There are some things we’re taught not to bring up in conversation unless we know people very well. Religion, politics, views on vaccination (that wasn’t on my radar until the last couple of years!) You know the topics the rules around bringing them up. I’d like to offer a piece of friendly advice and throw another one in the mix when you’re talking to parents of twins or more. Unless you enjoy debating or aren’t worried about offending people, do not under any circumstances mention your views on dressing twins or triplets in matching outfits!
I’ll happily share my own views here and the reasons behind them, because I recently had an expectant triplet mom send me the question “Should I dress my triplets the same?”. Please know, however, that while I may sit firmly on one side of the fence, we are all different. You do you.
My own experience being dressed the same as my sister:
I am three and a half years younger than my sister. We are, and always have been polar opposites. She’s the girliest girl you ever did meet and grew up playing with dolls and makeup. I wore a toy gun on my hip, played with ninja turtles and loved dinosaurs. Despite our different personalities and preferences, our mother dressed us the same A LOT, and always if we were going out somewhere for an occasion or where a photo might be taken. There were totally identical outfits, such as dresses (much to my tomboyish dismay) or sometimes we wore the same outfit, but in different colours. My sister usually got pink if it was an option, and I had the same ensemble in orange or green.
My sister also disliked being dressed the same and increasingly so as she hit the preteen years and cringed at being matched with her annoying younger sibling (oh, and I was so annoying!). Her protests must have finally made an effect as the practice seemed to fade out around the time she hit high school.
As the younger sibling, I copped an extra irritating blow from the matching outfits obsession. Not only did I have the first round of wearing the same as my sister, but then I also got her hand me downs, so had the monotony of the same outfit for twice as long!
To give credit to my mum where it’s due, as I progressed through my teenage years, she was pretty supportive of letting me make my own clothes choices. My fashion sense definitely didn’t align with hers, but she willingly agreed to take me to buy my first pair of Doc Marten boots! My sister and I tease her to this day about making us dress the same, but she has no regrets, responding with “Everywhere we went, people always commenting on how nice you looked!”
Why I don’t dress my triplets the same:
Fast forward 20 years and I find out I’m pregnant with triplets. My mum’s matchy-matchy inclined brain goes into overdrive as she starts suggesting name combinations.
“If you have 3 girls, you could name them, Amber, Ruby and Jade!”
Riiiight. Then we’ll have ourselves a set of traffic lights…
We ended up with two girls and a boy, all fraternal and completely different in appearance right from when they were newborn in size, shape and hair colour. My partner and I had decided before they were born that we wanted to help them be individuals as much as possible and deliberately gave them names with a different initial since they would already have the same date of birth. Predictably we received several matching sets of clothes as gifts in the early days, which we received gratefully and got a few cute keepsake photos with them wearing these.
But here’s the reality…
Three babies at once meant the finances were stretched. When friends offered us near new, but second-hand baby clothes, we said “hell yes!”. We bought very, very few items of clothes for our kids when they were babies. Hand-me-down items meant they weren’t matching, but we still tended to keep certain items for individual babies, so they had their “own” clothes. With 2 out of 3 suffering from reflux, one too small to get the smallest nappies to create a good seal around the legs and the general fluid-leakiness of babies, the average number of outfits worn each day was 2-3 per child. Our priorities with clothing choices were simple and fast, not aesthetic! Snap crotches, no fiddly bits and machine washable were non-negotiables!
Even if we had dressed our triplets the same at the start of the day, there’s no way we would make it to lunch without having needed to do a clothing change – and like hell I was going to change the other two every time so they stayed matching! Our babies were born on the first day of summer, so they also spent a fair amount of their first few months in nothing more than a nappy and a muslin swaddle!
From babies to toddlers, we were the centre of attention everywhere we went with our triple pram turning heads constantly. The barrage of well-meaning people wanting to strike up a conversation as we tried to do a quick grocery shop was overwhelming. I remember trying to avoid eye contact or even pretending to talk on my phone to avoid the same questions over and over again from strangers whilst waiting in a queue. If we were playing at the park, the last thing I wanted to do was draw extra attention to the fact they were triplets by dressing them the same.
When I do dress my triplets the same:
Okay, I have a confession to make. My partner and I are mad for a fancy dress occasion! I’m not referring to a black tie cocktail event here – I mean a Disney themed character or superhero party. The one thing that made me wiggle with excitement as our kids got a little bigger was the idea of family themed Halloween costumes, and being able to send them as a trio of characters from the same story for the school book week parade. Our efforts of always honoring their individuality bit me in the foot though as the closest we got was out girls wanting to dress as Anna and Elsa, but our son wanting to be a Toyota Camry. (sigh.) Eventually (at age 8) they decided to capitalise on a shared love of Harry Potter and go as Ron, Harry and Hermione to Book Week, much to the delight of their parents!
Why do people dress their triplets the same?
I have a few friends who have twins or triplets and dress them in matching outfits on a regular basis. I have always been (and continue to be) perplexed by their choice, but these are their reasons:
Reason 1 for dressing your children the same:
“It saves decision fatigue. I grab 2 (or 3) of something off the rack at the shops and I’m sorted. I also only have to decide what get out of the drawer once in the morning instead of thinking about what each child will wear.”
Firstly, I have bought very few brand new clothes for my kids when they were young because we were fortunate enough to be given many excellent quality second hand items. When they are growing so fast that you only get a season out of an outfit before they outgrow it, I’m pretty reluctant to go spending much on new items.
Secondly, there are many every day tasks that I understand can lead to decision fatigue… what to cook for dinner, what to wear myself etc. When it comes to young kids though, it’s just not difficult for me. Ninety percent of the time, they’re in play clothes (shorts, t-shirts, comfy dresses etc) and the only decision is if they need a jumper or not. Plus I think letting your kids choose what they want to wear and attempt to dress themselves is an important part of learning autonomy and basic motor skills. Not to mention the entertainment value that comes with kids picking their own “unique” combination of clothing items from the drawers to make up an outfit! I have great memories of taking my daughter to the shops at age 3 wearing tracksuit pants, a pink tutu and a leopard print jacket because that’s what she decided to wear that day!
Reason 2 for dressing your children the same:
“I don’t want there to be arguments over who wears what”
Toddlers will throw tantrums over unreasonable issues – this is as inevitable as death and taxes. I am very much someone who will “pick my battles”, although I’ve never relented my stance in response to a tantrum.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always tried to keep certain items of clothing as “belonging” to an individual child. This can be really easy when they are different body shapes or one has sensory issues or dislikes for certain fabrics. I’ve found that most of the time, my kids have had their own personalities and interests, so if one likes flamingos and the other likes pandas, it’s easy to make them feel like their clothing reflects their individuality when you do go shopping. If my kids really want to wear matching items, I’ll certainly oblige, but it’s not something I’ve found to be common.
If there is a stand-out item of clothing that has been gifted to us that I know will cause arguments, I have either two choices. I source something very similar or the same so each child can have one, or I simply pass on it. A few years back I was given a pair of brand name shoes that lit up when you walked. These retail at around $100 new and had barely been worn (just outgrown) when passed on to us. There was no way I could afford to buy extra pairs and I knew all my kids would love them, so I simply put them aside before showing my children and passed them on to my niece.
Reason 3 for dressing your children the same:
“They like it.”
Do they really though, or do they like the way it makes you feel? Okay, I’m aware that my opinion here might ruffle some feathers, but hey, this is my blog so I get to say what I really think…
There is undeniably a significant portion of multiple birth parents who just bloody love the attention. They might have “Twin Mommy” as a bumper sticker, or be the ones to let the local newspaper know when they triplets are available for a photo opportunity when they start school, celebrate Mothers Day, finish school etc. It’s my experience that these parents are the ones more likely to dress their kids the same (at least ones of the same genders) and this is why I believe this to be so.
For identical twins, I honestly cannot see any real reason why you would dress your children the same unless you want to draw people’s attention to the fact that you have twins. Seeing a matching set of outfits is eye-catching and will often draw attention at a park or playground. It makes it SO much harder for others to tell your children apart though, so means people either lump them together as a collective (“The Triplets”) or avoid having one on one interactions with them in case they make a mistake.
I have been a child going to school with identical twins and I remember avoiding talking to either of them because I was never sure who I was talking to and therefore didn’t want to seem silly. I’ve been an adult who struggled to tell my friends’ kids apart and for years had to start with “Which one are you?”, which sounds awful, but I felt was better than avoiding conversations and pretending! Once I knew who was who on a particular day I would quickly do a mental exercise to find whatever distinguishing features (usually by clothing) to help me get it right!
I actually love seeing parents who proactively make it easier for others to tell their identical children apart. It might be a different haircut or a consistent accessory such as a bracelet or a scrunchie that friends or teachers can learn is an identifying characteristic of each one’s appearance!
For fraternal siblings, I definitely feel like matching outfits is an attention grab. It’s making sure that no one assumes these are closely aged siblings or even friends – these are multiples, dammit! My own kids are so different in appearance, I don’t even think you’d pick them as siblings if you walked in to their classroom. There’s even around 12 cm in height between them! I honestly believe dressing your twins, triplets or more in matching clothes is a way of shouting at everyone, “Hey, over here! Did you know they’re multiples?”
If you’re reading this and you’re one of those parents, please don’t take this the wrong way. I think you’ve earned the bragging rights to let everyone know you’re a multiple birth parent and if you love talking to strangers about your kids and a little extra attention, then go for it. We are just very different creatures.
I just wish more parents would come out and say, “Heck yeah, I dress them the same. I want to make sure everyone notices I’m a bad ass parenting wizard who has managed multiple babies at once and get my credit where credit’s due!”
Finally, Reason 4 for why you dress your children the same:
“I just really like them in matching outfits.”
Finally, an explanation I can’t argue with. I like putting cheese on my hot cross buns.
Some people think I’m weird. Many just don’t get it. I love it.
You do you.