Sunday, May 16, 2010

Separated at Birth?

Perhaps the most memorable twins in nursery rhymes were Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.

The classic image of the pair above is from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. As you can see, Simple Simon who met the pie man had nothing on these two dapper but egg-shaped gents. (Lewis Carroll's Tweedledum and Twedledee from

Fans of Through the Looking Glass were recently treated to Tim Burton's quirky version of the merry pair. (Tim Burton's Tweedledum and Tweedledee from

Reportedly, Tim Burton's version of the duo was directly influenced by the murderous twins who appeared in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining." (Photo from

Kubrick's vision in turn was influenced by Diane Arbus' ominous image of twins - which just goes to show you that what goes around, comes around. (Diane Arbus' Twins from

And then there's us.

If many people go through that childhood phase where they say to themselves “I’m so different from everyone else in the family – I wonder if I was adopted”, some people must also have times when they meet someone with whom they have an uncanny connection and think “I have so much in common with this person – could we be related?”

We have begun joking that we must be twins who were separated at birth because so many parts of our wardrobes are extremely similar or exactly identical, despite the fact that we got them at different times and different places and unbeknownst to one another. There were so many coincidences that finally we began buying a few identical items here and there for the sheer fun of it, knowing fully well that we don’t look at all alike.

The television program What Not to Wear warns viewers to guard against the “Matchy-Matchy” phenomenon. In these photos you can see we have failed miserably (and gleefully) at following that fashion tip.

Here we both have soft black hats set off with red pins, striped shirts and identical Marithe Francoise Girbaud pants. Bright-eyed though not bushy tailed is Valerie’s black cat, Clementine. Jean’s black cat, Dee Dee, was not available at the time of this shoot.

Valerie says: I found these pants last year at a thrift shop that always has about 30 linear feet of black pants. The first time Jean saw them she complimented me on them, then did a double take, realizing she had an identical pair. (Note our matching knee zippers and luminescent pocket buttons.) I'd seen her wear them many times, but never made the connection when I found the pair I bought. Mine are probably two sizes too big for me. Jean’s hug all her curves, giving the pants two completely different looks on us. I'm also wearing an H&M striped shirt from last summer. I was actually looking for a white shirt, and got this as an alternative. I had no idea then that stripes, first popularized by French sailors, then revived by Jean Paul Gaultier, would become all the rage yet again very soon thereafter. My hat is actually a fleece neck warmer. It originally had its silly label stitched on the outside, so I carefully snipped it away, and now have no idea who the manufacturer is. I've had it probably ten years now. Tereza Symon gave me the much loved red leather pin, made by her mom, in 1992.

Jean says: These nylon and polyester cargo pants by avant garde French sportswear designers are probably my all-time favorites. I'm a Formula 1 fan and have been going to races in Canada or Italy since 1996: Montreal 12 times and Monza twice. These pants are my race day tradition for at least the past dozen years in part because I am a creature of habit but mostly because they literally hold everything! I'm like a camel - a ship of the desert, totally self-sufficient with hands free to clap and cheer, hold binoculars, read the program, eat, drink and shop at the autodrome. The ample pockets at just above knee level hold all of the essentials: race tickets, passport, cell phone, wallet, camera, sunscreen, makeup, gum, etc. That Valerie was able to find a pristine pair is a source of amazement and envy. I paired the pants with a black and white striped Ralph Lauren cotton crew neck tee shirt, a white and black striped Top Shop polyester tank top, Maria Del Greco felt hat, vintage red bakelite hat pin and Dansko clogs.

In this photo, we both have red watch bands, which admittedly is no singular achievement, but we are wearing identical conical red rings [these in the two upper hands] AND identical rubber bracelets [in the two lower hands], all of which we bought before we met. In these days of rubber bracelets, identical rubber bracelets are nothing to invoke kismet over, but these bracelets both depict a cartoon-like car crash. What are the odds of both of us having THAT? (And what does a bracelet like that say about its wearers?)

Valerie says: my red ring is from El Museo del Barrio, maybe five or six years ago, but I’ve seen it on the streets of Soho as well. I got my bracelet at Pylones, maybe about four years ago. I’m never going to have a bracelet from Harry Winston or Cartier, so I think subconsciously this is my anti-bracelet. I bought the Swatch watch (thank heaven it has HUGE numbers, day, date and second hand) probably five years ago at a thrift shop.

Jean says: I cannot remember where I bought my red ring because it was more than a decade ago. I bought my car crash bracelet at a now defunct Soho boutique at some point in the 1980s. Mine is so old, the rubber has hardened and cracked. Valerie's description of the crash scene as cartoonish hits the nail on the head. The little green victim lies on the pavement near the wreckage of two demolished automobiles while an ambulance speeds to the scene. When Valerie showed up for brunch one Sunday sporting the crash bracelet, I remember being a little shocked at yet another example of our having purchased the same unusual item years apart. My stainless steel watch with red rubber band is by Techno Sport and is from Antonio's gift shop on Avenue A in the East Village. I'm also wearing a red plastic skull ring by Meredith Katz' Made Her Think line.

The military knew what it was doing when it designed uniform caps in this shape. They’re very flattering to many heads, so it’s no surprise that the fashion industry adopted and adapted them for civilian women’s wear.

Valerie says: I bought this blue felt hat at the 26th Street flea market in 1998. It originally came with a veil, which did not stand up to the test of time as well as the rest of the hat.

Jean says: My navy and grey wool felt cadet hat is an Official World's Fair cap made by Debway Hats. It is a little known fact that the 1939 World's Fair actually ran for two years. My hat is from the second year and its insignia says 1940. Click on the photo to enlarge it to see the logo. It has an orange grosgrain ribbon encircling the crown. I purchased it two years ago at one of the Stella Antique Shows at the Pier. I'm wearing Moss Lipow glasses and silver skull and pearl earrings by Kirsten Hawthorne.

Valerie says: I bought the hat I'm wearing in this photo at a Metropolitan Vintage Show for nearly a gazillion dollars. Jean and Kirsten were with me, and both of them did their Count Dracula thing on me: they held up their hands and pointed all their fingers at me, as if sending lightning bolts in my direction. But instead of saying "Come to meeee..." they were telepathically communicating "Buy that haaaaat...". Probably a year later I came across the hat Jean's wearing at one of the Pier Shows. This one was priced at the other end of the scale, and the primary difference between the two was that the first one had spotted white feathers and the second one had olive green feathers. I bought the hat thinking that if Jean wore it, we could be twins - in the absurd sense of the word. I had no idea if Jean would think this perfectly ridiculous or not, but it was priced so that I didn't mind taking the chance. If Jean had turned thumbs down on it, I could always have worn the two hats on alternate days of the week. I think this was the first time one of us made a deliberate purchase with the idea of not just dressing, but dressing alike. It took a long time before I even suggested it to Jean. It definitely requires a sense of humor for two Women of a Certain Age to wear the same clothes at the same time. My coat, purchased at a vintage shop in 1992, is by Christian de Castelnau; Jean is wearing a coat by Robben Alexander.

Jean says: Valerie and I purchased these straw coolie hats last summer at a favorite thrift shop. What is amusing besides the hats and the grey baggy slacks is the fact that we both separately purchased fishermen's vests. I bought my silver nylon and mesh Patagonia vest at a thrift shop in Brooklyn last year. Not only was it a small size, but it was brand new. It still has a Patagonia plastic bag folded up in the left chest pocket. It matches my Donna Karan silk cargo pants that I've paired with a grey and white nylon 3/4 sleeve nylon boat neck tee shirt (no label), grey socks and Dansko clogs.

Valerie says: The hats were among the first things we deliberately purchased together with the idea of wearing identical clothes. They're a bit bland in their present state, but that makes them ripe for transfiguration. We talked about laquering them red with spray paint, but haven't gotten around to that yet. I found Jean's vest, and suggested at the time that it would go with my vest (which is part of a Final Home ensemble with a matching skirt). Since Jean wore a printed short sleeved tee, I wore the tee I have that most resembles it, from H&M. My gray pants are from Oska, and my shoes are Aerosoles. Jean's pants have WONDERFUL details that might be hard to see. Donna Karan is FAB!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

On the left is a photo of the master at work; on the right is a photo of us kinda sorta trying to imitate the master. Twofold twins!

We are both wearing Final Home, a company that grew out of Issey Miyake.

Jean says: That's me on the right. I purchased my gossamer raincoat about six months ago at an Upper East Side consignment store. Although it is not black, I love how it rustles like taffeta when I move. The hood folds up and snaps into the collar. Needless to say, Valerie's neighbors who interrupted our photo shoot near the freight elevator in her building were mighty perplexed. We, of course, proceeded to choreograph our shoot as if it were perfectly natural to brandish tungsten lights while wearing hooded raincoats in the hallway near midnight!

Valerie says: I bought mine (the gray version, left) around the year 2000 or so. Each zipper opens to reveal about four pockets, and the zippers are at the front, back and sleeves, so you could theoretically do away with your pocketbook, although the coat would probably sag oddly here and there. The first time we saw Jean's coat at the consignment shop, they wanted oodles and oodles for it. I think there is some sort of cult status associated with the clear coat. (You could put photos in it, and the photos would be visible to passersby.) The next time we came around, they had lowered the price to well within the stratosphere, and Jean snapped it up.

In this shot, we're both wearing vintage portrait hats - also known affectionately as pancake hats - with fabric covered metal circles that hold the material taut and hug the head.

Jean says: I purchased my blue floral silk portrait hat at a Manhattan Pavillion vintage fashion show about two years ago. I loved the dramatic shape and how it framed the face. It is lined in a burgundy silk which gives it extra body, but can make it hot. Since I'd never worn it around Valerie I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised when she purchased a smaller turquoise cotton version of my hat. While Valerie went for a summery look here, I preferred to goth it up with a long black Ronen Chen skirt and Kyodan peplum jacket.

Valerie says: I remember being shocked - shocked! - that Jean bought a BLUE hat with PINK ROSES on it, but I didn't consciously remember its construction. When I bought this hat at the last Pier Show, I THOUGHT I was buying it with no reference to any of Jean's clothes, but the proof of the pudding, etc., etc. The mind is a funny thing, and great minds think alike. (Feel free to add your own cliche here, too.)

At this time, we don't yet have any outfits that match head to toe because we would probably have to buy them at full retail price, and neither of us wants to spend that much. (That would take all the fun out of it.) But we're working on it, and will report back to you when that mission is accomplished.

We had our first visits this week from (in alphabetical order) Belarus, Bulgaria and Chile. Welcome all, and thanks for stopping by!

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