As fashion folklore has it, a 17-year-old Chloë Sevigny was bunking off school when stylist Andrea Linett came across her hanging out next to a New York newsstand “in her signature corduroy overalls” and immediately recruited her to model for Sassy magazine, the monthly publication which came to be seen as a pillar of 90s grrrl culture. “First we made her model,” Linett and ‘Margie’ wrote in a feature about her style for its July 1992 issue, and “now we’re having her work in our office, sticking mailing labels on things and stuff. Her tastes are ever-varied – she’ll try anything, then get bored and move on.” When it came to clothes, a key element of those ever-varied tastes were vintage, the feature continues. “I never miss a tag sale or walk past a thrift shop without going in,” the young Sevigny says. “You can get good cheap stuff that no one else will have. And I never throw anything away – you never know when you’ll be in the mood to wear something.”
Some 25 years later and both everything and nothing has changed. For the most part, Sevigny continues to populate fashion’s well-lit periphery. She played muse to Miuccia Prada for Miu Miu in 1996, featured in campaigns for Kim Gordon’s iconic streetwear label X-girl, designed collections for Opening Ceremony, featured in endless editorials, and inspired a generation of imitators with her insouciant brand of tough-sexy-cool. She’s also built an unrivalled reputation for her acting career, becoming as famous for the roles she has played – in Larry Clark’s cult coming-of-age film Kids (1995), Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997), and infamous 2003 indie drama The Brown Bunny alongside Vincent Gallo – as those she turned down in order to take them on (Legally Blonde being a classic). And she’s still utterly enamoured by vintage.
Today, Sevigny introduces a curated selection of pieces with Vestiaire Collective to celebrate the relaunch of the site’s vintage selection which, while it may not include those corduroy dungarees she made her signature at Sassy back in 1992, is an unadulterated reflection of what she’s into now. “I was supposed to choose 25 items and I chose like 100, so I’m not sure which ones they’re going to throw up there,” she laughs over the phone from New York. “It’s mostly day stuff, street stuff. Little miniskirts, little Gaultier leopard print T-shirts. I’m always attracted to a black leather jacket, so there’s tons of those. A Gaultier one, a Comme des Garçons one... you know, just kind of tough and sexy, a lot of navy and blacks.”
Sevigny’s introduction to vintage shopping came early, courtesy of her mother. “We would go to the thrift stores – there were several in the town where I grew up. One they called the Yellow Balloon, and she started bringing me there when I was in elementary school. I was about seven or eight, and she would just set me free in the shop, and I would go through garment by garment. That was something that we did together. She instilled this love of thrifting in me.” While her tastes have evolved in the years since – “I feel like I dress maybe a little simpler? Like before maybe there was a lot more bells and whistles. Now I’m a little more comfortable being in jeans and a turtleneck” – her go-to items are the same. “Black miniskirts are hard for me to pass up, and I’m always buying denim, trying to find the perfect pair of jeans. Little cardigans, floral dresses. Anything Gaultier, anything Margiela. Always a jacket, I find I’m always buying so many jackets and blazers, little tough coats.”
“I love going to the movies, I love dancing with my friends… But going to a thrift store and zoning out, taking in the fabrics and stuff, it’s kind of relaxing for me” – Chloë Sevigny
Nowadays vintage shopping is a pleasure in and of itself, she says. She prefers shopping for daywear. “In the evening if I’m going out, I’m usually being photographed, and it’s usually stuff that I’ll borrow and give back. I always call those my Cinderella dresses.” Given its sheer volume, she’s not super precious about her wardrobe. “Vintage shopping is such a hobby for me that I have to be continually recycling and letting stuff go because I’m bringing stuff in,” she continues. “And it’s such a way for me to tune out. I love going to the movies, I love dancing with my friends, I love sitting in the park and watching kids go by and being inspired by their outfits. But going to a thrift store and zoning out, taking in the fabrics and stuff, it’s kind of relaxing for me... Unless there’s annoying customers in the store. Then I’ll leave and come back later,” she laughs.
That love of clothes has amassed an impressive collection. Current favourites, or “stuff that’s in my regular circulation now” are kept close at hand, while pieces which are too precious to let go of are kept on standby in a storage unit in Connecticut. That’s “where I keep all the stuff from high school, and stuff that I’ve worn to events or been photographed in, or things that I love that I can’t part with. But I go out there, every few months, and get new stuff, or put stuff in there.” It’s a system not dissimilar to art collectors circulating their pieces, I suggest. “I guess so! But then I go there and I’m like, ‘why do I have to have all of this crap, what is all this stuff?’ I mean it’s not crap, obviously, but I’m like why am I holding on to all this? I have a love-hate relationship with it. Sometimes when I look at it I’m a little overwhelmed by it.”
“If my boyfriend and I are going to go into a restaurant and we don’t have a reservation, I’m like ‘I’m going to put on my red lips because then we’re going to look fancier and they’re going to give us a table’” – Chloë Sevigny
What does she wear when she wants to feel powerful, I ask? “I’m really into this Norma Kamali oversized blazer right now. I met with my girlfriend the other day and she was wearing a similar one and we were laughing about how we were wearing our powersuits. It’s like a size 12 so it gives you that oversized look, and it’s cut kind of in a 40s zoot suit style. But I think for the most part red lips and high heels always instill a bit of power. If my boyfriend and I are going to go into a restaurant and we don’t have a reservation, I’m like ‘I’m going to put on my red lips because then we’re going to look fancier and they’re going to give us a table’.”
Chloë Sevigny: Vintage Muse launches today on Vestiaire Collective.