The “Nine Perfect Strangers” and “Mayday” star on her cinematic style influences, vintage shopping favorites and PFW packing list.
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.”
Earlier this fall, Grace Van Patten took us on a rollercoaster of emotions in “Nine Perfect Strangers” as Zoe Marconi, a 20-year-old mourning the death of her twin brother. At a seemingly idyllic oceanside retreat run by the enigmatic Masha (Nicole Kidman), Zoe undergoes a heart-wrenching journey — helped along with some special smoothies, a vigorous potato sack race and a pretty amazing, if not slightly awkward, rendition of “You’re the One That I Want” by on-screen dad Michael Shannon — to reach the bombshell finale.
Alongside an ensemble cast of heavyweights that includes Melissa McCarthy, Regina Hall and Oscar-winner Kidman, Van Patten gives an emotionally raw performance. Though, that should come as no surprise: The 24-year-old is pretty much a veteran in the business, making her on-screen debut at the age of eight on “The Sopranos,” directed by her Emmy winner father Timothy. (Her uncle is Dick Van Patten, so, yeah, acting is definitely in the genes.) Since then, she has racked up roles on “Boardwalk Empire,” Noah Baumbauch’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” and Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Maniac.”
In her latest, Van Patten headlines writer-director Karen Cinorre’s female-driven, fantastical “Mayday” as Ana, a timid wait staffer who’s magically transported from her oppressive banquet hall job onto a mysterious war-torn island and joins a resistance crew of young women — strategist Gert (Soko), dreamer pilot Bea (Havana Rose Liu) and ruthless leader Marsha (Mia Goth) — engaged in an endless battle with male soldiers lured there by a Siren-esque “mayday” call. Along with finding her own inner resolve, Ana must determine if she fits into her new treacherous environment and mission.
During training and filming in Croatia, Van Patten enjoyed bonding with her new crew in the spirit of the indie film. “Table reads are always so scary. You think you’re gonna get fired after you read read it aloud,” says Van Patten. “But instead of reading, we all went around and just told our life stories and talked about everything that was on our minds and what we were feeling in that moment. It was so beautiful, and everyone was so vulnerable. It really set the tone for the rest of the shoot and made everything feel so safe.”
Set in a vague era, the alterna-world island film allowed for timeless vintage-inflected costumes, featuring pieces like a shearling-lined bomber jacket worn over Ana’s cerulean, ocean-reminiscent blue uniform dress and full World War II-era military regalia — but chic. The cast embraced the looks, but not because they look like they walked out of a Vogue feature.
“We were all obsessed with the boots and the dresses and just that femininity. It gave us a strength and our ‘boots on the ground’ feeling,” says Van Patten. “Ola [Staszko], who’s the costume designer, is just so genius. We wore them around before we started shooting — in the hotel, to our weapon training session, when we were working out and when we were running — because we wanted to feel as comfortable in them as possible.”
Off-screen, the native New Yorker is quite versatile with her approach to style. She simultaneously enjoys the perks of stardom (front row seats at New York Fashion Week and jaunts to Paris Fashion Week), while also hunting through racks at her neighborhood thrift shop, like the rest of us normie Brooklynites. Ahead, Van Patten shares her unsurprisingly cinematic fashion influences (it’s in her blood, right?), her top style icon (who happens to still be in elementary school) and her favorite vintage purchases. Read on.
“I’ve always been interested in fashion. It’s something that I’m so fascinated by and love to watch people experiment with. I don’t know the technicality of fashion at all — I’m very visual with it. I feel like I don’t know any names of anything. I’m still learning, which is really fun. But style for me is ever-changing, and there’s so much opportunity in it. My style has changed so much since I was little. Like, if I brought out pictures of me at eight, it’s like a different person. I love that because it marks it marks times in your life, which is really cool.
“My style is a mix of many John Travolta ’70s movies — ‘Urban Cowboy’ mixed with ‘Saturday Night Fever’ mixed with a little ’90s hip hop. It’s a mix of a lot of different eras, but I love ’70s fashion a lot. I love ’70s everything: ’70s music, ’70s movies ’70s fashion. I love a Western look, too. I’m really into cowboy boots lately. That’s why I said ‘Urban Cowboy,’ because Debra Winger in ‘Urban Cowboy‘ is one of my favorite performances. I just want to ultimately be like her.
“Honestly, my 10-year-old sister is my style inspiration. She’s so just purely herself and she does not care. She’s so unselfconscious and will wear a hoodie with a T-shirt and a chain over it. At first I’m like, ‘What?’ And then I’m like, ‘You’re so cool.’ The fact that at 10, she’s thinking of that and not caring, going to school and being like, ‘This is me.’ It’s such a way to express yourself, and I just think she’s doing that to its finest. I’m looking at her for the new trends. I let her dress me for our ‘sister day’ and — she loves a hoodie — she put a big crewneck sweatshirt over a hoodie, and it looked very cool. I was like, ‘I would wear this out.’
“Whenever I walk around the Lower East Side, there’s a new cool boutique. I love going into Dana Foley because she curates a vintage selection and also has her own stuff. I always find something unique in there that I love and can’t stop wearing for months. I haven’t been back in a while — I’ve been meaning to pay my visit there. But I love little eclectic shops like that, that are different. And I love my thrift shops, always.
“I love L Train, which is near me in Brooklyn. I did a movie in Nashville a few years ago and, oh my gosh, I want to go there just to go vintage shopping. It was the best vintage shopping I’ve ever done. Such great prices, and I got the best clothes there, like really sick trench coats, some great jeans — it’s hard to find great old Levi’s — some really cool boots. It’s my guilty pleasure, buying shoes and jackets. I can’t get enough of them, so I got a lot of a lot of cute jackets. I had a whole day of vintage shopping. It was like uncovering a goldmine.
“You’ve got to be in the right mindset to go vintage shopping, though. But when I am, I’m on a mission. I think about it [before buying], like, ‘Do I love this?’ Sometimes, I’ll even leave and come back if I’m still thinking about it. But I’m also very quick when I really am focused, like I have the blinders on. You have to go in knowing what you’re looking for, or else you’ll be in there forever. It’s like a time warp.
“It’s so hard to find vintage jeans because I don’t love trying on jeans — or trying on in general, really. I like a looser fit, which is easier to find. But I’m really into these white boyfriend Levis that I just got. I wear them with everything; they look cute with the boots or sneakers. That’s my favorite purchase so far.
“I’m going to Paris for a fashion show, which I’m very excited about. Packing makes me so anxious. I don’t know the weather there yet. Is it starting to get cold? Maybe I’ll bring some cute sweaters. I’m going to London after that, which is cold, so I’m going to be packing some jackets, pants and boots, which I’m excited to wear. It’s been a while.
“I’m in love with the boots from Miista. I was in London recently and I got a few pairs and have not taken them off because they’re so comfortable and beautiful. I got some big chunky ones and the nice dark red [ones] that almost look like snakeskin or crocodile. They’re not real, but they’re beautiful. I haven’t shopped much over there, so I’m excited to explore.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
‘Mayday’ is available for streaming on demand.