NEW YORK — Actress Michelle Trachtenberg is gunning for the fashion world's top dog.
"If I wasn't an actress, [Vogue Editor in Chief] Anna Wintour would have to watch out for her job security," Trachtenberg threatened. The newly 21-year-old actress, known to most as annoying kid sister Dawn on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," has come into her own — and she's been rocking couture fashion at parties, premieres and swanky soirees to prove it.
"Fashion means a lot to me," Trachtenberg told MTV News. "Not in a shallow way. Any girl knows that what you're wearing gives you your comfort and your attitude and your karma for the day. Sometimes it's a sweatpants day, sometimes it's skinny jeans and flats, but sometimes it's a skirt-and-heels day. So I've really tried in the last couple of months to home in on what makes me feel comfortable and beautiful and really means me."
So what really means Michelle? For starters, Chloé, Zac Posen, Christian Dior, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dolce & Gabbana, who created a custom-designed leopard dress for her 21st birthday, which she celebrated along with Hollywood actors and family at Las Vegas' Tao.
"It was a little more outrageous than anything I would normally wear," she said. "But it was my 21st birthday and it was Vegas, so I figured I could get away with it." The 5-foot-7 beauty slipped into an even more provocative D&G corset for the afterparty.
And it's not super-stylist Rachel Zoe who pulls the du-jour designs together for Trachtenberg, as she does for Mischa Barton and Nicole Richie. Instead, Trachtenberg has cultivated her own personal relationships with couture designers and top-notch boutique owners over the past few years, which allows her VIP access to showrooms and exclusive labels. And she is proud to say that she does not have a stylist.
"I didn't want to depend on someone else," she said during a break from shooting a "Law & Order" episode. "It's great when you have someone to tell you, 'Put this with this with this.' But sometimes you get a little too dependent on that person. And I'm really all about having an individual voice. Even when I'm working, I know exactly what I want my character to wear in every scene. I'll work with the costume designer, and we'll come up with a good combination of things. But it's very important to me. Clothing is very important."
"I didn't want to depend on someone else," she said during a break from shooting a "Law & Order" episode. "It's great when you have someone to tell you, 'Put this with this with this.' But sometimes you get a little too dependent on that person. And I'm really all about having an individual voice. Even when I'm working, I know exactly what I want my character to wear in every scene. I'll work with the costume designer, and we'll come up with a good combination of things."
Not only that, but Trachtenberg looked absolutely stunning and statuesque in one of Lhuillier's backless gowns, her stark black hair pulled back tightly, porcelain skin glowing and cherub lips glossed (her preference is Armani Lip Shimmer # 6).
Other recent stunners include a purple Ferragamo dress at the Walk of Style Awards; a one-strap crème Christian Dior dress at an In Style magazine party; a navy, cashmere Alice + Olivia dress at Justin Timberlake's William Rast fashion show; and a Sass & Bide dress at a Rock & Republic fashion show. It's not always dresses either. To a T-Mobile party, the "Ice Princess" actress looked ravishing in a silk Kenneth Cole top and JBrand skinny jeans paired with leopard Christian Louboutin heels. To top it off, she had even better arm candy than her Balenciaga bag: Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz.
"One thing I find so refreshing is that [Michelle] knows how to dress for L.A. and N.Y.," said Kelley Culp, fashion news director at Jane magazine. "She knows that New York requires a little more finessing and layering. I think she admitted to having about 60 pairs of jeans — no joke! She was really excited to turn 21, because she wanted to start changing her style to be less teen and more sophisticated. She's a very savvy consumer, knows what's too trendy and knows what's going to last. I think that's a big appeal to designers to have her sit front row. She never shows up in something over the top, but it's always classy and never boring."
Trachtenberg has also become a refreshing new fixture on the party circuit — hanging out with Paris Hilton and über-socialite Lydia Hearst, jamming at music festivals like Coachella and Warped Tour and hitting Manhattan nightclubs like Tenjune and Bungalow 8, as well as L.A. hotspots Koi and Hyde. At New York Fashion Week, she sat front row at Luca Luca, Badgley Mischka, Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs (see "Lil' Kim Falls For Pet-Carrying Luggage, Fonzworth Has Bees In His Stomach As Fashion Week Kicks Off").
"There are a lot of 'it' girls bubbling around these days," said celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch. "They're coming out more fast and furious. They have that street edge thing mixed with a little Hollywood glamour. They know fashion, they know downtown, they know uptown. They're edgy. It's about being in New York and being New York-ish. Having that New York flavor gives you that 'it' girl sensibility, and Michelle has it down."
So how did little Dawn all of a sudden transform into a superstar fashionista?
"There are a lot of 'it' girls bubbling around these days," said celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch. "They have that street edge thing mixed with a little Hollywood glamour. They know fashion, they know downtown, they know uptown. Having New York flavor gives you that 'it' girl sensibility, and Michelle has it down."
"And Luca Luca had such a wonderful collection, as well as Badgley Mischka. I love Chloé and Zac Posen. I'm not one of those girls that goes to a show to sit in the front row or get photographed. I have a complete, supreme appreciation of the fashion — except I think the models are too skinny."
This past Halloween, Trachtenberg dressed up as sexy Snow White and hit the party scene in New York with the Hearst heiress, a good friend from growing up in the city. "We went a little wild and crazy that week," she admitted. The duo even got a write-up in the New York Post's "Page Six" section. A week later, she got another "Page Six" mention, labeled "Whole New Spin," about Trachtenberg and Richie's ex-fiance DJ AM "billing and cooing" together at Stereo nightclub.
"I'm looking to be in this world for the long haul," Trachtenberg said about the entertainment industry. "I'm not looking to be on the cover of Us Weekly every week. I'm not about the gossip or 'Who is she dating?' or blah, blah, blah. When, unfortunately, there are things in the tabloids about it, it's very upsetting because you know it's not true."
But she doesn't mind it when magazines write about her style. "I have created some wonderful friendships with the people that run the fashion magazines," Trachtenberg said. "I've had the opportunity to meet Anna Wintour once, and it was very amazing and awe-inspiring of what this woman has achieved in her own field. It's a scary world, but it's beautiful. And fashion is just like acting — very cutthroat."
"I have been wearing Marc Jacobs since my 'Buffy' days," Trachtenberg said. "Dawn was a very eclectic character, and there was a running joke [on set] that Dawn is not ready for an episode unless she's wearing Marc by Marc Jacobs. That was the epitome of my character. I have been a friend of Marc's for a long, long time. Literally, the first time I met him, I actually cried. I was like, 'You make me feel so pretty!'
But when it comes to art, Trachtenberg can be a little naughty. Many fans might remember a particular bikini scene in "Eurotrip" that "cost me years off my life," Trachtenberg laughed about the nerve-racking shoot. And in the movie "Beautiful Ohio," which premiered Friday in Los Angeles, she has a nude scene.
Trachtenberg is about to get a taste of that cutthroat world with the debut of her accessories line, Bella Veritas ("beautiful truth" in Italian and Latin). So far, L.A. boutique Shop Intuition has picked up the line exclusively and sells the handmade, cutesy charm necklaces for $150-$350 a pop. "They have been really popular," said boutique owner Jaye Hersh. "I think [Michelle] has a great sense of style, and people stop her on the street all the time. She's a class act, and it's hard to find someone that has so much poise at that age."
To cop Michelle Trachtenberg's "it" girl style, follow these rules:
» Date a Rock Star: Trachtenberg has been linked to Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz for some time now — and a hot rocker makes a great accessory.
» Trends = Loose Ends: Don't be a sucker for trends. "It's all about isolating yourself," Trachtenberg advised. "A lot of the girls make the mistake of [pairing] a really, really low-cut top with a really, really short skirt with a really backward dress. It's like, 'No, no, no!' Pick one part of your body, and accentuate that."
» Dye Your Hair Black or Put in Some Pink Streaks: In the past year, Trachtenberg went from a light brunette to a goth brunette, a trend Cameron Diaz, Carmen Electra, Ashley Olsen and Lindsay Lohan have all recently embraced. "I refer to my blond-highlight days as the skanky skunk highlights," Trachtenberg said. "Whatever they were, that was not a good look for me. But I think this hair color for me is where my personality is. It's darker, it's sexier and more sophisticated, and it's more me."
» Launch a Jewelry Line: Michelle hand-makes every one of her Bella Veritas pieces. "The only thing better than buying accessories is designing your own," said Jane's Culp. "Now that [Michelle has] Bella Veritas under her belt and in Shop Intuition, she'll gain the street cred from her peers."
» Remember Your Roots: Trachtenberg was raised in New York and went to Brooklyn's Bay Academy Junior High School. "You've got to be able to shop at Saks and then go downtown to Bowery Ballroom and go to a concert," said Bloch (the stylist). "There's something edgy about being connected to New York that makes you an 'it' girl."
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