Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are known for two things: playing the adorable/annoying Michelle Tanner on nineties sitcom “Full House,” and their fashion sense. Specifically, that ultra-layered “granny chic” thing that only looks good on people with zero percent body fat. (Seriously, I’ve tried it and it makes me look like a crazy bag lady, and not in a cool, fashion-y way.)

But where did this look come from in the first place? As it turns out, the Olsen twins were mainly just scared (of the vicious paparazzi) and busy (contrary to popular belief, they actually did attend class while at NYU). They discuss this a bit in the somewhat tl;dr–err, I mean extremely thorough–interview that posted yesterday.


…But people in fashion became aware of the way you dressed…

A: When we moved to New York I think, for NYU.

People called it homeless chic or granny chic. There were a lot of terms. But it was a very striking moment. Were you conscious it was happening?
A: That moment for us was us waking up, going to school, and not wanting anyone to take our picture. Kind of a piece of protection.

MK: For me, it was so cold, like the wind chill. How could you not put on 20 things when you’re going from Los Angeles to walking through the snow?

A: Yeah, we were California girls.

MK: I think it was probably that. And laziness.

The irony is everybody wanted to photograph that and then copy it.

Dressing like a cold and terrified teenager: the hottest thing since sliced bread! I’m surprised no one ever thought to smear some dirt on her face, Little Orphan Annie style, or clutch a stuffed animal to her chest as a jaunty accent to her layered ensemble. Sienna Miller, I am disappointed in you.

Actually, this jives with the totally subjective impression I got the one time I encountered the Olsen twins in person. They were filming a movie on Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, and they had the steps in front of Low library (a central thoroughfare) roped off from actual students so that the cuter, blonder extras they’d hired to play us could walk back and forth to imaginary classes without interference. A small crowd had gathered to watch. I caught a glance of the twins between takes, and they were huddled under a jacket like two cute animals in a zoo who just wished people would stop poking at them. I knew they were rich and had fabulous lives, but in that moment I felt sort of bad for them.

I don’t think they did any more stupid movies together after that; Mary Kate went on to do cool stuff like “Weeds” and of course, they’ve gained many accolades for their very un-Michelle Tanner line, The Row. They’ve overcome the weirdness that comes with being famous since before you know what the fuck is going on and done quite well for themselves. However, the memory of their awkward early days in New York will live on forever in the drape-y layers and huge sunglasses of everyone their paparazzi armor has inspired.