How I Shop: Christie Brinkley

"I love seeing great old pieces get new life and new interpretations."
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Christie Brinkley and daughter Sailor Brinkley Cook at Zimmermann's Spring 2019 show during New York Fashion Week. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images 

Christie Brinkley and daughter Sailor Brinkley Cook at Zimmermann's Spring 2019 show during New York Fashion Week. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images 

We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."

Let's be honest, Christie Brinkley needs no introduction. But it is really fun to try to list out a smattering of her extensive contributions to the fashion, beauty and entertainment industries from the past four decades — and counting. 

Since her start in 1973, Brinkley has been one of the most prominent and enduring supermodels in the world. She's covered a laundry list of prestigious print magazines (le sigh), from Vogue to Rolling Stone. Plus, Brinkley has appeared in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue eight times, and set a record for a trifecta of consecutive covers in 1979, 1980 and 1981. It all came full circle last year, when she returned to the special issue to pose with her two daughters, Alexa Ray Joel and Sailor Brinkley Cook

In 2014, the multi-hyphenate model launched a beauty line, Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare Collection, which focuses protecting skin from infrared radiation sun damage. "I was a surfer girl," she tells Fashionista, over the phone, about her inspiration to start her line. "They basically would hand me a bathing suit and say, 'Go get a tan, and then we'll take pictures of you in a bathing suit.' So, I've had a lifetime of sun damage."

Brinkley is also one of the O.G. models-turned-actresses, becoming an MTV icon in her then-husband Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" video in 1983, plus appearing in the "National Lampoon's Vacation" franchise. In 2011, she also proved her triple-threat on-stage talents as Roxy Hart in "Chicago" on Broadway and on a national tour. And in what I consider the best casting ever, she made frequent cameo appearances as luckiest-man-alive Jerry's wife Gayle on "Parks and Recreation." 

On Jan. 2, Brinkley hits the small-screen once again by putting her industry expertise to work as a judge on the second season of Lifetime's hair and makeup competition show, "American Beauty Star." 

As a fashion icon and one of the most famous people on the planet, Brinkley has unsurprisingly amassed a comprehensive archive — "the cedar closet" — from which her three children, including Jack Brinkley-Cook, regularly pilfer, er, borrow. But it's more fun to hear about it from the legend herself.

Brinkley at the 2018 "Sports Illustrated" Swimsuit x Paraiso runway show during Miami Swim Week. Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images 

Brinkley at the 2018 "Sports Illustrated" Swimsuit x Paraiso runway show during Miami Swim Week. Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images 

"I was living out in the Hamptons and I just moved back to New York City last January, so my shopping habits are all over the place right now. When I was out there, of course, I would mosey around on weekends and pop in and out of some of the little shops out there. But in the winter time, it really slows down, so I was big on online shopping. Now that I'm in the city, I find that I tend to look at things in the stores, but I don't really want to stop and take the time to go to the checkout stand. I'll look for similar things online and order it, or, sometimes if there's nobody around, I'll buy it in the store. I love some of the sites, like Net-a-Porter, because they make it so easy for you.

I have to say, I do a lot of shopping at work. I always say to the stylist, 'Bring a ton of stuff, and by the way, I need some new some new jeans or whatever, if you happen to see anything good.' And then I do the majority of my shopping, right there off the rack at work! I usually do events-related shopping or, if suddenly, I'm going on a trip. Then I'll do a little shopping spurt with a specific mood in mind.

When I'm off-duty, I just go back to my classic things: cowgirl, sailor, comfortable. You know, plaid shirt and whatever. And if I'm dressing up, I like to just be comfortable and I like something classic, but maybe a little bit body-conscious, so something is being accented, whether it's an off-the-shoulder part or a leg. 

I'm very big on accessories, like good shoes, and I feel like good shoes or a good purse can really make the outfit. I also love shopping for coats because it's something that you don't have to undress. I have an unusually large supply of trench coats and winter coats and that kind of stuff because you can just slip it on and, no matter what, you don't have to get undressed. 

Brinkley in one of her fabulous coats. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images 

Brinkley in one of her fabulous coats. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images 

I got an oversize trench coat from Off-White that I found I really could throw over anything. It's such a big, comforting [coat]. It goes with everything. I also got a black patent leather long trench from Tom Ford. In fact, I was thinking, 'It looks like it might rain tonight, I probably should grab that.' Those two things have been in heavy rotation.

I do have an archive. I go through phases, too. Right now, I've just gone back to my 'cowgirl' section and pulled out a few things that just feel very fresh again. Some of my old boots, some of my jackets. Stuff like that I just never throw away. In fact, my kids over the years go to the 'cedar closet' for Halloween costumes. Because there's my cowgirl section, my Southwestern beaded and fringe section and my sailing section, with anything striped or military-inspired with buttons and epaulettes. I've got everything: moccasins, boots, handmaid's boots, cowboy boots with initials and my horses names on them, championship belts and all of that stuff. 

The kids will get in there and it's not like they always ask either. [Laughs] The main thing that bothers me is if I finally get my jeans closet organized and I know exactly what I've got and then I go to get it and it's gone. And then I'll notice, 'Oh, Sailor.' There's just certain things that all of the kids [will borrow], even Jack. Jack went through a phase, probably about 10 years ago, where he got a few of my great, old captain hats. Some of those went missing. 

Alexa takes all the stuff that's most detailed. Anything beaded, anything romantic and it doesn't matter she's so much smaller than me. She'll make it her own somehow. She'll belt it. She'll roll the sleeves. She'll do whatever and make it her own and I really love seeing that. I kind of envisioned that someday that would happen, so I love it when it does. I love seeing great old pieces get new life and new interpretations. 

Alexa Ray Joel and Brinkley have a mother-daughter moment at the Stephan Weiss Apple Awards. Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images 

Alexa Ray Joel and Brinkley have a mother-daughter moment at the Stephan Weiss Apple Awards. Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images 

My cedar closet is a lot of fun. You open the door and all [the contents] cascade out on you. It's tight. [I pulled from the] cedar closet last year for all my old velvet stuff. I had a ton of Dolce Gabbana velvet from the '80s and Ralph Lauren velvet from the '70s and '80s. There are just some things that I won't get rid of. But there are some things I regret getting rid of, because sometimes I get in that mood, like, 'Free yourself, get rid of everything!' and I'll do a closet thing where the goal is to just completely empty the closet and then just put back the things you love. But even then, there's the cedar closet and the stuff that goes down there.

I used to think, 'Well, I was so photographed in that. I'm never going to use it again,' and I didn't think about repurposing it. I thought, when they're great designers, I didn't want to do that to [the designs]. I just hoped that [donating my clothing] would help an organization and they could use the money and get use out of it that way. But sometimes I'll see a picture, and think, 'Oh I hope that's down in the closet,' and I'll look — and nope. Nope, that was one that got away.

I don't really care anymore about wearing things a few times. I feel like, it's good to be able to use things. Like right now, the same dress, putting it with a pair of chunky tennis shoes is going to look very different from the way you work it before — layering a T-shirt underneath it or mixing it with a jean jacket. You wore it very seriously before with high heels and an evening bag. Putting it with a cross-body and tennis shoes is a whole other thing. That's what bothers me about having gotten rid of stuff! I guess you could say, I'm old enough for my stuff to be pure vintage. [Laughs] All the young kids are going to the shops to get it, and it looks really good the way they do it."

Catch season 2 of 'American Beauty Star' on Wednesday, January 2 at 10pm ET/PT on Lifetime.

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