Greta Gerwig Talks ‘Frances Ha’ Style And How She Stays Relaxed On The Red Carpet [Interview]

Greta Gerwig at the 2013 CFDA Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

Greta Gerwig’s onscreen alter-ego in the new indie movie Frances Ha might be a little bit bumbling and slightly (OK, really) awkward, but that doesn’t make her struggling Brooklyn dancer protagonist any less lovable. In fact, it’s these imperfections, along with her off-kilter clothing collection, that keep Frances true to life and SO freaking lovable. Her character’s uniform consists mainly of thrifted ill-fitting bomber jackets and leggings over sundresses, but in real life, Greta Gerwig’s wardrobe is far from schleppy. The actress, writer, and director has earned rising style star status over the past couple of years, fronting Band of Outsiders’ ad campaign, going punk for the Met Gala, and just this week, was a total breath of fresh air dressed in a white pantsuit at the CFDA Awards. Before she takes off to promote Frances Ha overseas, Greta called to chat about the story behind the movie’s costumes and her trick to staying sane on the red carpet.

A still from ’Frances Ha.’
Photo: IFC Films Facebook

MTV STYLE: Your character in Frances Ha is a part-time dancer and doesn’t make a lot of money. How did her living situation affect the fashion in the movie?

GRETA GERWIG: Actually, I’m so happy to talk about this because it was such a big part of figuring out who the character of Frances was. I feel like nobody ever asks me, and I’ve been dying to talk about it! The clothing was one of the very first things we wrote about her character, and one of the very first pieces we talked about was the bomber jacket. We said, “She wears a leather bomber the whole movie, and it’s not cool. It’s a little too big. It would just be something that someone gave her once.” That for me, this image of a girl in a too-big bomber jacket, really informed the way I thought about Frances. It’s sort of masculine and out of place, kind of like her. As soon as we wrote it we were like, “Yeah, that’s great!”

Frances’s wardrobe is so authentic because it’s like she’s sort of there, but not quite. Kind of like her professional life.

Totally. I think one of the things about living in New York is you have to really take everything with you for the whole day, especially if you live in an outer borough. You can’t go back home. Frances is a dancer and she’s running around the city doing all this different stuff. We wanted her to have her dance clothes on, leotard, leggings, a dress over that ,a turtleneck sweater, a bomber jacket, and then a backpack. We wanted to put her in clogs because they’re sensible shoes for dancers. I felt like if you put all this stuff on her and then make her run, there’s something in there that’s just inherently hilarious.

A still from ’Frances Ha.’
Photo: IFC Films Facebook

Can we talk about her dresses? They’ve definitely got a ’90s vibe.

All of these dresses are these floozy floral early ’90s sundresses. There was something about that oddly feminine touch that contrasted with such an androgynous character and I always really liked. It was very specific, what we decided to do with her.

Where did Frances’s wardrobe pieces come from?

We went to SO many different thrift stores! We tried on about 10 to 15 bomber jackets before we settled on that one. Almost all of the dresses are thrifted ,or TJ Maxx.; the dance clothes we went to stores like Danskin.

I appreciated the fact that Frances constantly reused outfits.

It’s something that people do in real life! Sometimes movies make it seem like people wear a different outfit 365 days of the year, when it’s not actually the case at all. I think audiences absorb stuff but don’t actually think about it. At the end of the movie, she’s not carrying a backpack anymore; she’s wearing a tote. And her hair is down, and she has glasses, which she never had before. It’s kind of a growing up thing, where you take care of yourself. she’s not totally together yet, but she’s way more together than she was in the beginning of the movie [laughing].

You just attended the CFDA Awards with Band of Outfitters, and before that it was the Met Gala. What’s your secret for keeping relaxed on the carpet?

This sounds goofy actress-land, but I find that on days when I have to do the scary red carpet things, my mental state is 190% improved when I go to yoga before. Those things are totally overwhelming, and I feel like if something goes wrong it’s humiliating on a huge scale. I’m always relieved when the picture part is finished because then I can just stare at what everyone else is wearing. Which, really, is what these super fashion-y events are for, right?

Find out more about Frances Ha here.

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