In the mind of the general public, the image of twinship is based on physical similarity. Many people expect to see twins that bear a strong resemblance to each other, including their clothing selections.
However, this can be a sensitive issue for parents of multiples. Should they dress their twins in similar or coordinating outfits? Or does it have a detrimental effect on their childrens' development as individuals?
Certainly, no parent should force their multiples to dress in alike if they don't want to, especially when the children are old enough to express their dislike about it. But babies and toddlers are another story, and it is the parents of those young twins and triplets who will undoubtedly grapple with this issue at some point.
Why Do It?
For one thing, it's just plain easier to dress young children alike; exhausted parents of twinfants don't have the mental capacity to choose two outfits -- much less two outfits in the right size that are gender-, temperature-, activity- and style-appropriate for the days events! Moreover, it's cute. It's fun. It celebrates their special relationship as twins. And it sure does make for nice pictures!
I haven't encountered specific research that indicates that dressing alike has produced any negative effect on twins. However many psychologists do recommend against it for parents that wish to emphasize individuality. For example, Nancy Segal, author of "Entwined Lives," said "I believe that it is okay, on occasion. I would not advocate it at all for fraternal twins. Identical twins are a different issue. They might enjoy it. It should not get to the point where they rely on it for attention."
Researchers do acknowledge that the early years are an incredibly crucial time in the development of a child's cognitive skills. Opponents of dressing alike argue that it obscures a child's sense of self identity even at a very young age.
Informal research that I've conducted -- basically asking grown sets of twins how they felt about the issue -- indicates that it's not really that big of a deal, unless the twins were forced to dress alike once they were older. Either they don't remember, didn't mind, or were only mildly annoyed by their parents' choice to dress them alike as young children.
Making the Decision
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer to the question of dressing alike. After the age of three or so, children can express their own opinion on the matter. They may prefer to dress alike, sharing the same taste in clothing or enjoying the symbolism of their unique status as twins. Or, they may wish to express their own individuality by creating their own style.
Until that time, parents should go with the option that feels most comfortable for them.
- Utilize coordinating outfits rather than matching: select the same outfit, but in different colors.
- Use matching outfits to commemorate special occasions or for photographs; dress children differently for everyday activities.
- Be sure to dress children differently in situations where you want to be sure other people (i.e., teachers, baby-sitters, relatives) can tell them apart.