Despite spending almost three full decades in the public eye, the Olsens are still celebrities surprisingly shrouded in mystery. Mary-Kate and Ashley have somehow managed to quietly live out their lives both on-screen and off without the usual scandals, intrigue, and professional pitfalls that befall the majority of their child star counterparts, successfully making the transition from young actresses-turned-teen idols-turned-full-fledged-clothing-designers.
But their passion for fashion began long before their first high end collection for The Row hit the racks of Barneys, beginning back in the early aughts when the pair were just tweens serving up some of the most memorable, trendsetting looks of the era. A butterfly-clipped and boho-layered phenomenon we can in part chock up to their then stylist, Judy Swartz, who sat down with Refinery29 to give fans an inside look at these two fashion powerhouses’ humble origins (including movie-by-movie outfit breakdowns, which we strongly recommend you don’t miss).
Today Swartz is still a stylist who works with Melissa McCarthy and serves as the creative director for her size-inclusive line Melissa McCarthy Seven7. But back at the dawn of the millennium, she was serving as the arbiter for the hottest, new trends for an entire generation as she dressed Mary-Kate and Ashley for their red carpet appearance, films and their hugely successful Wal-Mart line.
“I was hired to style them when they were 9 years old for one of their straight-to-video movies,” she tells the website. “[Their team said] I was the first person who really got the girls and who they were. I was hired to style them for everything they were doing. I had such a hard time finding clothes for them, because there wasn’t anything out there that I really wanted to put them in. I had to go to high-end boutiques, buy women’s clothes, and cut them down to fit the girls. Accessories were a big part of my styling with them at that age, too; I was very big into sunglasses.” Below, five fun fact we learned about the tween fashion phenoms.
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Almost everything was custom.
“Everything was tailored, all the time. There was never an instance where I could just stick something on the girls and have it not need tailoring … We had at least three fittings for everything they wore. We had a tailor that we pretty much had on staff the whole time. She was really an integral part of the girls’ movies.”
And it wasn’t just their petite size that made it hard to dress the girls.
“I had the same problem with the girls as tweens as I do finding things for Melissa [McCarthy],” Swartz says about designers who wouldn’t lend clothes. “It’s ironic to me that those are the [industry names] they’re hanging out with now – when they were tweens, no [designers] were interested. I don’t blame them. But I went and bought [those designers’ clothes] anyway.” (Top of her shopping list at the time: Earl Jeans, Prada, Miu Miu and Theory.)
She started that whole “Olsens in boho layers” thing.
“The layers came from me. It’s how I dress. It comes from my days of dressing rock stars. I’m pretty petite myself, and I just have always worn big, oversized things to cover myself up. I still do. I might wear a tight pair of jeans, but I’ve got a big baggy sweater on, and 50 layering pieces. I’m not surprised that layering moved forward with [Mary-Kate and Ashley’s] aesthetics, because it was such a big part of their style growing up.”
The “mostly matching” wardrobe edict came from the studio.
“Management … always wanted the girls to dress the same yet different,” she says, adding that by the time they were filming Two of a Kind, the girls’ style personalities started to emerge a bit more. “Mary-Kate’s character needed to be ‘funkier’ and Ashley needed to be more ‘classic’. I always had racks of clothes, and they definitely had their say if they liked something or not. From the very beginning, they weren’t like dolls; they always had opinions.”
Their fashion career came as a surprise to her, too.
When asked if she expected them to go on and found CFDA-loved fashion powerhouses like The Row, Schwartz says, “Honestly, the answer is no. I didn’t. I knew that they loved fashion and they wanted to be involved in fashion … When they were around 15 years old, they said in an interview that they wanted to become fashion designers. I later reminded them that they’d said that, and they didn’t even remember!”
What do you think of the Olsen’s tween style? Which look was your favorite? Sound off below!