Why I'm Obsessed with What the Olsens Wore Almost a Decade Ago
When I originally pitched this story idea to my editor, the idea was to give examples of how the evolution of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s style over the past decade (and then some) still feels relevant and fresh in 2016. As I took a deep-dive into Getty's image archives, pouring over photos of the now 30-year-old sisters from the Met Gala, the CFDA Awards and the streets of Soho, I realized there was one particular date I kept coming back to: 2007. What was it about that year?
Perhaps most importantly, this was the moment when MK and A transitioned from "former child actresses with trend-setting style" to "legit fashion designers who occasionally act." They launched The Row in 2006 and Elizabeth and James shortly after in 2007, making this a pivotal and highly-visible time for them. If you ask me, this was peak era Olsens—a magical time of giant Starbucks cups, even more giant Balenciaga bags, and that hair. (To jog your memory, check out all the 2007 flashbacks on the meticulously updated and binge-worthy blog, Olsens Anonymous.)
So again I ask, what was it about 2007? I guess in my eyes, this is when both Mary-Kate and Ashley were striking the perfect balance between aspirational luxe and attainable styling. I'm roughly the same age as Mary-Kate and Ashley, so while at 21 I couldn't yet afford the designer shoes and bags, I could take notes on how they wore their jewelry, layered basics like shirts and jeans, and their go-to silhouettes. The sisters wore white T-shirts with everything, tossed fur stoles over gowns without looking dated, and had every 20-something girl in America googling "messy beach waves tutorial."
Maybe it's this hot, humid summer weather, maybe it's all the weddings I have to go to this year, but I have Mary-Kate and Ashley's best looks from 2007 at the top of my what-to-wear inspiration board right now. Although I wouldn't dream of saying the Olsen Twins aren't just as stylish right now (because false), I truly believe the duo will never better than they were in 2007. I'd wear any of the below outfits today, in 2016, and feel totally on-point. Let's discuss.
Elevated White T-Shirts
If you weren't already convinced that a white T-shirt is quite possibly the most essential piece of clothing you own, allow MK and A to sway your opinion. First, Mary-Kate makes a plunging necklace work for the red carpet by tucking it into a knit black maxi skirt and layering up the jewelry. (Bonus points for the braids, no?) Then she wears a slightly oversized undershirt with a leather mini skirt, heeled sandals and a crossbody bag as she dashes out of a late-night TV appearance. I don't care what year it is, this is the coolest way to dress for a summer evening out if you want to look hot but also like you couldn't care less. And finally, Ashley looks polished and timeless with her white tee layered under a black blazer and paired with classic pointed-toe pumps and a red lip. Case closed.
I hate to sound like the cliche that I sometimes am, but I literally cannot with these outfits—I am that obsessed. The truth is that not just anyone could make these outfits look as enviable as Mary-Kate does. She has a very undone approach to elegance; one that isn't easy to replicate, but I'm always trying. In this first look, MK wears a plunging v-neck gown with a huge fur draped around her arms and a bucket-style bag on her wrist. She looks a little bit Gatsby, a little bit grandma, and 100 percent glam.
Next, I challenge anyone to look this casual and comfortable in a sequined mini dress. With her relaxed waves half pulled-back, layers of bangles, and a smudged smokey eye, she looks like the best part of a modern disco fever dream. Can we please talk about this black kimono situation? Now, I may have a personal attachment to any and all dresses that resemble a kaftan, but her ensemble here—complete with an oversized belt, tassel necklace and box clutch (minus the cigarettes) would work for any wedding on my calendar this year.
Ashley Olsen has a reputation as the slightly more polished of the two sisters when it comes to dressing, hair and makeup—but she's not without her risque moments. In 2007, Ashley rocked a trend that has taken over in 2016—going bra-less in your button-down shirt. Let's break down the juxtaposition in these outfits: The suggestive necklines are incredibly feminine while the shirting and pants are casual and masculine. I would argue that you could show up somewhere in one of these looks right now and look 90 percent more current than anyone else in the room. Such is the power of the Olsen.
How killer are these three dresses? I'd like to say right now that if anyone can track down the white gown Mary-Kate is wearing on the far left (at the CFDA Awards), I'll take it and save it for my wedding day—that's how much I love it. I could write a sonnet (okay, more like an entire dissertation) on how pretty, flattering, sophisticated and cool this outfit is. Sigh. (The hair doesn't hurt either.)
All three of these designs, actually—kimono, T-shirt, and blazer—are hugely popular now as we look back to the 1990s for minimalist, monochromatic inspiration. We're all reaching for simple satin slip dresses by Atea Oceanie, wraps with plunging necklines (think Reformation), and tuxedo-style jackets from Helmut Lang and even Zara.
Whether or not you worship at the alter of Olsen, you can't deny that these girls knew something we didn't nearly a decade ago. As the duo launched what would become multi-million dollar fashion brands and wore outfits that put the rest of us to shame, Britney Spears was having her very public meltdown and Apple released the very first iPhone. Ahhh 2007, what a time to be alive!