“Style tells a story that you can share again and again,” says Kiernan Shipka, who knows a thing or two about dressing for the spotlight. The actress mastered fashion from a very young age after landing a role in Mad Men, aged just eight years old, and she has since become a face to watch on the red carpet. “I love the idea that you can send a message or speak some kind of personal truth with what you’re wearing, that makes fashion so exciting.”
This weekend, Shipka attended Max Mara’s resort show in Stockholm, wearing retro bell-bottom trousers and a black bandeau top. “I want to wear things that I would normally and feel comfortable in,” she told me about her choice of ensemble.
We had a moment to catch up with the star before she headed out to the show. Below, see what the actress had to say about confidence, her ever-evolving style and why her Mad Men co-star January Jones is her ultimate style icon.
Talk us through your look for the Max Mara show
“I tried on a few things, but we landed on these white bell-bottom trousers and a black bandeau top. There was something about it that felt very streamlined in a Max Mara way, but it was also something I’d wear on a weekend with my friends. I’ve been doing fashion stuff for a really long time now, so I want to wear things that I would normally feel comfortable in. For a show, maybe that’s a little more heightened, but I just love wearing stuff that feels like me and also honors the brand. This feels like a really good combination of myself and Max Mara.”
How do you decide which brands you want to work with?
“I’ve built some really lovely relationships with people; I gravitate toward brands that speak to me personally, rather than having a checklist of things I look for. My style is always changing, so it’s fun to grow with other people, labels and new designers that come in. There is so much mind-blowing talent out there, I’m really lucky I get to play around and wear their beautiful pieces.”
What makes Max Mara such a great fit for you and your personal style?
“My style has definitely changed in the past couple of years. Max Mara fits the current version of Kiernan style – I like classic and simple stuff that can be accessorized in different ways.”
How involved do you tend to be with the styling process?
“I’m pretty involved. I want to like everything that’s on my body and be able to walk out the door feeling 100 per cent comfortable. I have a wonderful stylist [Jordan Johnson Chung] and we have very similar tastes, so there’s a lot of working together. I definitely ask for a lot of different people’s opinions, especially when it comes down to the details and because I can be extraordinarily indecisive. In other instances, I have a strong opinion and know what I want to wear, so I make the call. It really couldn’t be done without so many talented people who help pull the look together. This is one of the reasons why fashion is so magnificent. I’ve arrived at that point now where the mission statement is just to have fun with it.”
What kind of fashion makes you feel your most confident?
“Most of the time, it’s when clothes fit right like a good pair of jeans. I feel my best when I’m comfortable and the outfit reflects me, this could be an everyday look or a full-on gown. It could be anything , it just has to feel right.At the moment I’m loving big platform boots with everything.I’m 5 foot 3, so this newfound height has been fun.I usually gravitate toward more of a pump when I go out, so I’ve enjoyed incorporating a new style combination into what I’m wearing.
“That’s what’s fun about fashion in general, you can be super deliberate and tweak things to how you’re feeling. I grew up on Mad Men with costume designer Janie Bryant, so she drilled into me quite early on; how style tells a story that you can share again and again, it’s not just a beautiful item of clothing, you can really say something with it. I love the idea that you can send a message or speak some kind of personal truth, even lightly with what you’re wearing, that makes fashion so exciting.”
How has your style evolved over the years?
“My style has definitely changed a lot as I’ve got older. At 23 now, there’s been a natural progression of growing up and now I’m more inclined to do simpler things that feel a little sexier as that’s my more general vibe. When I go out, I love wearing lace and different cuts that feel sleek, but I do still occasionally love a floral frock.”
What has been your most memorable fashion moment in recent years and why?
“It’s interesting, once all the events started happening again it was such a big adjustment back into that kind of world. One of my favorite things I’ve worn in recent memory was a Dior dress to the Toronto International Film Festival. There was something so special about it – the dress covered most of my body and was to the floor but still made me feel so sexy, it had some boob side which I really loved and was so structural.It hit the perfect balance and made me feel really good . After the red carpet, I changed into those platform boots I mentioned earlier.”
Whose style have you always admired and why?
“January Jones for me growing up because she played my mom, I still think she’s the coolest. I remember during those formative years, I really looked up to her style on the red carpet which was so iconic, but also saw it as more of an extension of what I saw her show up in every single day. They both felt like the same person, which is what my goal is with my own style. She would always turn up to set looking so chic and cool with a level of effortlessness that I really admired. We went for dinner last week and of course, she turned up wearing the coolest thing. I’m still thinking about how to recreate her outfit now. She was wearing all white with a beautiful necklace, black belt and black boots. It was very simple and only she could pull it off, it was just so effortless. That’s her power and always will be.”
What is your ideal getting-ready set-up?
“Ideally my house. But if I’m in another location, I have to have the right people around me, whether that’s family or friends. As I’ve gotten older, I feel like the more the merrier as long as it’s the right people there with me, like my hair and make-up team that I’m obsessed with.A really good drink is a must too.It could be a Diet Coke or a glass of Champagne, just something fun is essential like good music. Also, there has been the right amount of time and I hate feeling rushed.”
When do you feel most beautiful?
“When I’m taking good care of myself; when I’ve had a good sleep, I’m being nice to myself, I’m feeling jazzed by whatever friends I’m reading, I’m around laughing, basically when I feel like a good full version of my true self. That version of me isn’t something that’s put on, it stems from all kinds of ways, like how I’m speaking to myself or what I’m doing to respect the body I ‘m-in.”
Fashion has a reputation for being frivolous, but why does it matter what we wear?
“Fashion is truly such a beautiful thing. These brands are so artistic and talented – clothes to me are like art, and fashion is such a beautiful expression of self. It’s an amazing vehicle to defy a norm or make some kind of statement. Clothes are also such good markers for your life, where you can look back on moments when you were wearing certain things.It’s an extension of self, so it’s really beautiful to watch it evolve over time.Fashion is really fun, but there’s also so much weight to it. It’s not just a matter of putting on pretty things and walking out the door, but rather a process which a lot goes into. To be able to honor the designer’s vision and the makers of the clothing is really special.”