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."
On "Younger," Debi Mazar plays a Maggie, a Brooklyn-based New York City arts and culture icon, while also embodying one in real life. Her story is stuff of legends: Spending her formative years in the '80s downtown club scene, the Queens-born actor worked at the famed Mudd Club as a teen, met Madonna while she was an elevator operator at Danceteria and became her BFF after she did the makeup for the singer's 1983 video, "Everybody," in which she also appeared as a backup dancer.
For the past three-plus decades (and going), she's built an extensive acting resumé ("Goodfellas," "Malcolm X," "L.A. Law" and "Entourage" — not to mention five more Madonna videos), while also establishing herself as a maverick fashion force with her signature, yet always unexpected Old Hollywood-meets-New-Yorker aesthetic. She's walked the Thierry Mugler runway, did makeup for friend Marc Jacobs's first-ever runway show in addition to modeling for his Fall 2015 campaign and added to her famed personal vintage collection.
Over six seasons on "Younger," Mazar's Maggie has always been clad in the most on-point silky robes and artfully paint-splattered boilersuits, since she's mostly seen at home in her sprawling Williamsburg apartment talking with Liza (Sutton Foster) about her best friend/roomie's big professional lie or latest romantic situation (#TeamJosh4Ever). Of course, Empirical press parties and gallery openings offer avant-garde dress-up moments. But in season seven, Maggie has a new excuse to leave home: a fancy job teaching at a local college, which requires chicly authoritative look — but "not too academic," as she says to Liza.
"I felt like Jackie Demeterio got me to the place where I always wanted to be," says Mazar, over Zoom, from her family home in Tuscany. "I was asking from the beginning, 'If I can be tailored. I wanted to wear men's suits.' I wanted to look like Katharine Hepburn since season one."
"I was wearing Loewe, Saint Laurent and Gucci suits," she excitedly continues. Maggie's even more elevated wardrobe and fittings with Demeterio felt extra special, too, considering production for season seven was delayed due to the pandemic: "It was joyful. It was really joyful."
The experience was so enjoyable, in fact, that "I actually kept a few [costumes]," says Mazar, with a sly smile, including, "a teal, fabulous Gucci suit [above] with a tie and a pin clip. It's gorgeous." She also happily — with permission, of course — kept one of Maggie's staples, which made its own regular cameo starting from season three.
"[As Maggie], I'm supposed to be this artist, I don't work all the time. So I'm like, 'Jackie pull that coat out from last season.' A lot of times they sell the clothes — or I don't know where they go, they go away. But this coat made it through the whole series," says Mazar. "It's Hermès, a 1970s butter soft Italian leather long trench in a burnt burgundy [below]. I got to keep that. And anywhere I go, it just makes me feel super cool."
Below, Mazar discusses her cinematic personal style influences, lists her amazing vintage hauls throughout the years and reminisces about the shopping haunts from N.Y.C.'s coolest years.
"I left home at 15, so living in New York City around 16 and 17, I didn't have any money. I was waitressing. I was working the door at a club or the coat check. So friends would give me clothes here and there. I got hand-me-downs. I'm the oldest child, so I didn't have anybody to pass-me-down clothes. My mother was a hippie and I didn't want to wear her hippie clothes.
"I would go to vintage stores and dig through, literally, mounds of dusty, dirty clothes. Actually, there were so many diamonds in the rough in these piles, because it was before vintage got picked over and sold for, you know, hundreds and thousands of dollars, which I find really offensive. I go look on certain websites and they're like, 'This dress is from 1978 and it's a Giorgio di Sant'Angelo.' I'm like, 'You bought it for $25 and you try to charge me $2500, really?'
"In Times Square, there was a shop called Paradise Bootery, where all the rock stars, like Freddie Mercury, went. They would get these the Kiss boots. It was the craziest, coolest boot shop. I would go to a hat store on Eighth Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets to get the coolest fedoras and whatnot — it was called Knox Hats [the now-closed Arnolds Hattery, which everyone called 'Knox Hats' because of the signage]. I can't believe I remember that. I would go there after eating at Dubrow's Cafeteria that was in the Garmento area. I started having friends that were great seamstresses or tailors. My young friends and I would go fabric shopping — there were these great fabric shops all over New York City — and we put together little matching outfits and ensembles. I just started designing my own stuff.
"My style is really eclectic. It really goes with my mood. I try to design what makes me feel good on any given day. I bring in the feminine and the masculine. I've always worn high-waisted trousers with a belted waist. I love to not wear heels, actually — I have my days wearing heels and I feel really good in a nice stacked power shoe. Because I want to be able to dance. I want to be able to have longevity. I want to be able to jump on the subway. I'm not changing my shoe. I'm not the girl with the heel in the bag, wearing the sneaker, you know?
"I've gone through different phases where I was sort of '60s and '50s. I tend to like the look of flamenco dancer to [films starring Italian actors] Marcello Mastroianni or Alberto Sordi. Early on, I would watch Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner movies with my grandma. They all had wasp waists, cool hair and beautiful jewelry. But for the most part, it was a little bit too structured, too uptight for me.
"My real fashion influences were Katharine Hepburn, because she looked suited and I really liked the fact that she was tailored and wore pants, and the genre of the films made by [directors Pier Paolo] Pasolini, [Federico] Fellini, [François] Truffaut, in black and white, because I just love the way that the clothes fell. Even though they were beautiful — probably couture cocktail dresses — they were falling off of [the actor's] arm, they were torn, they were used. The hair was a mess, the wind was blowing across their beautiful Italian sunglasses. The European '60s look appealed to me more and stuck with me. Because there's a freedom. It's clothes that are lived in and worn. The shoes are sensible, to a degree, because you have to walk on old streets with stones and holes in them. For me, clothing should have a certain freedom to it, and it should suit the body. It shouldn't be wearing you.
"I could really never could afford [buying new clothes]. In fact, I rarely read fashion magazines because I would just get pissed off. Like, I'm not gonna spend this kind of money on clothes. I mean, they're putting these expensive, expensive clothes on 20-year-olds who can't afford them. Like, who are they appealing to? Why would anybody want to spend this kind of money on, like, a jacket, when you could go to Florida or Puerto Rico? I've never had that thing. I'll buy a piece here and there, in my life, but I basically hit the vintage stores still. I have teenage daughters, so everything that I have — not everything, but a lot of the things that I have, I've saved in case I had daughters. Funnily enough, some of them, it's like, 'Oh my god, mom, I gotta have this.' Others they're like, 'I would never wear that.' I'm like, 'What am I going to do with it now?'
"I've traveled around the world since I was 15. I would go to flea markets and collect Spanish fans, Italian things, French things, American things, '50s mid-century-modern Courrèges things that have architecture and shape. My best friend, god rest her soul, Isabel Toledo — Isabel and Ruben Toledo — made clothes for me for, gosh, almost 30 years. I have his artwork, too, so to me, fashion comes in many forms.
"I have vintage couture dresses, like a Christian Dior. I have beautiful negligées from a Hollywood designer — silk, all embroidered, [Italian] lace. They're aqua and made of satin, and there's no underwire on the bra. There's a matching slip. My grandmother had a glove obsession. I inherited her gloves, but she had much tinier hands. I've got scarves from my grandmother that are a beautiful rayon-lace mix, some glasses, costume jewelry. I mean, I'm a hoarder. But I'm very organized.
"Before Madonna was famous, shopping together was really fun. We have different styles, actually, but we would dig through thrift stores. She had her own kind of thing going, which wasn't my thing. She had her leggings, vests and short things with tons of bracelets. As we got older, it was fun to go shopping because we would get to go into a store when it was closed. But only a few times.
"Going shopping early on, back in the day, was fun because we had no money at all. Now, I'm still in the thrift store, and she doesn't need to go shopping, because everyone sends her clothes, which is ironic. I wish they would send me the clothes instead of her.
"You know what's a good thing? I used to be first in line. Now I'm barely in line at all because she has a team around her and [daughter] Lola. But I used to always get the best hand-me-downs from her and occasionally, I still do. I have good hand-me-downs, too."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
New episodes of 'Younger' streaming on Thursdays on Paramount+.