Blake Lively Wore Forever21 on the Red Carpet and Pretended it Was Vintage
Perhaps no other show was more influential to early aughts fashion than Gossip Girl. And like most millennials, The Handmaid’s Tale actress Sydney Sweeney tuned in week after week to see the parade of boho meets Upper East Side princess looks worn by Blake Lively a.k.a. Serena van der Woodsen.
And now that Sweeney has become one to watch in the style department herself, it’s no surprise that she still looks to Lively for inspo, especially when it’s time for her to hit the red carpet. “Since Gossip Girl has ended, it’s been so cool to watch how Blake’s style has evolved with red carpet fashion and street style too,” says Sweeney. “I love how she’s always switching it up — one day she is bold, the next day she is elegant, and she wears everything with so much confidence.”
Sweeney, who stars opposite Zendaya in the upcoming HBO series, Euphoria, as well as Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, out July 26, says she also admires Lively for opting not to use a stylist. “I’m still trying to find my style and there are always so many opinions that go in your ear when you’re starting out,” she says. “You just want to figure out what works best on you, and I love that she doesn’t use a stylist and yet she was still able to do that.”
So for InStyle’s May issue, we connected Sweeney with Lively, her ultimate fashion icon, to talk shop. On the agenda? Red carpet regrets, the person they trust most for an honest outfit opinion, and why you should always channel J.Lo when you want to look fierce.
Keep scrolling for the full conversation. And for more stories like this, pick up the May issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download now.
Sydney Sweeney: Blake, I'm such a big fan of yours.
Blake Lively: I’m a fan of yours! You’re so great in The Handmaid’s Tale.
SS: Thanks! Well, I’ve loved all of your red carpet looks over the years, especially the dresses you’ve worn to Cannes, like that beautiful black and white Gucci gown [below]. How long does it usually take for you to pick out a dress for an event?
BL: It all depends. There are some things I've had my eye on for years, just waiting for a special event to wear it to, and hoping it hadn’t been lent to someone else. A lot of designers will hold things for you, as long as you always make good. That black and white Gucci gown was actually made for me to wear to the Met Ball, inspired by the Charles James exhibit, but I figured that it might look similar to things that other people would wearing, so I saved it for Cannes. I just try to find designers who I like and trust and who make my body look better than it does when it’s not in clothes.
SS: I read that you don’t work with a stylist. How did you start developing relationships with designers? I remember you wore a Forever 21 dress to one of your first red carpets.
BL: I wore Forever 21 much longer than I admitted. I just started saying it was vintage because I was so shamed for it. [laughs] For me, fashion is a form of self-expression. It also really takes me out of my comfort zone. One of the reasons I'm an actor is that I’m naturally very shy, so it's liberating to dress up and pretend to be someone else.
SS: I’m the same way. When I'm on set, I'm 100 percent comfortable, but at events and photo shoots, I'm beyond nervous.
BL: Same. When you have to be you, it's the most intimidating part. The only way that I feel comfortable doing red carpets and interviews is when I adopt the same thing that I do when I’m acting, which is to play a character. So when I’m going to a premiere, I think, who is that character? And I step into that. I still get knots in my stomach before red carpets. You just want to represent yourself properly, so that's why I chose to style myself. I also had the very fortunate and unique opportunity of being on Gossip Girl, where fashion was a main character. So I started developing relationship with designers, and then I’d get their email addresses. It all happened organically.
SS: What did you learn about style from Gossip Girl?
BL: Well, everything I know about fashion is from my mama. She's so creative and expressive in her choices. But then being on the show, I learned so much from the incredible costume designer Eric Daman. I also figured out what I was comfortable with. For one of my first events, I wore a dress that I was so insecure in, but I was told that I couldn’t back out because it was made custom and it would hurt my relationship with the designer. It didn't fit right though, and everybody knew it was a mess. Whenever I look at a photo from that red carpet, I can see how uncomfortable I was in my own skin. I’d never do that again.
SS: Has your style changed since you’ve become a mom? My mom wears a lot of suits like you do, and that’s one of the main things I love about your style — all of your suit moments.
BL: I think it's changed more as I’ve gotten older. There are lots of cute little baby-doll dresses in my closet from my early 20s that I know I'm not going to wear them again because I'm not in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. I really need to adopt the Marie Kondo method, but I haven't yet because everything in my closet still sparks joy. My style is, hopefully, becoming more elegant over time, but I still like pink and some frills.
SS: Who do you trust to give an honest opinion about an outfit? My mom is definitely very honest and so is my boyfriend.
BL: It used to be just my husband [actor Ryan Reynolds], but now it’s my kids too. And kids do not filter. [laughs]
SS: What has been your most memorable red-carpet look?
BL: I honestly can't pick one. And I know that sounds crazy, but I love fashion too much to pick one look. I used to say my gowns from Cannes and Met Ball because that’s when you get to be the most bold and expressive. It’s Hollywood glamour in its most grand form. How about you?
SS: I loved the beautiful pink Reem Acra gown that I wore to the Emmys [below]. It was one of those princess moments where I couldn't stop smiling.
BL: As much as I love a smoldering face, I always like people who smile on the carpet because we’re so fortunate to be there.
SS: Oh, I can’t master the smoldering look to save my life.
BL: With some outfits you need to do a smolder because if you're wearing a slit up to your hip bone and you're smiling like you're on Space Mountain, it just doesn't go together. It took me a few years to learn it too. If you pretend that you're J.Lo, that helps.