In Fashion Feelings, we’ll be talking to notable people about how fashion changed their lives. Here, actress and star of Netflix’s Love Gillian Jacobs talks about developing her personal style after a lifetime of leisurewear.
I was in my mid-20s before I felt like I had my own individual style. My mother wouldn’t let me wear anything that she didn’t like, so she controlled my wardrobe until I went to college. As a kid, I wore full sweatsuits — like a sweatshirt and matching sweatpants — and usually a color-coordinated turtleneck underneath. I was really into monochromatic dressing in the third grade: I had a full fuchsia outfit, like fuchsia clogs, fuchsia bike shorts, and a fuchsia headband. By sixth grade I was trying to look cooler and in eighth grade there was a big overalls phase. I want to say I owned a dozen pairs. I had denim, corduroy, pastel colors — you name it, they sold it, I had it. My mom put me in a lot of sweater sets in high school. I looked like I was going to go to a ladies’ brunch. She dressed me like a little version of her, and I am sure she thought it was a totally fine, presentable outfit.
There was no real step forward for me sartorially in college. I went to Juilliard where we had these weird mandates that we couldn’t wear pants with waistbands that would restrict our breathing. It was more sweatpants, T-shirts, and hoodies. But it was a really big deal on Fridays when we got to wear jeans to class.
When I moved to New York, it was the first time I really had an awareness of fashion. I saw people on the street wearing clothing that I had seen in magazines, which blew my mind. There was such a gap in Pittsburgh between what you see in Vogue and what everybody wore. I started going to Barneys my senior year. I didn’t buy anything, just tried stuff on. One time I got a $3,000 Alexander McQueen dress stuck over my head, and had a really panicky moment in the dressing room, trying to get it off without ripping it as the saleswoman was banging on the door.
It’s funny: You spend four years dressing like you’re going to the gym and then suddenly realize: I’m actually going to be auditioning for things and having to look fashionable or presentable or cute. Everyone panicked because none of us owned any real-world clothes. I remember being told that blue would be a good color to wear to auditions. So I got a bunch of blue skirts. Then you have to audition for Law & Order and you’re playing a lawyer, so I would buy a little suit at Banana Republic. It was just me buying for auditions at that point, trying to have things that were appropriate for a variety of parts. I started going to Century 21, Loehmann’s, Filene’s Basement, T.J. Maxx. I was learning through failure — buying things that didn’t work, things that in my mind would be wonderful but in reality looked really stupid on me.
When I moved to L.A., I went to Maxfield, and discovered even more lines. I got into an A.P.C. moment that I’m still in. Now, I really like prints. I like to be comfortable day-to-day. But if I’m dressing up, I want to scare myself a little bit. I like British designers a whole lot: Peter Pilotto, Mary Katrantzou, J.W. Anderson.