Madeline Brewer and Natasha Lyonne Talk Red Carpet Identities, Red Hair, and The Life-Changing Power of Gucci
Actress Madeline Brewer talks shop with her fashion icon Natasha Lyonne.
Ever since she burst onto the young Hollywood scene with films like Slums of Beverly Hills, But I'm a Cheerleader, and American Pie in the late '90s, Natasha Lyonne has been turning heads with her bold style. Bearing witness to her many fashion phases over the past three decades (a "goth detective raver" chapter and a Janis Joplin-inspired hippie stage among them) has been nothing short of a thrill. But in recent years, the Russian Doll star — who also directed, co-wrote, and executive produced Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine on Netflix — has propelled herself into an ultra-chic new style era chock full of colorful Gucci gowns and avant-garde Jean Paul Gaultier creations. And The Handmaid's Tale actress Madeline Brewer, for one, has taken notice.
She's been looking to Lyonne for inspiration ever since the two appeared together on season one of Orange Is the New Black in 2013. Now, with their Litchfield Penitentiary days long behind them, the pair reconnected for InStyle's June Style Crush feature, chatting about everything from a shared love of all-black wardrobes as teens to their all-time favorite red carpet looks, Jetsons hairdos included. Read their full chat, below.
Madeline Brewer: Natasha, when I was thinking about who I like style-wise, I immediately thought of you in that Jean Paul Gaultier look at the Met Gala. It was just wicked. You know your way around a structured shoulder, and we like to see it. You're a f—ing legend. I'm so glad you chose to do this with me.
Natasha Lyonne: I'm so flattered. I always think of myself as some sort of aging Lou Reed figure traipsing around New York in my same black outfit hoping to stay out of trouble. But when you put it like that, I guess when I leave the house, I really leave the house. [laughs]
MB: I know you've been wearing a lot of Gucci recently, and those looks have also stuck out in my mind. I've always loved Gucci too.
NL: Yeah, Gucci has single-handedly changed my life. I didn't understand how to incorporate color into my wardrobe until this whole Gucci bonanza hit. Because it's more about a lifestyle, I understand the way they do color and patterns. Speaking of patterns, what a cutie you were in that little Proenza [Schouler] tiger number! And this red hair on you is just to die for. I have a great picture of me, Karen Elson, and Bette Midler, and we all have the same red hair color — I wish you were in that picture.
MB: That's insane. I actually almost gave myself bangs because of you. I was like, "Natasha's got red hair with curly bangs, I can do it!" I didn't, though. But I agree about Gucci — the way they incorporate color is seamless. How has your style changed over time?
NL: Well, my friends make fun of me. Chloë [Sevigny] says I have not changed my style since she met me 25 years ago. She's like, "You are the only person I know still wearing the exact same thing." I was really into dressing like Janis Joplin and being a hippie in baby blue corduroy bell-bottoms when I did Slums of Beverly Hills [in 1998]. And there was obviously a time when I was a wild thing and involved in rave culture. For four years I wore monster platform boots everywhere with fishnets, a leather miniskirt, and a long, black trench coat. I was like a goth detective raver; that was my vibe. It's evolved into something a bit more mellow. But I remember one day when I was 13, I said, "I only wear black clothes now."
MB: I'm decked out in black from head-to-toe most of the time too. It feels like the easiest option. In my junior year of high school, I decided clothing was too difficult. I felt burdened by the need to figure out what I was going to wear every day. So I just started wearing the same black boots with jeans, a black shirt, and a black coat. Sometimes it's too much to think about—even when I'm doing a red carpet, I have to establish an entire identity around what I'm wearing to keep myself from flailing. Because I've done that, and it doesn't look great in a photo. Do you get into a specific frame of mind? Or do you just go out there and be Natasha?
NL: It It depends. For photo shoots, I find it's more relaxing to reference someone else. I'll think of it as a Mae West shoot, a David Bowie shoot, a Poison Ivy shoot. Then it's like, "I'm Poison Ivy now; I'm not me."
MB: Playing a character helps. What do you gravitate toward lately?
NL: I'm really taking to a uniform now that I'm a behind-the-scenes business bitch. I'm comfortable in the masculine-feminine marriage of a silky blouse and a strong blazer. It's very hard for a stylist to convince me to wear something that I'm not sure about. I want to be able to think on my feet and have fun, not tug at my Spanx all night. It's also hard for me to want to show skin. My boobs are for my boyfriend, and I can't get in the spirit of throwing it all out there. Plus, I like an all-purpose weather outfit so I can walk around and take the subway. I usually end up in heels because I'm so short, but I'm over 40 and I don't want to be falling over while hailing a cab like I did in my 20s. That's not cute. I do wish I had another five inches on me, though.
MB: As a short person, I get it. I think my favorite thing I've ever worn was this Reem Acra dress for the 2018 SAG Awards. It was my first time going, and it was just such a surreal experience.
NL: You looked so gorgeous that night, it was shocking. Just a porcelain red-headed dream.
MB: Even though I looked rather dainty and doll-like, I felt really powerful in it. What's your favorite thing you've worn?
NL: I felt like something between a superhero and a rock star in that Gaultier number. That was a real [stylist] Christina Ehrlich special. I got invited at the last minute and did one fitting, and that was the craziest thing there. It worked for the camp theme, because if the theme had been slip dresses, I would have been f—ed. I can't do a slip dress.
MB: But it was perfect. You so fully embodied the entire look.
NL: It was so extreme. And it was really satisfying, too. I didn't know I could get away with that much makeup and a Jetsons hairdo.
MB: And a clear bag filled with cigarettes. [laughs]
NL: Yes. I felt sort of bad about that, actually. Even though I miss the days when fashion had a sense of humor to it, I really do hate smoking. It's a disgusting and terrible habit, and that's nothing to celebrate. It should be a shame-based activity that you do alone in a closet. But I was like, "What do I need to get through a night surrounded by drunk models?" [laughs] It was just practical more than anything.
Brewer stars in The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu. Lyonne directed, co-wrote, and executive produced Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine on Netflix.
For more stories like this, pick up the June 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download May 21st.