I had a revelation on Monday night while I was luxuriating in the full-frontal Instagram-access to the Met Gala being provided by Man Repeller c/o Harling Ross and particularly the outfits of two sisters by the last name Olsen. Though my dream of becoming them-but-me has long been squashed by simple, biological virtue of my status as a singleton (mom-talk for single child, as in, not a twin), it occurred to me that I have a couple of my own! Two children, carriers of the XX chromosome, born 37 minutes apart, on which I have years to project the collapsed wants that I had for myself. Maybe one day, I thought, they would be posing on the same carpet in matching leather cloaks, posing as if equal parts infuriated and gracious, as I scrolled through the technology that replaced Instagram, sweating pride and joy on their behalf and paying off a therapy bill. Maybe.
But what’s the damn deal with the Olsens? What makes them such a treat to observe? We’ve conjectured various theories, least not encompassing their exacting vision; the way they’ve escaped the trap of celebrity endorsement and become unflinching belles of the fashion ball. Literally! Literally. It’s been over a decade since the Olsens first set foot on the red carpet of the Met Gala in lace dresses — one strapless, one not — to 2005’s edition, honoring Chanel, and with the progression of each year, it must be said, in true cliche, that only the finest wines and Olsen style age like-a-this. Behold, a comprehensive guide to everything the Olsen twins have ever worn to the Met Gala.
The House of Chanel (2005)
Mary-Kate Olsen wears a vintage dress with shit loads of jewelry, while sister Ashley wears an Oscar de la Renta frock, not to be confused with “dress.”
AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion (2006)
Both sisters wear Badgley Mischka, and really nice suntans to complement their red lips, to the Met’s celebration of Vivienne Westwood. Mary-Kate in particular wears extravagant gladiator cuffs, which I try to approximate at home with scarves.
Poiret: King of Fashion (2007)
The sisters do not pose in tandem, but Mary-Kate does prove the masses wrong by exhibiting a sparkly set of teeth to complement her feathers; Ashley wears a Grecian gown — both celebrate Poiret’s early 20th century contributions to haute-couture fashion.
Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy (2008)
For the Superheroes edition of the Met Gala, Ashley boasts a set of cut outs that spawn a million copy cats while Mary-Kate unwittingly teaches the likes of me what is meant by “empire waist.” Both wear Diane von Furstenberg.
The Model As Muse: Embodying Fashion (2009)
Mary-Kate Olsen wears Christian Lacroix with her hair in a messy half-do, purportedly contributing to the allure of the J. Crew bun while selling smoky eye-palettes en masse. It is very on brand given the year’s theme, in celebration of Marc Jacobs (“The Model as Muse”). Ashley, on the other hand, wears custom The Row.
American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity (2010)
WTF, WHERE ARE YOU GUYS?
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (2011)
For McQueen’s installment of The Gala, Ashley wears an insane Dior dress that I still think about roughly 2x a year, while Mary Kate wears this red vintage thing I’d have totally selected for a Woodstock themed black tie wedding but as I have never been invited to one, next!
Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations (2012)
Mary-Kate (and Mary-Kate only) and her cheekbones show up at Schiaparelli’s Met Gala wearing a very good black gown by The Row. Those shoulder pads, man. Should I bleach my hair?
Punk: Chaos to Couture (2013)
Punk is I and I am Punk. Or am I? Ashley wears vintage Dior and, according to Getty Images, she also wears a vintage Chanel dress, but I am certain if not positive that is actually Mary-Kate.
Charles James: Beyond Fashion (2014)
This one is from the Charles James year; kind of a boring theme given that the mentioned designer was known for his ball gowns, cue the balls, cue the gowns. The pinstripe thing that Mary-Kate is wearing makes a solid case for law school graduation. Ashley is wearing a little black jacket by Chanel only it’s also a gigantic gown.
China: Through the Looking Glass (2015)
Ashley wears a man bun before it’s called a man bun — or perhaps right around the time it becomes a man-bun and Mary-Kate wears her hair in low-rise pigtails, not to be confused with jeans.
Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology (2016)
Remember this theme? FASHION IN THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY! Thumbs up! Thumbs down! Cue the dissertations of loneliness as the epidemic of our time, or forget that completely and…fuck. I just realized Vogue published a version of this exact story last year while I was trying to outfit ID Ashley’s gold caftan. It’s too late to turn back now, though. Must. Power. Through.
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between (2017)
Don’t be fooled by the Edwardian gowns, this gala was a tribute to Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garcons! Mary Kate wears red eyeshadow under her eyes, presumably to catch the beads on her necklace, moonlighting as a weight vest over her lace gown and high-waist black underwear while Ashley wears a jacket that looks like it took at least 59 hours to make.
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (2018)
In honor of heavenly bodies, Mary Kate wears black and Ashley wears varying hues of red and orange lamé in the form of caftans as a sort of fuck you to the deceiving theme title, which is actually an homage to Catholic imagination.
Camp: Notes on Fashion (2019)
And finally, the main event! Monday night’s edition of the Met Gala, a celebraton of Camp! And Susan Sontag! Of bunk beds and tie dye — I’m kidding! My twin daughters show in matching leather jackets, both boasting gold buttons. Mary-Kate pairs her cocoon shoulders with a very large skirt while Ashley’s jacket, which is floor length, is probably actually a dress and reveals an incredible butter-yellow satin lining and a pair of crocodile skin over-the-knee boots. Somehow she does not look like a bumblebee and it just occurred to me that ~clearly,~ Mary-Kate prefers standing to the left of Ashley.
In the end, I am realizing that what makes the Olsens so fascinating is their complementary style cues, the way in which they pose in tandem, consistently looking the same but different — coordinated enough to invite a social media re-post, but inspiringly divergent, as if to defy the odds set up for two individuals made to share an identity as two truly distinct beacons of personal style.
Feature photos by John Shearer and Peter Kramer via Getty Images.