Deep Style: Chloë Sevigny

Chloë Sevigny may be a designer darling, but her heart belongs to vintage. The actress talks personal style with Briony Smith

Chloe Sevigny

Chloë Sevigny in 2002 (Photo: Rex USA)

Laura and Mary Ingalls and Jack the dog came gambolling down that grassy hill week after week, every flap of the girls’ faded pioneerwear landing a little further in young Chloë Sevigny’s subconscious. Style, like a fetish, can develop from the smallest things. In Sevigny’s case, it was the home-spun ethos of Little House on the Prairie—already in reruns by the time she was nine—informing a lifelong #TBT that would set the actress apart from the facsimile fashion of her peers. “I was really into colonial times,” Sevigny, 40, tells me over the phone from New York (which she is leaving momentarily to fly to Ireland to film Whit Stillman’s next movie, Love and Friendship). “I grew up in New England, and we used to go to villages where people were dressed in colonial garb, and that’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to be a pilgrim. I think that’s been a common theme throughout my life—a throwback to simpler times.” A picture of her clad all in calico appears in Chloë Sevigny, an upcoming book of photos and ephemera from her personal archive. Such a project could read as self-indulgent, but few modern style stars have a backlist of looks as unique and diverse and fascinating as Sevigny’s. There are images from the famed Sassy magazine tenure, including shots of the 18-year-old in Dr. Martens, her signature skater silhouette and a strange, rather vertical floral hat. There’s a trove of pre-digital class photos, party pics and black-and-white snaps from the Harmony Korine–circa–Kids era. There are no paparazzi or red-carpet shots. “I wanted the book to be me me: what I want to wear, who I am, pictures from photo shoots I love. It has this consistency of authenticity and is not like an overtly sexy or pretty thing. There’s kind of an edge: a free, of-the-streets kind of a vibe.”

Chloe Sevigny

Chloë Sevigny (Rizzoli New York, $35)

Remarkably, Sevigny has found virtually every gem in her wardrobe herself—about 90 percent of it is vintage. The remaining pieces are designer, but, she says, they are “all freebies—all of my high-fashion items are.” Sevigny relishes the hunt over the swag; she’s been a dedicated thrifter since teenhood. Now her higher income allows rummaging around fancier shops like bicoastal vintage emporium Resurrection (she picked up two Comme des Garçons dresses there recently). “It makes me feel less guilty, buying things that have already been around. I’m not buying into more mass production,” she says. “I also love wearing pieces that aren’t as recognizable, like if you find an older piece, it’s more individual; it’s harder to pinpoint when it’s from and who it’s from. It’s more just the rarity of it.” Old-school influences pop up again and again in her book: Little House and Picnic at Hanging Rock, Morrissey and the punk ’90s (of which she is a patron saint), Connecticut prep and her late father. He prided himself on dressing well. “He always looked impeccable. I took a lot of cues from him. Even if I wasn’t as polished or put together as him, it was still a very considered thing.” Even though asking her to describe her style elicits a long, pained uuugghhh, Sevigny acquiesces: “I have this preppy foundation with a bit of grunge added into it. And I still hold on to a bit of these youth cultures I was obsessed with.” Some forever loves: the flared skater miniskirt (she just added a plaid Vivienne Westwood version to her collection); a high collar, to keep those C-cups in check (nothing too bodycon!); a short pant. “Even if I’m wearing a pretty dress, I’ll wear it with a big, heavy black boot, and I think that’s always been me underneath it,” she says. “I can tell, looking back at photos, when I was like, I’m going to play the game more and look all Hollywood. Those are the worst pictures to me. I just cringe. Whenever I was trying to bend to someone else’s idea of beauty or what’s sexy or what’s approachable, when I haven’t held true to myself—those give me pain.”

Gallery: Chloë Sevigny deconstructs past looks