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."
Wednesday night's episode of "Little Fires Everywhere" revealed a few jaw-dropping moments, including a look at a slightly more carefree, early-20s Elena Richardson, portrayed flawlessly by AnnaSophia Robb. The actor's tone, inflection, head tilts and everything uncannily match Reese Witherspoon doing her peak Reese Witherspoon in her decades-later version of the character.
"I shadowed Reese as much as possible to watch her movements," says Robb over the phone, while sheltering-in-place in Los Angeles. "Reese is just a total open book in terms of anything I wanted to ask her or talk to her about in terms of the character." Prior to shooting her flashback scenes, the actor read the bestseller by Celeste Ng, listened to the audiobook of Witherspoon's Southern lifestyle tome "Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits" and studied previous episodes of the Hulu series.
Robb's Elena gives a glimpse into a less buttoned-up and more free-spirited life that could've been, as she finished out her senior year of college on a glam Paris study abroad stint. "I read the script and was like, 'OK, there's nightclubbing. What am I going to be in? What am I wearing?!'" laughs Robb. "I ended up in these tiny little booty shorts and barely-on top." Definitely not a look that an Eve Ensler-disapproving Elena would appreciate in 1997.
But Robb's favorite Elena look happens in next week's "origin story" episode, set in the '80s when the mother of three excitedly returns to the Shaker Times post-maternity leave. Her first-day-back outfit feels meticulously planned: a tweedy cranberry skirt suit with statement buttons, khaki trench and a silk scarf neatly knotted at her neck, accessorized with a lunch cooler presumably packed with all four food groups.
"Her little suit is the most like Elena," says Robb. "[Costume designer Lyn Paolo and I] tried to mirror it to look like when we first meet Elena in the premiere, when she goes into her office."
Of course, the actor has plenty of experience stepping into the (designer) shoes of an icon, even if she's fictional. We're talking, of course, about Robb playing a young Carrie Bradshaw in "The Carrie Diaries," which ran on The CW from 2013 to 2014. The "Sex and the City" origin story depicts how the fresh-faced, Connecticut-raised teen becomes a proto-influencer in Manhattan, all while wearing fabulous '80s costumes designed by Eric Daman. (Fun fact: The former assistant to Patricia Field actually repeated key pieces from his "Gossip Girl" costume closet on Robb.)
But the lead wasn't able to sneak home sartorial souvenirs from the two seasons, as filming stopped when a third order didn't come through. "No, can you believe, that they didn't give me anything!" jokes Robb. "Manolo Blahnik made special shoes just in my size because I needed them in a 4.5 instead of a 5. I've been saying for years that I need to reach out to Eric and say, 'Eric, I want those Manolos!'"
Below, Robb shares how her time on "The Carrie Diaries" influenced her personal style throughout the years, what clothing and beauty products lift her spirits these days and why shaving her head for her upcoming Quibi horror series, "The Expected," is the gift that keeps on giving.
"I really felt like 'The Carrie Diaries' transitioned me into womanhood because I had just graduated high school. I was going to go to college, but ended up doing the show for two seasons.
"Before that show I couldn't really walk in heels. I wasn't comfortable walking in them and I wore heels throughout that entire show. I was always in insane tall shoes. I remember by the end, I could wear a stiletto for 14 hours and be totally fine. Now, not so much. I'm in slippers 24/7. I literally went for a run the other day and I got blisters on my feet from my running shoes. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I've been in quarantine too long.' I'm barefoot all the time.
"But back to Carrie: My style was just mostly being bold and being because, as Carrie, I wore so many dresses, poofy things, colors and patterns. So afterwards, I mostly wore black. It just went opposite, like I was trying to get away from that character and now, I'd say, it's swung more back to Carrie: bold, playful and patterns.
In 'Little Fires Everywhere,' Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington Wear Your Favorite '90s Brands
How I Shop: 'Little Fires Everywhere' Star Jade Pettyjohn
Where All the Costumes Go After TV Shows Wrap
"That show also really taught me what good tailoring is. If I see a dress, I'll know if it'll fit me or not. I was in fittings almost every single day, so now I know, 'Oh, this dress should fit me here' or the most flattering seam placement and where it needs to be taken in. I wish I could sew because I have to adjust my clothes anyway, because I'm so petite — everything is compact. I wish I could just do it myself. Maybe I should use this time to learn how to sew.
"Obviously, I'm wearing more comfy clothes in quarantine, but I'm still trying to make an effort to get dressed everyday. My personal style is casual and bold. I like colors right now. Colors are making me very happy. I love a tangerine or a forest green. I like Big Bud Press. They're actually doing amazing things right now and using their facilities to make masks for medical workers. They have all these fun prints and I really like their colors. I also like Paloma Wool.
"I shop vintage for the most part. I like mixing and matching different eras: old and new. I love Mohawk General Store in Silverlake and Beacon's Closet in Brooklyn. And bookstores: McNally Jackson and, now that I've been in Silverlake more, Skylight Books.
"I took a trip to Europe last summer and my luggage was completely lost, so I had to get a couple pieces. It taught me about how you just don't need that much. I'm in L.A. temporarily — I was moving my boyfriend here and now I'm stuck, which I'm happy about. So I have a minimal wardrobe. Fully go for a Marie Kondo of your wardrobe because you'll end up realizing it's the best. You end up rewearing the same things, anyway.
"I have lipstick on right now because it makes me feel like I'm having fun. I have this red lipstick from ['The Act' co-star] Chloë Sevigny's collaboration with French brand Le Bouche Rouge and I absolutely love the color. It's so happy. I also love the RMS Signature Set palette. I've been wearing a lot of that, even around the house. It just makes me happy to feel like I look like a person. Even if everything else is falling apart, I don't need to. The Noto Multi-Benne Stain Pot gives you a little sun-kissed look. So if you are inside — and you actually are not getting sun — it gives you a little zhuzh.
"I fully shaved my head for a role in a new show on Quibi called 'The Expecting.' When I had a shaved head, I felt like tough. I felt like a badass. People just treat you you differently when you have a shaved head. You don't get as many cat calls. Other people with short hair, they make eye contact in solidarity. I've never had so many older women say they like my haircut, which is really interesting, because when I think about most women who have shorter hair, they're older women. They've chopped it off. My mom has always had short hair. So a lot of older women would be like, 'I love your haircut.'
"But I actually really like the short hair. I'm enjoying it quite a bit. My hair grows super fast, so every two weeks, I get a little bit of a different style. Right now it's just poofy and getting long. Soon I will have a bowl cut and I won't be able to do anything with it.
"My hair stylist Cristin Armstrong always gives me the best hair recommendations for products. I use Oribe Silverati Illuminating Pomade. My friend Tara Smith has a cruelty-free vegan shampoo haircare line that I really love, Feed the Root. I've gelled it back and done a deep side part which has been fun. I've made it super spike-y and I've done like a Julie Andrews/Audrey Hepburn short comb, which has been my favorite so far. I think I'll have short hair for awhile because I really enjoy it."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.