Editor’s Note: For our very special September Issue, Kiernan Shipka got to experience an anything-but-typical trip of a lifetime to explore the Chanel flower fields during the yearly, three-week May rose harvest. There, Kiernan learned exactly what goes into the iconic Chanel No. 5 fragrance (which was created by Coco Chanel herself in 1921) and the new No. 5 L’Eau, which mixes jaunty hints of citrus with the house’s signature rose de mai.
A few weeks later, it’s clear the trip left a lasting impression on the starlet, who can be seen next on the big screen in The Blackcoat’s Daughter. Our time in the fields and Coco Chanel’s sensibilities proved so inspiring to the actress that she was compelled to open up in the essay below about her current relationship with fashion, feminism, and femininity and why they can beautifully coexist.
Coco Chanel once said, “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.” I recently learned more about the iconic designer, who made her make rebelling against gender norms of her time, on a dream-come-true trip earlier this summer to France. I toured Coco’s apartment in Paris and also visited the rose fields of Grasse, the birthplace of Chanel No. 5. It was an expedition that changed the way I thought about the designer and her brand. I think I even changed a bit after learning so much about such a complex person and spending time in such a spectacular place.
Similar to Coco, I’ve never been someone who has thought fashion and feminism are mutually exclusive. In fact, I think they work together in a lovely, empowering way. For me, feminism is about being who you want and having the freedom of choice. As long as you have that, you should be able to dress however you like, whether it means ultrafeminine, supertomboyish, or something else entirely.
I was 6 when I started playing Sally Draper on Mad Men. I feel incredibly lucky that my first major role was someone with a lot of depth and growth, and that I was surrounded by people who treated me like a peer. For nearly eight years, I portrayed a very complicated and realized character, and there’s no question that being Sally (who is much cooler than me, by the way) has influenced my being in so many ways.
I grew up on a set surrounded by strong actresses, as fearless in real life as the roles they played, not to mention so many female writers, directors, and crew members. That was my acting school. It raised the bar for me — and influenced me. Having worked with forces of nature like Janie Bryant, Leslie Linka Glatter, and January Jones, I found my environment was so celebratory of women that it became natural for me to be myself and not live according to any standards that held me back.
I recently reached a stage in my style when I decided I was just going to really go for it. What people think no longer matters to me. I just want to enjoy myself. This mindset has made me so excited about fashion and so excited about taking risks. I’m having more fun than ever with how I dress, and I’m learning so much about my personal aesthetic along the way. I’m known for wearing a lot of feminine dresses, but lately I’ve been really into pants and how great they feel to wear (I think Coco, who made trousers more socially acceptable on women, would approve!). They’re easier to dance in, and I never know when I’m going to bust a move. Whatever the occasion, if I find a cool pair, you can count on me to be wearing them. Even if there is no dress, there can still be a woman.
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