What is a Twinset?

G. Melanson

A twinset is a set of two garments which includes a sweater that buttons, zips, or ties up the front and a matching top underneath. The top, or “shell,” worn beneath the sweater usually has a crew neck or other high neckline and may be sleeveless or short-sleeved. In popular culture, twinsets are often associated with upper-class conservatism and country club socialites. Female characters in TV and film are often depicted wearing twinsets and pearls to convey a prim and proper personality or overt perfectionism, such as Super Mom, June Cleaver in the 1950s classic, Leave it to Beaver.

Woman shopping
Woman shopping

The twinset was first popularized by such 1950s fashion icons as Grace Kelly, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and Audrey Hepburn; it sometimes symbolizes the classic and refined retro outfit as a result. The twinset made a comeback in the mid-1990s, when it was worn with knee socks, plaid skirts, and sometimes adorned with beading and sequin appliques. During the late 1990s, twinsets took on a more modern look when they were sold in “dip dye” styles, featuring color which fades from one end of the garment to the other. In 2008, First Lady, Michelle Obama incorporated the twinset into her wardrobe while on the presidential campaign trail.

In addition to being fashionable, the twinset is also functional, allowing its wearer to shed the outer layer in warmer temperatures. The outer layer is also light enough to be worn tied around the shoulders or waist, or tucked into a purse. Cotton twinsets are especially versatile as they can be both insulating in cold weather and breathable in warm weather. Wool, cashmere and angora twinsets, however, are best suited for formal attire and cold weather.

Twinsets are a great addition to a woman's work wardrobe, serving as a semi-formal item that can be mixed and matched with shells and sweaters of other colors and patterns. The twinset is classically paired with a skirt or shift dress, but can also be worn with trousers, capris, jeans, and other types of pants.

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