyone to know.” Makes sense but wouldn’t you be proud of them even if they were born as singletons? And why does dressing them alike prove your pride?

Twins get plenty of attention regardless of the clothes they wear. They don’t need more. In fact, when twins wear the same outfits out in public, it often comes at the expense of the other singleton children within the family. When I see twins dressed the same, I think one thing: Mom and Dad have put their twins’ celebrity before the children’s individuality. You may think that the practice is cute and harmless (and for the most part, it is) but it merely perpetuates the myth to the world at large that twins are entwined soul mates. And therein lies the rub. We want everyone to view our twins as individuals but yet we confuse the public when we act differently by dressing our twins the same.

Two blonde toddler twins dressed in pink and grey.

So will you harm your young twins if you dress them alike? Of course not, especially if they’re babies or toddlers. Dress is just one component to the whole identity formation package. Yet it’s the habit of dressing twins alike that can lead to challenges as it subtly conveys to friends, family, and the guy on the street that you don’t mind if they see your twins as one being. And the longer it continues, the harder it is to break the habit. Not just for the twins themselves but for outsiders who now expect identically dressed twins to be the same.

Clothing choice is a strong component for identity formation as it’s an outward presentation of ourselves and it contributes to an internal sense of who we are. Just ask Lady Gaga or even Michele Obama. Or check out the hundreds of websites on the Web devoted purely to style. Clothes are an expression of who we are. Period.

Of course many readers may point out a few times when dressing twins alike is practical. For instance, if you’re going to a crowded amusement park, it would make some sense to dress your young twins alike, say in bright yellow t-shirts, so that you can more easily keep track of them. But what about dressing alike for the yearly family photo, the one that gets slipped into your Christmas card? Not my personal style but then you knew that already, didn’t you?

17 thoughts on “If “Clothes Make the Man,” Should You Dress Your Twins Alike?

  1. Jen

    This one is interesting because I choose not to dress my 3.5 yr old frat twin boys the same.. but they choose to dress they same, not always, but often enough.. I’ve resorted to buying 2 of each t-shirt to help cut down on fights.. and its not always the same boy who ‘leads’ the decision making.. it varies day to day

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  6. 2boystwingirlsmom

    You are clearly on one side of the “camp”. And not dressing the family in the same colors in Christmas cards means you buck what looks good to make yourself stand out. Who cares what Lady Gaga & Michelle Obama (please?!) are wearing…they are not twins. That said, my twins dress identical due to the “equality” that they want. Some times people are SO insistent on making them so individual, they forget that they shouldn’t always be made to choose one or the other just because they are twins. My girls LOVE pink for instance…I am NOT going to tell one, “your sister picked pink, so too bad, pick another color”. When little siblings like the same things, we usually let them have it in their size because they look up to and want to be like their older sibling. No one ever gripes about that. The point that you forgot though, is that sometimes twins don’t want to always have to choose…they sometimes want to be equal…and sometimes that means exactly the same. It’s no different than school uniforms, lovely family portraits where people are dressed the same, military, ect. Why in this world of “everyone” should be a team player, do people like you attack the bond that is “sometimes” formed before birth? Your comments are one sided and I doubt you ever see the forest for the trees. As long as my girls want equality, they will get it. There is nothing wrong with it if they desire it.

    Reply
    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof

      Yikes! Not sure what else to say as I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say. Perhaps if you would state your opinion without the snarkiness I could better understand your point of view. Right now all I know is A) You’re angry B) You don’t like Michelle Obama or Lady Gaga, and, C) your daughters like pink.

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    2. Lilian

      So what I’m getting from your comment is that dressing alike equals equality? As a teacher who has taught in a school with uniforms-they do not mean equality and most of the students added something to their uniform to be different from the others. One of our biggest fundraisers for PTA was free wear day passes.

      Reply
  7. Ellie

    As an identical twin, I fully agree with this article. I feel very fortunate to be a twin because my sister is my best friend but it is also a challenge while growing up. It is a challenge because you are limited in the way a person will identify you as a human being. You will always share birthdays, friends, and clothes but you will also be constantly compared to your twin whether it be academics, looks, personality, or even taste in food. Dressing identically doesn’t make it any easier for a twin to realize that it is okay to be different from your twin. I think it is a very bad decision by parents to dress identical twins the same. To me, it is only reinforcing the idea that people will treat you as two different people who are exactly the same which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I think it is also harmful to the child by giving the child the idea that they can get extra attention from this. Being a twin shouldn’t be something you celebrate publicly, it should be celebrated as simply a special bond that they will have. Not a gift that makes them more special. My parents didn’t dress us identically and I appreciate this. It makes me feel sad now as an adult when I see kids in elementary school who are twins and dress the same. I think it makes it harder and harder as they get older to separate their lives and find there own path in life.

    Reply
    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Post author

      Thank you for your comment! Sadly, I’ve gotten a lot of push-back from other parents of twins on this. Many don’t realize that it’s not the twin bond necessarily that’s affected by dressing alike but rather how others now view the twins as one entity based on their decision to dress the same.

      Reply
  8. Vanessa Armstrong

    My fraternal twins are only a 14 months old, so I do dress them alike. Thankfully, they are VERY fraternal, 1 is blonde and 1 is brunette, so I guess part of that is, I’m trying to cut down on the number of times that I get asked the “are they twins?” question when we are out and about. I don’t plan on doing this forever though. Also, my husband is home with the girls in the mornings 5 days of the week, so he is the one dressing them in the morning. Matching outfits are easier… frankly, I’m surprised they are even dressed when I pick them up from the nanny’s. LOL

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  9. Kimberley stowe

    I dress my twins alike because its easier to spot them on the playground and other places we go. Also it cuts down on laundry loads. I know when they get older they will make their own choices of what to wear and dressing them alike now will not harm their individual identity, because I also have another set of twins that are 15 and it didn’t harm them by dressing them alike.

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth

    I’m an identical twin. My sister and I are nearly 40 now, and although our mother dressed us identically in childhood, we truly have no issue with individuality. Around 11 or 12, we began dressing differently, changing our hair, etc.

    I’ve always been intrigued by the “singleton’s” obsession/curiosity re: identical multiples. I don’t know what it’s like to be a singleton. I only know how to be an identical twin. As a child, it seemed special and unique. I liked it, my sister liked it. We, as well as our two singleton brothers (both older), were innately very, very shy and I think my twin sister and I had an easier time of it, because we had each other.

    Individuality is SO MUCH MORE than clothing. My sister and I rarely enjoyed the same activities. We had different tastes from age 3 forward, and although my mother dressed us alike, she embraced and encouraged our differences.

    Even now, I’m in the Midwest, happily married to my high school sweetheart, a stay at home mom with two young boys. My sister is single and splits her time between her two homes: Manhattan, NY and London, working (incessantly) as a wonderfully successful playwright. We have the most incredibly different lives.

    If you’re forcing your 11, 12, 13 year old twins to dress alike, while they’re throwing fits about it…that is certainly detrimental. But otherwise, my sister and I loved being “special” – and as innately shy children, we found comfort in each other.

    Identical twins ARE different and very connected to each other. That’s the bottom line. No singleton, parent or otherwise, can ever possibly understand it. My mother was and still is an extraordinary mother. Just because she chose to dress us alike, doesn’t mean she was disrespecting or taking away from our individuality. We loved being alike. And gif we hadn’t? I’m confident our mother would have been just fine with us dressing differently.

    I respect your viewpoint, but I find it to be very one-sided. No parent should force a child to “match” a sibling, but frankly, I’ve seen more of that in same-sex sibling, close in age, than I have in identical twins. Identical twins are literally born “connected” – I think dressing them the same is actually much less harmful then singleton siblings of the same sex and similar age.

    Reply
    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Post author

      Thanks very much for your comment. It’s great to hear from grown twins about their experiences. (P.S. Of course my viewpoint is one sided! That’s the point.)

      Reply
  11. Deborah Olsen

    Hey, dressing my twin fraternal girls is just plain fun for me, and I’m enjoying it now all that I can, because I fully expect them to want to dress differently by age 10 or so, and I will honor that for them, but it is so CUTE to dress them alike, and has been since they were born, and it is just FUN! There will never be a time that I will have twins again, so I am enjoying it all I can now! They are very different girls, but the best of friends, and they even have different friends at school. They have different preferences too: one really wanted a fire engine for Christmas, and one wanted a penguin stuffed cuddly animal, so they each got what they really wanted. They have never balked about wearing the same outfit, and I sense that they enjoy it. Also, it’s all they have ever known in their young lives. We are happy with our decision, even when well-meaning people question the practice.

    Reply

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