Long Reads

“How mother-daughter twinning brought me closer to my mum”

As the twinning trend takes over Instagram, one woman explains why she has been co-ordinating her look with her mum for years.

Moments before a recent job interview, my phone flashed with a text from my mum. “Good luck,” I imagined it would read, or, this picky eater’s fantasy version, “If they hire you, I will never try to pass off salmon en croute as a vegetarian meal again.”

Instead she’d merely typed the words, “I’m wearing our lipstick”. A bit introspective, you might think. But I could decipher the code – this was a message of heartfelt support.

Allow me to explain: my mum and I sometimes choose to wear the same clothes and make-up. The lipstick in question was our brownish-pink shade of choice, or Bobbi Brown’s semi-matte offering in Nude, to be precise. We both believe that lipstick doubles up as war paint and, before running over my notes for a final time, I had hastily applied mine. Realising that my mum had done exactly the same thing from over 100 miles away was bolstering. Now there were two people – not just skittish, furtively muttering me – fighting my corner.

Twinning is winning

Lipstick isn’t the only duplicate item we share. In fact, we’ve been twinning since I was a teenager. Back then, it was borne out of sharing similar tastes. That’s still part of it, but our co-ordinated outfits today are more about feeling close despite living, in geographical terms at least, relatively far apart. (She’s based in Cardiff; I’m in London.)

When I was in secondary school we went through a stage of wearing the same red coats, until negotiating who was allowed to wear theirs on certain days overstretched my (already minimal) adolescent ability to cooperate. Following this, I spent university trotting around in the black suede kitten heels that we both own. Just last week, I salted her autumn chic game by posting her a copy of the irresistibly cosy & Other Stories jumper that I had bought a couple of months previously. And few things are afforded a higher place in our affections than our matching gold studs.

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Of course, we’re not the only mother-daughter pair with a fondness for matching outfits. The aspirational move de rigeur is promoting your personal brand by quite literally plastering it across someone else; preferably someone who shares your genes, and can therefore be referred to as your doppelgänger. For example, Myleene Klass once memorably took the humble step of sending her two daughters to school on World Book Day dressed as herself. 

And we mere mortals are in on the action, too. Twinning with your best friend is no longer an egregious social faux pas. There are more than five and a half million posts tagged with the hashtag #twinning on Instagram, and a further 195,000 with #twinningiswinning. Couples are even catching on, including one particularly social media savvy Japanese duo.

There are more than 5.5million #twinning posts on Instagram

Of course, some iterations of mother-daughter twinning are irrefutably heinous. So much so, that I’m tempted to burn my & Other Stories jumper and never associate with the practice again. For one, it’s more often than not a cynical attempt to bag more social media likes, or to promote a clothing line. Far worse, though, is the way mother-daughter twinning plays into the toxic idea that the most important part of a woman’s identity is her ability to spawn a child or two. Don’t get me wrong, motherhood looks great, but I have a hunch that it’s not the only way for a woman to live a valuable existence in 2018.

And yet… on a micro level, twinning is entirely palatable, and there are numerous joys to be found in coordinating attire.

Clothing historians have observed that twinning is a way of reinforcing the importance of the mother-daughter connection. Yes, this can easily slide into a creepy fetishisation of motherhood, but there is also a flipside. Our respective filial and maternal identities have now paled to a very faint part of both our day-to-day lives. But twinning enables us to take a brief, emboldening glance at that otherwise invisible bond. 

Twinning also averts arguments. After all, it’s hard to be irritable with my mum when I glance down at the shirt we both own, and remember how much we have in common. And, as I realised before my job interview, there’s something uniquely galvanising in knowing that someone cares so deeply about your fate they have selected their look to match with yours.

“Twinning also averts arguments….”

Ultimately, however, twinning’s allure – and the reason I have no serious plans to give it up – probably boils down to a thought process that my mother would find insultingly morbid (sorry, mum). As fashion historian Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell reports in The Atlantic, the American magazine Life noted in 1938 that looking alike really meant looking young.

Now, I’m not even partially on board with the concept of twinning in order to emphasise a mother’s youthfulness. But my 65-year-old mum wearing the same clothes as 27-year-old me is a nonsensical, but nonetheless reassuring, way of cloaking her in youth’s indestructibility (I said it was nonsensical.) 

Twinning allows me to hold her close, despite mortality’s inexorable pull. You’re not going anywhere, I think: millennials wear that jumper.

Images: Courtesy of author

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