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The fashion trend that won’t go away: Matching clothes for the whole family

Christy and Ryan Beck often dress up with their 1-year-old triplets in matching outfits. They post the photos to Instagram for their 130,000 followers. (Christy Beck)

Whether they’re at the pool, the park or the supermarket, the five members of the Beck family are almost always matching.

One day, they’ll all be in yellow-striped swimwear. On another, it’s straw fedoras and summery linen shirts.

“We’re a pretty-synced-up family,” said Ryan Beck, 39, a sales executive in Richmond, who has 1-year-old triplets with his wife, Christy. “If we’re going to the mall, we’ll all wear jeans and a green shirt or something like that.”

Welcome to the Instagram-fueled clothing craze that won’t go away: matching outfits for Mom, Dad and the kids . . . and sometimes Grandma and Grandpa.

The trend, percolating for decades, has reached fever pitch this summer as retailers as varied as H&M, Anthropologie and Saks Fifth Avenue double down on “mini-me” fashion to boost sales. Target has matching swimwear for the whole family, while “Mommy & Me” options at Neiman Marcus include Dolce & Gabbana butterfly-print skirts and dresses, Burberry sneakers and Gucci nylon jackets ($520 for toddlers, $1,400 for adults).

At Old Navy, the season’s “Daddy and Me” line includes prints with bananas, sloths and pineapples for babies and adults. The retailer has tripled its assortment of matching family wear since 2017 to keep up with surging demand.

“At every store, it’s, ‘Oh my gosh, customers are freaking out about pineapple-print shirts for the whole family,’” said Andres Dorronsoro, Old Navy’s senior vice president of merchandising. “We started with the holidays — the Fourth of July, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day — but now it’s really become an everyday trend. ‘It’s Wednesday. Let’s wear the same thing, take a picture and share it on Instagram.’”

Retailers are playing along. At Old Navy, Dorronsoro said, children’s clothing is “an important entry point to the brand.” Sales of children’s clothing have reached record highs, even as Americans spend less on apparel for men and women. The quest for the perfect Instagram photo has become one way to boost sales in every category: Instead of selling just one child’s swimsuit, retailers are selling four or five pieces in one go. And they’re getting free marketing on social media, where hashtags such as #twinning and #minime have been used millions of times.

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Critics say the trend is cheesy, if not plain creepy. But marketing experts say its proliferation speaks to a broader need for acceptance.

“We’re driven by ‘likes,’ ” said Dawnn Karen, a fashion psychologist and branding consultant. “And what gets the most likes? Children in matching clothes.”

“But,” she added, “the question becomes: Are we taking away our children’s individuality and their ability to develop their own tastes?”

Parents have been putting young siblings in matching clothing for decades. But it’s only recently that companies have started marketing the same prints and silhouettes to adults and children, said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of the consultancy WSL Strategic Retail. There are no longer hard-and-fast rules for what each generation can wear — today’s adults wear rompers, while babies have their pick of leather jackets and cutoff shorts.

“Children aren’t children anymore — they’re family branding elements,” said Michael Solomon, a fashion psychologist and marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “Childhood has become a job, and wearing matching clothes and posing for pictures is the latest requirement.”

Instagram is brimming with celebrity examples: model Chrissy Teigen and daughter Luna in matching avocado-print swimsuits; Beyoncé and daughter Blue Ivy in coordinating denim jackets; and multiple Kardashians “twinning” with their offspring.

“Mini-me fashion is the bestseller we never expected,” said Brian Lynch, the president of the children’s clothing giant Carter’s. The company has begun selling T-shirts and bodysuits with coordinating messages, such as “super mom,” “super loud” and “super tiny.” T-shirts that say “cousin crew (for life)” are among the summer’s top sellers.

It’s not just big-name chains, either. Boutiques such as Pink Chicken and Roller Rabbit have their own mini-me lines, as do dozens of sellers on Etsy.

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Masala Baby, a New York-based children’s clothing brand, added a few women’s tunics to its collection three years ago. It wasn’t long before the pieces began making frequent appearances on Instagram.

“Demand for matching outfits is growing in ways we never imagined,” said Luz Guillermo, the company’s brand manager. “Even this year versus last year, it’s night and day.”

The company introduced its first options for men this summer and sells 16 types of dresses, coverups and tunics for women that have matching children’s options. The retailer plans to add more styles next year.

“The days when children wore certain things and adults wore other things are long gone,” said Liebmann of WSL Strategic Retail. “The clean line of demarcation that used to exist between kids’ clothes and adults’ clothing is gone.”

That’s certainly the case with Iliana Charran’s family. The 37-year-old dietitian from New Canaan, Conn., stocks up on matching swimsuits, dresses and coverups for herself, her mother and her 2-year-old daughter before each family vacation. The reason, she said, is simple: “Cuteness overload.” (And, well, Instagram.)

The three generations wore matching ikat prints in the Bahamas and donned all white in Mexico. Sometimes Charran’s husband, Neil, wears a shirt in a coordinating color and joins in. But mostly it’s just the girls. “My husband is not super handsome in flowered pink or gold sparkles,” she said.

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For the Becks, it all started with Halloween when they turned into a pack of zombies. Then came Christmas, with matching red-and-white pajamas. Soon after, they began coordinating their outfits regularly. Plus, their 130,000 Instagram followers loved it.

“It’s just so much fun,” said Christy Beck, 42. “The triplets are always matching — always. On camera and off.”

That can get tricky with spit-ups, blowouts and other toddler accidents. But Christy, who used to work as a personal stylist for Saks Fifth Avenue, is persistent.

“If there’s an accident or a stain on something, I rip off all their clothes and do it again,” she said.

Eventually, though, she knows her kids will begin to protest. (Her husband already does.) When that happens, she said, she’ll put away the matching outfits.

“That’s the plan: to keep going until they say no,” she said. “I want them to be their own individuals and have their own identities. But until then, we’re having fun.”