Whether she's playing Sally Draper on "Mad Men" or taking on comedy as Kymmi on "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," 16-year-old Kiernan Shipka has never been one to play it safe when it comes to her acting career. The same could be said of her red carpet choices, which, for starters, include Christian Dior Couture, Mary Katrantzou, plenty of Delpozo and Giambattista Valli.
Behind her sartorial winning streak are stylists Jill Lincoln and Jordan Johnson, both of whom first began working with the actress as part of Rachel Zoe's in-house team. The duo, who set off on their own in March, have since styled Shipka in some of her best red carpet looks to date. Very recently, we spoke with Lincoln over the phone about dressing Shipka appropriately for her age, that time when Lincoln told her not to talk to a boy and the young actress's interest in fashion.
Could you briefly tell us your background in styling?
I worked in New York for 10 years assisting various stylists and I had the same agent as Rachel [Zoe]. They asked if I was interested in coming out to California and working with her for a little bit; I knew Jordan through friends prior so it was an easy transition. Jordan and I got along as well as I can ever imagine. We were together there for five years and just decided that it was time for us to move forward and start our own thing.
When did you first start working with Kiernan?
Jordan and I have worked with Kiernan for probably five years, so it was early on when I started with Rachel. I think it was just before she [turned] 10. It's a long time.
What was the first event you dressed her for?
It was a promo shoot for images accompanying "Mad Men" press. It was at her house and it was actually one of my favorites. It was really like playing dress up with a little doll. We knew how much she was into fashion prior to going over that day.
With teenage actresses, you run the risk of appearing either too sexy or too young. What's the mood or direction that you guys are currently going for with Kiernan?
There's a fine line that we all see with girls dressing appropriately for their age, and Kiernan's still a little lady. She's not trying to be sexy. It's just growing with her and the designers that lend to her. It's elevating that kind of level of fashion with her, but still paying particular care to not jump ahead too fast.
She's not appealing right now for roles necessarily that are for a younger girl or anything; she's grown up in her career. So it's just dressing her appropriately for a 16-year-old girl without any overt sexiness. We play with shapes and A-lines and looks that are more partial to the "fashion" element of it than that make her appeal to the masses. She does some things sometimes that women who don't live in major fashion cities might not quite get. It's more about fun. It's fun, it's fashion. It's ultimately what she likes to wear versus what's going to make everyone else happy.
Would you say that she's pretty experimental and open to trying new designers?
Absolutely. We showed her the first collection [of Delpozo] when they reintroduced the line. And immediately, she was all over it. She's always looking for fun new ways to experiment and kind of push the line a little bit.
Speaking of Delpozo, I've noticed that she's worn the brand's dresses several times. Would you say that you two were instrumental in pushing her towards that direction?
Yes. Yes we were. The first time she wore them was to the Emmys three years ago? We showed her the runway pictures and and it was like, done and done.
Delpozo is a unique choice on the red carpet. What made you think it'd be a good fit for her?
At the time, she was a bit younger — now she's kind of in that in-between stage, where we were graduating from Valentino Red to "big girl Valentino" as we call it. The fun thing about Delpozo and why that worked so well is that there's a strong element of youth in the design, which was perfect for her. You wouldn't see January Jones or Claire Danes at the Emmys wearing the dress that she wore that year.
Which designers are currently on her radar?
We've been doing a lot of Giambattista Valli, a lot of Valentino. Oscar [de la Renta] is always a favorite. In terms of the younger designers, we've tried Sonia Rykiel a few times. Carven's one that we've been trying to have a moment with for a while. And Erdem too. We love Erdem.
How would you describe her off-duty style?
For all intents and purposes, she is a normal 16-year-old girl — as normal as can be when you're getting couture from Dior sent for award shows and events. She has, you know, Chuck Taylors. She had on some cute Madewell overalls the other day [with] an Isabel Marant T-shirt underneath it. It's a slightly elevated version of what your normal 16-year-old would wear. But she loves it. And I can relate because I was one of those weird kids, too, who at a very young age was bizarrely obsessed with fashion and was reading Vogue. I think that I'm kind of living out my fantasies from when I was her age through her.
Do you think her appreciation for fashion comes from working on "Mad Men" and seeing all those wonderful costumes?
I'm sure that it is very influential being around people as talented as the costume team at "Mad Men" and being exposed to that so early on, but I think that it truly is inherent with her. It really interested her early on and her parents nurtured that with her and kept her very grounded. But again, same as with my parents: they'd take me to costume exhibits and I had my first pair of loafers when I was way too young. Not in a spoiled sense, but it was something that was very important to me. Learning the history. And Kiernan, I think, is quite similar.
So does she actually enjoy learning about fashion beyond just clothes?
She's very into it. I always joke with people and say that she knows more about fashion than half the Condé Nast masthead. Always every fitting, she's [saying], "What did you think about this show? What did you think about that show?" I think that she's very well-versed — sometimes more so than Jordan and I.
She recently went to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund event in a Giambattista Valli dress. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
This is quite funny. I had been in New York a couple days prior and Jordan was traveling with another one of our clients. It was a last minute invitation for Kiernan and I had just happened to be in the Giambattista Valli showroom. I said, "Oh, Kiernan doesn't have any looks on deck, so can I just take this in case something pops up?" And I took it with me. About an hour later, they said, "Hey, Kiernan's going to the CFDAs," and I was like, "I got the dress!" We didn't even have her fit it; this doesn't usually happen that way. But we've worked together for long enough that we know for the most part what will work.
At Teen Vogue's Young Hollywood party, she wore a floral striped dress by Mary Katrantzou. Is that a designer that's also on her radar?
She's worn Mary several times. And again, another regular that we call for fittings because Mary really does have fun with fashion and uses color and patterns and doesn't play it safe.
For the 67th Emmy Awards, Kiernan wore a Christian Dior Couture look with pants — what's the story behind that?
There was a similar look in the past that we had wanted to try for her with pants for a major event, so that's kind of always been in the back of our minds: looking for the "Kiernan-appropriate" pant look. We were going through our requests for the Emmys and had reached out to Dior to send for her. We said, "Fun, young, pretty. And by any chance in the stars, if there is something cool with pants." They said, “We have this one look which has actually never been worn from Raf [Simons] in his first couture collection." It was like it was meant to be — the one look that hadn't been worn. We showed her and it was done. We knew it was taking a chance. It could go one of two ways because we loved it, but a lot of people might not get it. But we're lucky that it went like this.
Do you have a funny story at a fitting or anywhere else that you could share with us?
Well, we're very protective of her. She's like our little sister. I was at a dinner that she was invited to for a designer about a year ago, and she was seated next to a young man who was talking to her. And I was just not okay with it. Actually we all laughed about that after because at the next fitting, I was kind of like, "You can't talk to him! He's too old for you!" [She said], "We were just talking about our favorite restaurants." And I'm like, "I don't care! He's up to no good." That's kind of a good insight into our relationship with her.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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