We feel lied to. Ever since Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen came out with the iconic song “Identical Twins” off their VHS hit Our First Video, we’ve been programmed to believe that they’re, well, identical twins. And for years they did indeed look a lot alike, but no, they’re not alike. Over the years we’ve been able to see the how the fraternal sisters have diverged in looks, and if you ever needed concrete ways to tell Mary-Kate and Ashley apart, scroll down to see how they’ve morphed into different people… albeit different people with a slightly similar face.
Here are bb MK & A fresh-faced and about to promote Our First Video, featuring the hit “Brother For Sale” (still a banger). However, while the two girls are breaking free from the Full House family, they still have a long way to go before they become their own women. The only way to distinguish them are with literal name tags.
Ok, we have a little bit of variation here with the gingham shirt colors. We think that’s Mary-Kate on the left and Ashley on the right, but we’re not about to put any hard money on it. They’re basically still indistinguishable.
Ugh, you guys. Mary-Kate is probably the black swan of the two? Maybe?
An important year in the life of the Olsens: when they both got a trendy layered cut, making it even harder to tell them apart. It is important to note that around here they do start wearing different outfits more often, even if those differences are nuanced.
So, in 1998 the Olsens took on the short-lived Two of a Kind, in which Ashley played girly-girl Ashley and Mary-Kate played tomboy Mary-Kate. That… really makes things simple for everyone. Names aside, this is an easy idea to keep in mind when telling the Olsen twins apart, be it in movies or real life. Ashley is more traditional, Mary-Kate has more of an edge. Moving forward…
Switching Goals, plays on the same concept of “girly-girl versus tomboy” with the twins following the same format as they do in Two of a Kind. Like, it’s a thing, it’s a definite thing. But as far as the promo shot goes, MK is the one with the flippy hair and Ashley is ironing her hair inward. Differences in hair flips were the main way you told the twins apart at the turn of the millennium.
Speaking of which, Ashley may be the one with the outside flips in this shot. They’re not making it easy for us.
This is when the sisters start looking a little dead inside, and that’s all we have to say about that.
This is the first shot where we can say with confidence that Ashley’s on the left and Mary-Kate is on the right. Why? Although the Olsens are still using flat irons for us to tell them apart (sigh) and wearing the same outfits (DOUBLE SIGH) the 2000s are when you start seeing that Ashley has a fuller mouth.
THIS. RIGHT. HERE. THANK. GOD. In 2003 MK dyed her hair red, making it exponentially easier to tell the Olsens apart at long last.
Ashley for most of this era was rocking bleach blonde hair, but the Olsens’ bigger difference here is due to Mary-Kate’s weight. Though both ladies are quite lithe, Mary-Kate’s struggle with anorexia was coming to a light. She entered rehab for her eating disorder that same year.
This. Is. Everything. While still concerningly waif-like, Mary-Kate is starkly different from her sophisticatedly dressed sister, shrinking into the background despite a poppy punch of scarlet lipstick with a matching bolero.
Furthering the divide, Mary-Kate was full boho by 2006, wearing her red-head long and tangled. Ashley’s doing basic boho, with a freaking crown braid. Whatever, Ashley.
Loving it. Mary-Kate is so extra during the mid-2000s, like that is some straight-up Blanche Dubois realness she’s serving with that stole.
This is interesting. For a brief moment in 2008, Mary-Kate and Ashley were both hiding behind their sunglasses, relatively laid-back and similarly coiffed. Mouths aside, how can we even know which one is Mary-Kate?
2008 Part Two
Oh, there she is.
MK and her red lips and bleached brows on the left, Ashley and her boring full mouth on the right. Mary-Kate likes to drown her clothes a little more than Ashley, though they’re both a big fan of the look.
The Olsens are back to being near-identical! Who would’ve thought? For the record, Mary-Kate is the one in the harlequin jacket.
Yikes, okay. This is where you can see Mary-Kate’s face getting gaunt in a weird way again. Her chin looks certainly sharper. Ashley’s concerned.
A brief, sleek, dark-haired moment for Mary-Kate! The Olsens actually both look very good and (dare we say it) borderline normal.
They’re now still keeping to the same aesthetic, but you can still clearly see who is who with those differing jawlines.
Like Mary-Kate is clearly the Olsen with the more defined face, but by 2014 they’ve both embraced Voldemort chic.
Mary-Kate is also typically a shade tanner and more likely to come home to a gigantic horcrux-snake every night.
A moment of silence for Elizabeth Olsen, the woman who has to live the curse of being an Olsen sister but not a twin. She’s towering over her siblings, and if you can’t tell who is who by this point then God help you.
And there it is. With Mary-Kate’s chiseled face and scragglier mane, she’s definitely set herself apart as the more risk-taking sibling. But we’re grateful that the Olsen girls have simultaneously committed to a life of haute couture and hating to smile.
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