It all began because of the weather: Nancy comes from St Louis, Missouri, a hot, steamy state, while Donald is a native of Boston, Massachusetts, which enjoys a more clement climate. "When we were dating, Donald was always very prim and proper: he always wore a suit, a long-sleeved shirt, and a tie," explains Nancy, 44. "St Louis gets very hot and humid, and he'd be soaked to the bone. I told my mum, 'He's going to melt!' and she said, 'Make him a shirt that he can't put on a tie with, that has short sleeves. He won't want to hurt your feelings by not wearing the shirt you made him.' When I was in school, if you were going steady, you went to the school picnic in matching shirts, for everybody else to know that you two were a couple. So I made me a shirt to match the shirt I'd made for him, and that was the start of it."
One thing led to another, explains Donald, 61. "That first Easter after we got married, I had a grey sports coat, slacks and a pink silky shirt, and she had a pink silky dress - Nancy never wears slacks, she always wears dresses or skirts. We went to church in St Louis dressed like that. That was the first outfit that we really matched, and then it became a flourish, because we had a good time doing it."
Now they dress the same 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. "If I wear out something first and Nancy's blouse is still good, well, it then becomes a polishing cloth because she won't wear it without me wearing mine," says Donald, who made his fortune as the proud creator of the plastic lawn- flamingo, a popular garden ornament in the States. "But that first outfit she made, we're still wearing it - we're not that hard on clothes. We can go weeks without repeating. I'd say there's approximately 600 hangers in the closet and they're all full." Whoever gets to the wardrobe first in the morning (usually Nancy) gets to pick the outfit for the day.
The two of them enjoy shopping together for fabrics, and know each other's tastes perfectly. "We think a lot alike and it's been this way right from the beginning," says Donald, who fell in love at first sight with Nancy when they met at a plastics trade fair in Chicago in 1975. He immediately promised her a diamond ring; on their first date he proposed and was accepted. "We're sort of like twins joined at the heart. We think alike, we act alike, we enjoy the same things."
Identical dressing, he says, does not mean looking silly. "If you see us in different places, we both look quite normal. Nancy's outfit will be puffy-sleeved, or with a mouton sleeve, or little flares or something - mine will be a properly tailored man's suit."
It seems that dressing together is part of a recipe for the perfect romance. "In 20 and a half years, we've never had an argument, let alone a fight," says Donald. "I live my life for her and she lives her life for me. It may sound idealistic but it's true. People who know us say, 'Gee, you're the happiest people we know.' She's amazing. I certainly am a lucky man, and I know it." !
NEW YEAR'S EVE 1978