Molly Ringwald comes through talking supersonic luxury travel, rocking head-to-toe Ralph in The Breakfast Club, Phoebe Philo, and dressing how you feel forever
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— Jonah & Erin
Molly Ringwald — tap in with a d*mn legend.
I (Erin) have been admiring her acting — smart, sly, and understated to the point of seeming effortlessness — for decades. And just as long?? I’ve been taking NOTES on how she wears clothes. Yes, we know her as an ‘80s icon, thanks to era-defining ur-teen-blockbusters like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles.
But if you’re the type to pay attention to matters of sauce, you also know Molly as an original & influential ‘80s fit god, because the clothes she rocked on screen and off — vintage, layered, simultaneously feminine and androgynous?? — helped define the anti-template for a certain kind of off-on-her-own-trip, thrift-store-savvy misfit.
That was true even when she was playing the popular rich b*tch in The Breakfast Club dressed in head-to-toe Ralph: she still couldn’t help but look like a cool & deep popular rich b*tch!!
Over the years Molly has published pieces in The New Yorker, two books of her own, and translations of French novels and memoirs. All the while, she’s continued acting — you might have seen her cameo in the second season of The Bear. Over the next several weeks, Molly will swag out heavily in Feud: Capote vs. The Swans, directed by Gus Van Sant, premiering tomorrow, where she stars alongside Chloë Sevigny, Diane Lane, Demi Moore, and Naomi Watts… Molly plays Truman Capote’s West Coast friend Joanna Carson, who’s on some L.A. hippie sh*t post divorce, and who sticks by his side through thick & thin.
All of which means I was psyched to hop on the Spyphone with Molly and chop it up — !!
Blackbird Spyplane: A lot of people are going to talk about the fashion on Feud, especially the NYC swans’s society clothes — twinsets and skirt suits, pussy bow blouses, hats, gloves, pearls, pins… That all seems like armor in retrospect, whereas your character is different — softer, with the bohemian flowing scarves, caftans and gemstone jewelry. I wanted to ask about how clothes inform character, because I went back and watched bunch of the ‘80s movies you made with John Hughes, and the clothes you wear are A. cool as h*ll and B. such a huge part of those roles and the spirit of the films… How much were you involved in figuring out how those costumes?
Molly Ringwald: “Oh I had a lot to do with the way I was dressed. I remember going out shopping on Melrose with the woman who costume-designed Sixteen Candles — I was really into hats, so I picked out the hat and just about everything I wore, except for the bridesmaid dress, which was supposed to be awful, even if now it seems so cool and iconic and of a time. For Breakfast Club, which was designed by Marilyn Vance, we talked about a costume for the character, but when it arrived it wasn’t what we’d agreed on and I didn’t like it. So John and I went out shopping and I picked out everything from Ralph Lauren, pretty much. Except for the leather jacket, I think that was from somewhere else, but the boots, skirt and top I wore were Ralph Lauren. And we dyed the top to make it look different.”
Blackbird Spyplane: A lot of your outfits from those films, even the Ralph ensemble1, have a quality that reminds me of how I dressed as a teen, which is like a thrift store kind of exploded on me. I think it’s a magpie thing that happens when someone’s figuring out their style on a budget. But then, at a certain age, there’s a pressure to start looking more put-together. This idea that you should have ‘figured out who you are by now’ and that your clothes should reflect that. And yet some of the coolest older people I see — particularly women — still have an element of that unruliness to them, like they’re still playing around and trying stuff. Does that resonate with you?
Molly Ringwald: “I definitely loved thrift stores, and that was basically just because I was still on an allowance. But I also loved that I could find these things and objects and imagine almost like a character who was wearing them — they were like stories to me. Also, I was not really interested in showing my body. I don’t want to sound prudish, but for me, my personal preference was for layers. And I really liked drawing from the 1920s, because I was like a bean pole and all of those dresses are perfect for that almost, like, androgynous thing.
“In terms of all the layers and colors, I still do that. I’m still into clashing colors and different patterns. It depends on my mood, but I don’t subscribe to this idea that you have to dress your age. I dress how I feel. I put something on and it either makes me feel powerful or beautiful or whatever it is that I want to feel that day.”
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Blackbird Spyplane: I saw you post about Phoebe Philo’s new line on Instagram and hit her with the triple-emoji-clap bravo. What do you like about her clothes?
Molly Ringwald: “I’ve always loved and admired her, I was so curious to see what she would come up with, and she hit it out of the park. I also just loved the campaign: I loved that they posted a close-up of this older woman’s stomach. It just felt very fresh.”
Blackbird Spyplane: You wrote a great New Yorker piece about working with Jean-Luc Godard back in the ‘80s — this is a funny detail for me to pick out, but you mentioned that you took the Concorde from NYC to Paris for that job. Our women’s vertical is called Concorde, we are fascinated by the Concorde, no one travels that way anymore. Please tell us about the Concorde experience.
Molly Ringwald: “I kind of didn’t even realize how special it was! I was just more than anything excited that it got there in, like, 3 hours. Insane. I guess it did feel very exclusive, very stylish. I took it one other time to London when I was dating a guy who was in a band. I was shooting a movie at the time and I really wanted to see him, so I flew over on the Concorde and surprised him.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Who was that?
Molly Ringwald: “Adam Horovitz.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Aha amazing.
Molly Ringwald: “Anyway, it was great, I’m glad to say that I actually did that. I don’t understand why they don’t still have it.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Probably one of those things where it caught on fire a lot…
Molly Ringwald: “Oh yeah, well, don’t Teslas, too?”
Blackbird Spyplane: Haha true. All right, finally, we asked you to share some cherished special possessions, and the first thing you sent is a handwritten poem by F. Scott Fitzgerald. What’s the story?
Molly Ringwald: “I discovered Fitzgerald as a teenager, and became completely obsessed with both him and Zelda. I pretty much read everything I could, and when I was around 19 and living in L.A. I found this poem at a specialty antique bookseller. It’s written on the back of an invitation to a wedding in Baltimore. The thought of actually having something he’d written was amazing, so I bought it, and it’s gone with me wherever I’ve gone.”
Blackbird Spyplane: That’s incredible, I read it as a note he left for Zelda when he was headed out for a night on town, and he made it rhyme. And what are these perfume bottles?
Molly Ringwald: “I started wearing this perfume, Je Reviens, as a teenager. It’s a very old perfume, and it’s not the kind of thing you can get at Net A Porter or something — you get it at a pharmacy, and it’s associated with grandmothers. I don’t wear it anymore, but years ago I started just collecting the bottles. And this was before you could just go on eBay or Etsy or First Dibs. This was back when it was just about the luck of going into an antique store or Brocante and finding it.”
Blackbird Spyplane: That’s what you lose when everything everywhere is theoretically findable online. That feeling of beautiful dumb luck about an unexpected discovery in a specific time and place.
Molly Ringwald: “That’s what I’ve always found so much fun. I’ve realized it’s the idea of the hunt so much more than actually having the object, and putting it on your shelf, and it just collects dust.”
Molly Ringwald is on Instagram here. Feud: Capote vs. the Swans premieres tomorrow on FX and Hulu.
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