When Twinning Isn't Winning: Here's Why My Sister and I Dress Differently

Photo:

Getty

We're all about being bold and brave this month on Who What Wear UK (a mantra we will undoubtedly carry on throughout the year/our lives, okay?), but we thought about how being bold and brave could be visually displayed in the most obvious way: twins. The truth is being bold and brave can mean you’re a minimalist trying out a bright colour for once just as much as it can be that you’re the second coming of Diana Vreeland. So we asked fashion journalist Natalie Hammond (and her twin sister, Emma) to explain what it’s like being so similar yet so very different…

There’s an incredibly easy way to tell my twin sister and I apart for those with keen powers of observation. It’s not her centre parting or the fact that my face is slightly more heart-shaped. Or that I have bigger feet and she got much better GCSE results. It’s our clothes: I’m probably not a bold dresser compared to dyed-in-the-wool maximalists like Iris Apfel, Lucinda Chambers, Anna Dello Russo and Susie Lau, but my wardrobe is definitely, say, fruity compared to my sister’s.

Natalie

Photo:

Natalie Hammond 

Emma’s uniform is a plain blue shirt—she has many of them—and a pale pink pair of jeans from Raey. She’s great on basics (like cashmere jumpers from the men’s section at Uniqlo) and tends to stick to your typical minimalist colour palette of grey, navy and black. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t do pattern—she has an obsession with Jeanne Damas’s blossom-covered Rouje dresses—but when she does venture out in something spotty or striped, everything else is pared back. She doesn’t pile on jewellery, doesn’t wear jazzy socks and doesn’t do “mad” things like style dresses over trousers. I recently made her a necklace out of tiny beads. When I consulted her boyfriend on what colour he thought she’d like, he paused and then asked earnestly, “Do you have any in black?”

Emma

Photo:

Emma Hammond 

I’m more from the maximalist school of thought—we must have made a pact in the womb about our clothes. I would wear colours bright enough to warrant sunglasses (Le Specs’s Outta Love pair in cow print, please), and she would dress like an English Jane Birkin. Coco Chanel once quipped that you should get dressed, scrutinise the results in the mirror and remove one item before leaving the house. I take the opposite approach, slipping on rings until my fingers are clustered with gold and adding neckerchiefs, brooches, hair clips and extra garments to perfectly “finished” outfits. Emma characterises my style as “busy with five necklaces on top.”

Natalie

Photo:

Natalie Hammond

Perhaps it was less a pact and more a reaction to being trussed-up in matching outfits as babies. Parents of twins usually have the good sense to buy two of everything. We had matching baby-grows, leggings, teeny-weeny sweatshirts, puffy jackets and Forever Friends pyjamas. But things changed when we were 7. One of my favourite family photographs was taken when my parents were going to a black-tie dinner. Dad’s in a tux, mum’s in a sleeveless black evening gown, and Emma and I are in pyjamas—a silky nightie for me and a mangy T-shirt with dalmatians on the front for Emma.

Emma

Photo:

Emma Hammond 

A few years later, we started modelling our clothes on famous pop-culture duos of the time. Betty and Veronica from the Archie comic series was a favourite, and, naturally, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were the mothership. I had scrapbooks dedicated to what I like to call Mary-Kate’s tarot card reader phase when she wore three scarves draped down her tiny frame and enough jewellery around her wrists and neck to fill a treasure chest. Emma prefers Ashley’s wardrobe of oversized shirts and sleek A-line skirts. When I asked what she liked about her clothes, she said it was that they were plain.

Natalie

Photo:

Natalie Hammond 

The reason I take comfort in being a confident dresser—clashing prints together, wearing things that aren’t traditionally “flattering” and generally not having much of a rule book—is that I don’t always feel confident in day-to-day life. My clothes might be extroverted, but my personality tends towards the opposite. So although I embarrass easily when someone compliments an outfit and immediately demur, I like being known as the person who’s fearless in the face of things like clogs, flares and combat trousers. I don’t care if you don’t care about clothes, but I do think they should make you feel happy—and my happy place is “busy.”

Opening Image: Getty