mary-kate olsen 2023
Photography by Getty Images

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s Style Signatures

Plus, rare sightings of the Olsen twins and The Row founders *not* dressed in all black.

This article was originally published on June 23, 2023 and has been updated.

In a rare deviation from her and her sister’s usual black, monochromatic ensembles, Mary-Kate Olsen was spotted wearing a bright red coat in New York recently. And that’s not all — the fashion designer doubled down on her surprisingly colourful outfit, sporting a bold pair of metallic, gold loafers. Baggy, ripped jeans completed the look, nary a stitch of signature black or grey in sight.

Some social media users immediately noticed this out-of-character style choice and took to Twitter to shared the colourful look.

“Mary-Kate Olsen wearing color, it’s time for summer!!!” shared Twitter user @MIUCClAMUSE. Others were more taken aback by the designer’s surprising outfit choice. “Seeing an Olsen twin wearing colour feels like spotting a shooting star,” wrote @kirkpate on Twitter.

So why is it so shocking to see an Olsen twin wearing anything other than neutrals?

Over the past 15 years, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who are co-founders of the quiet luxury fashion brand The Row, have become notorious for their timeless, sophisticated-yet-effortless uniform (and matching serious facial expressions). But their style hasn’t always followed their now-typical monochrome palette.

To fully understand the Olsens’ style evolution, you have to travel back in time to their Full House days in the late ’80s and early ’90s. During this period, the two young actresses took turns playing the youngest Tanner sibling, Michelle, and if their off-screen outfits weren’t identical, they were at least complementary. In stereotypical early ’90s style, the emerging fashion trailblazers would also frequently wear trends of the era, such as floral dresses, wire-framed sunglasses, and overalls.

Photography by Getty Images

In their post-Full House era, Mary-Kate and Ashley took on a series of now-iconic television and movie roles. As they hit the red carpets in the late 90s and early 2000s for films such as It Takes Two, Passport to Paris, Holiday in the Sun and their final movie together, New York Minute, their style was slightly more mature as it evolved to match their more grown-up tween and teenage selves.

While the fraternal twins would often continue to match, the end of their joint film career also saw their style and beauty choices start to diverge. By 2004, Mary-Kate had decided to ditch her iconic blonde hair for an auburn-brunette shade while Ashley went for a dramatic blonde fringe. Other differences became increasingly evident as each of the girls’ individual sense of style developed.

Photography by Getty Images

During the last few years of their acting careers, and especially immediately following their retirement, the twins were coming into their own as style icons and became synonymous with the “boho-chic” trend. The bohemian look quickly became the pair’s signature style as they experimented with lots of layering and accessories or would opt for loose-fitting pieces made of flowy fabrics that opposed other Y2K trends of the time.

By the time the Olsen twins launched The Row in 2006, their style had evolved beyond their boho-chic era into a more casual-yet-sophisticated way of dressing that often consisted of oversized pantsuits, minimal accessories and, of course, the all-black ensembles that they’re known for today.

Since the late 2010s, the Olsens have retreated further out of the Hollywood spotlight with each passing year as they quietly work on their label. And, whenever they’d be spotted in their luxurious off-duty looks, the enduring allure around the two sisters would only grow as their matching monochrome outfits had an undeniable air of mystery to them.

For their few public appearances in recent years, the twins have consistently opted for head-to-toe black. One of their most recent and notable monochromatic matching moments occurred when the sisters wore black vintage leather Chanel to the 2019 Met Gala, which directly opposed many of the bright, colourful, high-camp looks that other attendees wore to “Notes on Camp”-themed event.

The twins’ allegiance to dressing in mostly black, especially when they were once known to follow other trends, is a big reason why Mary-Kate’s recent bright-red coat and gold loafer outfit was so shocking.

Nevertheless, whether the twins were leading the boho-chic pack back in the mid-2000s, showcasing their luxurious, minimalistic The Row designs in head-to-toe black, or throwing us colourful sartorial curveballs, it’s clear that the Olsen twins are some of the most intriguing (and mysterious) style icons we’ve ever seen.

Click through below for some of Mary-Kate and Ashley’s most Olsen-y fashion moments.

(We’re talking lots of head to toe black, bohemian flourishes and coordinated red carpet posing.)

More Celebrity Style