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."
In the upcoming Netflix rom-com "Resort to Love," triple-threat Christina Milian plays Erica, a New York City singer on the cusp of stardom. But, after her big break is publicly dashed, she takes a job performing at a resort on the sunny island paradise of Mauritius — where her ex-fiancé's wedding also happens to be taking place.
Of course, the singer, songwriter and actor has been in our consciousness for the past two decades — providing us with classic bops like her debut single "AM to PM" and "Dip It Low," plus her ongoing screen roles in "Love Don't Cost a Thing," "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" reboot and Josh Safran's "Soundtrack." The similarities between Milian and Erica stop right there. But there is a fashion crossover.
In a flashback scene, banker Jason (Jay Pharoah) proposes to Erica, who just brought down the house with her rousing rendition of "No One," by Alicia Keys (who's a producer on the movie). "She's on the stage and she's wearing this black tuxedo dress, with tassels hanging from [the hemline], with a thigh-high boot — that's me, all day," says Milian, over Zoom. "Hair was all long... everything I love." (You can thank costume designer Danielle Hollowell, who also worked on "Girls Trip.")
Directed by Steven K. Tsuchida, "Resort to Love" allows Milian to flex her comedic skills, from an action-packed chase sequence involving the bride-to-be's sister to a style-meets-physical comedy moment at the top of the movie. Excitedly preparing for a music event, Erica accidentally gives herself a wardrobe malfunction when she rips her silver sequin and lace illusion top. With years of red carpet appearances under her belt, Milian herself has experienced her fair share of wardrobe crises — but the unflappable and extremely affable industry vet maintains a sense of humor about it all, even when the tabloids made a big deal out of nothing.
Milian recalls the 2015 premiere of "Focus," which she attended with best friend and frequent red carpet date Karrueche Tran. Milian utilized (and brought extra) Hollywood tape to secure her aqua blue pantsuit jacket, worn without a top underneath (below). "But you get really sweaty after a while and the tape either really sticks or it just doesn't work at all," she says. "Not to say there was a boob malfunction — there was no malfunction — but they definitely wrote about it, because there was so much tape in there, it left an opening that gave the illusion that you could see more. That was the headline: 'Ooh, Christina Milian: boob malfunction.' They love that word. But, truthfully, it was just a lot of tape."
While filming "Resort to Love" in a pandemic bubble last fall, the cast, including Sinqua Wells and Alexander Hodge (Asian Bae in "Insecure") bonded by enjoying the beautiful natural landscape and outdoor activities along the Indian Ocean. Milian also engaged in one of her personal interests, while amassing keepsakes from the memorable experience.
"I like to shop local, so I'll go to the local markets and find stuff there," she says. "There were a lot of really cool tribal design things that I would get in Mauritius. Dresses are really cute; I have some really cool purses, some straw hats and straw clutches. Nothing to look too touristy, but more local."
Ahead, the "Resort to Love" star discusses what she thinks about her early-2000s style, what designer boots from the era she didn't keep and how the kids refer to '90s clothes as "vintage" these days.
"I always felt that I knew my style, but now looking at the 2000s... It's terrible! It was of-the-times, but it's terrible. Oooh, child, oh my god, I thought I was doing it, too — I was like, 'I've got my denim ripped jeans, I've got my fishnet pantyhose on my arms, I've got my holes in my ripped shirt, I've got my rhinestone belt, I've got business, that XYZ and my little hat.' Oh, honey, I thought I was doing it.
"There's a lot of stuff that I kept. Anything designer, I kept. I still have it. I refuse to get rid of it. There's been a couple things that my mom kept for me and then she just brought it back out of the closet. I'm so happy she did. I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, there goes my Dior! The Manolo, boom.' That Manolo high boot? Hello. What girl didn't have that? What girl didn't have every color? I did get rid of those and I wish I didn't. But I know I can probably find them again. That's a classic one of the 2000s that I think is going to come back all over again. Soon they're going to be having the low-waist jeans. They're going to be in their Frankie Bs and their Manolo boots. Because they want to show that G-string! I guess I've never really let go of the crop top, though — I definitely was rocking the crop with my low-riders.
"The real style that I will stick with for life, that I'll never get rid of because it always works for me: I like a good pair of ripped jeans, a white T-shirt and a pair of heels. When you got that going, you can never go wrong. I think that's like the ultimate look. Even now, I'm tired of leather jackets. I thought for a while that I would never get rid of a biker jacket, but I'm kind of over it. So I'll stick to jeans, white T-shirt, some heels.
"I'm an online shopper. I hate trying clothes on. I don't often try clothes on unless I'm going to a designer store. If I'm in Saint Laurent or something like that, I'm not going to just be like, 'Oh, I think I fit it' and just buy — I'm going to try it on. But, for my daily life, I do a Zara, I skim through and pick out all my stuff. I get to the cashier and I take out what I don't want. I take what I love and get rid of what I like. 'What do you love? What do you like?' That's how I measure it out.
"A lot of the time, I'm shopping online. I enjoy shopping online. I have a good idea of my sizes and, if it doesn't fit, I give it away to my sisters or friends. But it's rare that it doesn't fit. I'm pretty good at that. I like Farfetch. I also like going on Gilt because you have really good deals and, while I'm there, I might as well shop for stuff for the house. if I'm going on a vacation with friends and I'm never gonna wear it again, I'm just gonna go to Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Thing or Shein. I'm guilty of it all! I will shop 'til I drop and get tons of pieces. But guess what? Somebody always benefits from it after, whether it's my daughter or a friend. I go, 'Here you go! I'm done.'
"Recently, I got the Dior Converse. My daughter asked me for them first, actually, and I don't often buy her designer stuff, to be honest with you — I buy regular, normal kid's stuff. But she's turning 11... We were at the store and she was attracted to it. I love the fact that she has style and she wanted it and it was something she could tell she loved. By the way, we have the same size shoe. So I bought them for her, but I'm gonna borrow them. She said, 'Mom, you can borrow them.'
"We borrow each other's clothes, but a lot of the time, it's her wearing my stuff. And then I'm like, 'Where did you get that?' She's like, 'You gave it to me.' I'm like, 'I don't know if I gave it to you. Let me have it back.' She has asked me for stuff and I'm like, 'No, you're not wearing that.' It might be Fendi or a nice, expensive purse or something, and I'm like, 'You're not ready for that.' She borrows a lot of my clothes — she calls it 'indie.' Like, 'Oh, indie, okay. That's so yesterday.' It's pretty funny. I have a lot of 'indie clothes,' apparently. It's a little '70s, but with a lot of '90s, 'Clueless' kind of era; wide bell-bottom leg pants with a '60s pattern on it, sweater vests, crop tops. She's wearing a lot more skirts now, which is really cute because she wasn't into skirts before. I have all those things.
"Honestly, I do a good job of getting rid of stuff, so I don't want to make it sound like I'm a hoarder. But I keep all the good things. I keep the good stuff for her. Because I'm like, at some point, this is gonna come back in style."
'Resort to Love' premieres on Thursday, July 29 on Netflix.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.