Chloë Sevigny on the Perfect Jeans and Binge-Watching ‘Friday Night Lights’
By Marshall Heyman
With the release of her new book, the actress and fashion darling talks about the thrill of the vintage-shopping hunt and the awards-show dress that split when she sat down.
Most actresses Chloë Sevigny’s generation have taken to Instagram and Pinterest or created a lifestyle site like Goop to define and extend their brands. But Ms. Sevigny, 40, has a genuine anxiety about the digital age. “The Internet is just so limitless and so frightening,” Ms. Sevigny explained over fruit salad and a mug of hot water with lemon at Veselka, a Ukrainian coffee shop in New York’s East Village that was one of her local haunts before her recent move to Brooklyn. “I wanted to reclaim my image and say, ‘This is who I am: an authentic girl from Connecticut who’s not so pretty, not so sexy, not so whatever, but she’s navigated her way.'”
The result is her new book, Chloë Sevigny (Rizzoli), that tracks her almost uncategorizable rise from suburban teenager to A-list actress, international fashion icon and sometime designer. Its trove of visuals is sandwiched by a foreword from her friend (and ex-Sonic Youth frontwoman) Kim Gordon and an afterword by another friend, actress Natasha Lyonne.
Through it all, her instinctively offbeat style has made her a favorite of the fashion industry. She landed a Miu Miu ad campaign a year after her film debut in Larry Clark’s provocative, gritty 1995 film
Ms. Sevigny very rarely enlists a stylist for red-carpet appearances—anomalous for actresses these days. Surprisingly, despite her longtime It Factor, she said that some designers won’t lend her clothes. “Sometimes it’s a blow to the ego,” she said.
Besides putting together the new book, Ms. Sevigny has been busy splitting her time among the new Netflix series Bloodline, the next season of American Horror Story and a new film—an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan that reunites her with her The Last Days of Disco team of director Whit Stillman and actress Kate Beckinsale. Here, she talked about the perils of lending out her clothes and ambitious closet-organizing principles.
The one thing I wear every day is: a pair of Opening Ceremony platform boots. I feel like I’m really broad-shouldered and having a big boot helps balance my silhouette.
For breakfast, I eat: a lot of watercress with eggs. Watercress is really high in antioxidants, and I like the peppery flavor. It’s one of my favorite foods. Sometimes I’ll have fennel or tomatoes and a little Ezekiel bread with almond butter. I’m an actress.
The oldest thing in my closet is: probably my First Communion dress. It’s a white cotton eyelet dress with a yellow satin ribbon. I still love white eyelet.
My signature scent is: Comme des Garçons Rose. I’ve been wearing it for 15 years, at least. It’s just so subtle. I’ve tried to switch it up. In L.A., I started wearing [Tom Ford] Black Orchid; I needed something grittier because it’s so sterile out there. But I always go back to the Rose.
If I could trade closets with anyone, it would be: the fashion stylist Jane How. She has a good eye and is a vintage hound like I am. She probably has cool T-shirts, denim and weird old Vivienne Westwood and Gaultier pieces. She probably buys stuff all the time in case she needs it, so it’s probably chock full.
I shop mostly at: vintage stores. Tokio 7 and Resurrection in New York are my go-tos. I like the thrill of the hunt, which is why I always do secondhand. It feels like more of a find than walking into wherever and buying the latest whatever. I also shop at Opening Ceremony and at Barneys for shoes. Shopping online gives me anxiety. I’m too tactile. I like to try on.
My closet is organized by: color, and then I divide [each color] into top, skirts and dresses. I’ve always done that.
I’m always struggling to find the perfect: top. Skirts are easy, but finding cute tops that are sexy but wearable is hard. I never have enough of them. I don’t know who makes the best. There are nice vintage Margiela knits, and there’s always Alaïa.
My style as a teenager was: very varied. I was into lots of different scenes and I was pretty outlandish. It wasn’t necessarily about “look at me.” I wasn’t really an extrovert. I thought that dressing myself in that way would make me seem more exotic or interesting.
The process of choosing a red carpet look is: always hard. Usually I look through the latest collections I know I can count on. Sometimes things get made for me, like this one disaster with Stefano Pilati when he was at Yves Saint Laurent. It showed up a day before [the Golden Globe awards ceremony] and I sat down and it just split open. No one had sat down in this dress. So I wore vintage YSL.
The first expensive fashion piece I bought was: a Comme des Garçons sweater. It was a black capelet and I think it was $500. I think it was my 19th birthday. I lent it to a friend and she never gave it back. I was so sad. She claims that it’s somewhere in storage.
The jeans I’m currently wearing are: J Brand. They’re black and high-waisted and very simple. I’m not into distressed denim unless it’s authentically distressed. Except for Levi’s, I’m not into [conspicuous] stitching. I’m constantly buying jeans, and the best ones are constantly eluding me. I’ll think I’ve found them and then I gain weight and then I lose weight.
The last book I loved is: Romantic Outlaws, about the relationship of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, that delicious feminist team, and the parallels in their lives. I was having a moment with the Marys.
I’ve been binge watching: Friday Night Lights for going on four months. I have five episodes left. I’m obsessed. I think I always had a disdain for American football because it took my dad away from me so much, but I love the show.
My drink of choice: runs the gamut. I like Manhattans. I like a gin martini with olive. I like tequila. I like white wines. I like a little red wine depending on what I’m eating. And I like the occasional Guinness. But in moderation. Alcohol makes me want to have a cigarette.
My ideal vacation destination is: funnily enough a high-end all-inclusive. I like going to a beach somewhere where you have to make the least number of decisions possible. Even wondering, “Where are we going to go to dinner?” is a stress that I’d rather not take on. My favorite vacation was in Greece. We did all of the historical stuff in Athens and then went to Hydra, this little island with no cars.
My favorite city is: New York. No question.
My favorite restaurant is: J Sheekey in London. I just like the vibe in there, the décor. It’s not even really about the food. It’s just [about] something a little glamorous.
My favorite hotel is: the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. I’ve been staying there for over 10 years and have such deep-rooted memories so when I walk in I get flooded by so many different emotions. I have a real romance with it.
An app I like is: Monument Valley. It’s a game. You move this little girl, Ida, around. She has a hat. She’s adorable.
Now that I’m 40, I think I should start dressing: like a lady. I got this beautiful Prada shearling last year with a shawl collar. But I haven’t worn it once. It’s too lady.
© Wall Street Journal 2015