Isabella Rossellini and Anna Baryshnikov Share What They Learned About Style From Their Famous Families
Actress Anna Baryshnikov has known Isabella Rossellini for as long as she can remember. The Italian style icon has been a close friend of her father’s, famed ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, since they both appeared in the 1985 film White Nights, Rossellini’s first movie in America. So when Baryshnikov and Rossellini met up in Midtown Manhattan for InStyle’s January Style Crush chat, it was a family reunion, of sorts.
After greeting each other with big hugs, the two sat down for coffee in an empty dance studio at the Baryshnikov Arts Center and caught up on everything from their recent projects (Baryshnikov stars in Apple TV+’s Dickinson; Rossellini has the upcoming film Silent Life) to family updates (Baryshnikov’s father, Mikhail, also stopped in to say hello with the family dog in tow).
Naturally, the conversation turned to style — a topic that both women love. “Basically you’ve been my style inspiration since the third grade,” said Baryshnikov, as she quizzed Rossellini on her favorite designers and her red carpet process. One common thread between the two actresses? The inspiration that they both received while growing up in extremely stylish families.
“I’ve learned a lot about style from my family,” said Baryshnikov. “My dad will never wear anything he doesn’t feel comfortable in, and I’ve always taken that to heart. Style is so much more than what you wear — it’s how you carry yourself, how comfortable you feel, and how you express yourself.”
Rossellini, whose mother was actress Ingrid Bergman (above) and father was director Roberto Rossellini, felt a similar way. “One of the biggest advantages of growing up in our wonderful families is we learned that style can come from anything — the museum you’re visiting, the book you’re reading. My parents were a great example of that.”
Read on for their full chat, as they discuss the pressures of the red carpet, wearing couture on a farm, and a shared love of super chic menswear.
ANNA BARYSHNIKOV: Isabella, we haven’t seen each other in a long time.
ISABELLA ROSSELLINI: I know! But I’ve known you since you were born. I’ve been friends with your father since we filmed White Nights in the ’80s. He always makes me laugh so much.
AB: There were many photos of you around the house when I was growing up. I went through a phase where I only wanted to wear boyish clothes, and my mom [ballet dancer Lisa Rinehart] showed me a picture of you in the most beautiful suit. Basically, you’ve been my style inspiration since the third grade. [laughs]
IR: That’s sweet. For me, dressing like a man has always been practical. Most women have to dress for the gym, the office, and the cocktail party. But men, they found a solution. They wear the same suit all day — and they’ve got pockets! So I started to wear suits too because they work for every occasion.
AB: So true! Lately, I’ve been into the brand Khaite because their clothes make me feel powerful and feminine but are still really modern and wearable. Are there any designers you are loving right now?
IR: I’m very close to Domenico Dolce [of Dolce & Gabbana]. But the last time I spoke to him, I said, “When I go to your shops, there is nothing bigger than a size 8 or 10, and I’m not a size 8 or 10 anymore.” I’m like the majority of women in their 60s. So where are we supposed to buy clothes? Yes, Eileen Fisher serves us, but sometimes you want a little bit more fantasy. So Domenico promised he’d make some clothes for me, and then he sent over four incredibly beautiful dresses.
AB: You walked in the Dolce & Gabbana show in 2018, right?
IR: Yes! Family is important to Italians, so they hired my daughter [Elettra Wiedemann], my son-in-law [Caleb Lane], my grandchild [Ronin], and my son [Roberto Rossellini], and we all walked the runway. I was the shortest one. [laughs]
AB: You have a uniquely gorgeous family, so you were a good pick!
IR: I liked that the show had a message of inclusiveness. It was modern and unexpected because it wasn’t just skinny models.
AB: I’ve learned a lot about style from my family too. My dad will never wear anything he doesn’t feel comfortable in, and I’ve always taken that to heart. Style is so much more than what you wear — it’s how you carry yourself, how comfortable you feel, and how you express yourself. But it can be tricky too. I remember being 10-years-old in an H&M store, saying, “Mom, I want to look like an Édith Piaf song!” And she was like, “Anna, just pick a winter coat, please.” [laughs]
IR: One of the biggest advantages of growing up in our wonderful families is we learned that style can come from anything — the museum you’re visiting, the book you’re reading. My parents [actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini] were a great example of that.
AB: I love that you talk about inclusivity and affordability because I really hope that’s where the fashion industry is going.
IR: The prices are so very high. Do I want Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana? Yes, but we all buy Uniqlo and Gap too.
AB: And for many young people, it’s not even on the table to afford something so expensive.
IR: Of course. And as actresses and models, we get sent a lot of this stuff, so it creates this unfair illusion.
AB: Now, I’m starting to get to a place in my life where I actually don’t want to own a lot of things.
IR: I agree. A sense of consumerism in a world that has so many environmental problems feels like waste, not abundance. So yes, one wants to pare it down, but still have the fantasy. I mean, I’m not a good example, I’m dressed in all black today. And I resent myself because it’s a shortcut. [laughs]
AB: You have a lot of experience on the red carpet. How do you know you’re wearing the right thing for an event?
IR: It’s hard, isn't it? I do very few red carpets now because I feel like a monkey on a string. There’s a judgmental eye and always someone to say, “Who wore it best?” I could just wear black pants and a nice shirt, but sometimes I want more joy and surprise. But then I think, “Why do I need a gala to wear my beautiful clothes?” I should be at my farm wearing all of my gowns. [laughs]
AB: They would look gorgeous in the country! There is this pressure to wear the right thing, but it’s only right if you’re happy in it. I’ve been trying to focus on how I feel when I put something on.
IR: That’s a good way to think about it. People ask me, “How did you find your sense of style?” And the truth is I never really thought about it much. I just wore what felt right at the time. Today I’m comfortable in black, thanks to the fashion world. But other days I want a pop of color. I’ve always loved the clothes by the Hong Kong-based designer Shanghai Tang because they had this incredible electric color for the lining.
AB: A special detail on the inside is so personal. As a New Yorker, I also love my black, but I’m not that stereotypical ’90s New York woman who is, like, cutting in front of a line. [laughs] I like the inherent simplicity of muted colors.
IR: I’ve always thought that Jane Goodall was so very elegant in her simplicity. She’s running after chimpanzees, going to conferences, meeting the president, and she doesn’t have the time to do much, but she’s found a way with her ponytail and her white shirt. That can be style too, you know?
AB: Last question: What did you like to wear when you were in your 20s?
IR: My last few years of school in Italy, I studied design. At one point, I thought I might become a costume designer, but I certainly didn’t know that I would eventually become a model and that fashion would be such a big part of my life. It was all about the miniskirt back then. It was sexy in a way that was very empowering. But then I was immediately like, “Oh, no, my legs aren’t good enough!”
AB: Ha! Well, I think you were always a style icon. And you continue to be, in the most modern way.
For more stories like this, pick up the January issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Dec. 20.