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There may be no actress more closely associated with provocative on-camera roles and wildly alternative fashion—peep those orange hued-zebra print tights, circa 1996!—than Chloë Sevigny. Which is appropriate, since Sevigny simultaneously emerged as an ingénue in fashion and film at just 19, when she made her acting debut as an HIV-infected outsider in Larry Clark’s controversial indie movie Kids at the same time The New Yorker dubbed her fashion sense "street chic." With the release of her self-titled, photo-filled memoir, we talked to our favorite indie "It" girl about style and her on-screen roles.
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Once christened "the coolest girl in the world" by virtually every fashion magazine, Sevigny, now 40, established a career punctuated with daring performances, including an Academy Award-nominated turn in 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, a five-season stint as a sharp-tongued sister wife on HBO’s Big Love, and perfectly crafted television characters on Portlandia, American Horror Story, and, more recently, Netflix’s dark family thriller Bloodlines. "I don’t feel so much like a girl anymore," says Sevigny, though she was decidedly baby faced in this frothy pink scarf dress back in 2002. "I feel I’m more a woman, but I still think I’m pretty freakin’ cool."
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"People can see that I have some sort of other perspective—an alternate perspective," says Sevigny, whose gamine grace has been featured in major fashion campaigns with Miu Miu and Dolce & Gabbana. The actress has also been known to wear Chanel, as evidenced by the tie-and-suspenders ensemble she sported at a cocktail reception held by the French design house in 2010.
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Sevigny’s self–titled book features hundreds of photographs that trace her willful progression from a pixie-haired, Connecticut-bred teen to a modern style icon and muse to fashion insiders and filmmakers. "I’ve been consistently working for the past 20 years, and it just seemed like a nice way to end my youth," the Golden Globe winner says of the book’s release. The memoir’s release also helps usher out an era of outfits, like this play on proportions (Cropped jacket! Oversized jeans!) Sevigny wore to a film premiere in 1998.
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Looking back, Sevigny says she never considered her quirky teen outfits at odds with her inner-city surroundings. "It was the ‘90s in New York, and people were cool with it," she says. "Sometimes the home girls on the train would make fun of me, especially when I had pink hair. But I think generally people in New York kind of appreciate a different style." Sevigny may no longer have pink hair, but she certainly still wears the color, as seen by the ballerina-inspired look she wore during an M&Ms party in 2003.
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"I hope there’s an authenticity, a naturalness, and an unexpected take on my roles," Sevigny says of her approach to acting. The same might be said of her approach to dressing up, as with this tongue-in-cheek tee, which she wore to a fashion event in 2007.
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Sevigny—who has wrapped production on indie thriller AntiBirth and rom-com Love and Friendship with Kate Beckinsale—says she’d love to tackle a “Victorian or Edwardian” project next. “Hell yeah,” the American Horror Story actress exclaims. "Peplums, yes. Hats, yes." One era we imagine she’s not anxious to embrace? The early 2000s, when she wore this teal blue dress.
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Style is a huge inspiration for Sevigny both on- and off-screen. "You know, a lot of Nikki’s clothes on Big Love were hard," she admits. "I was very covered up, but the more specific the wardrobe is, the easier it is to get into character." But in this off-the-shoulder top and prep-school skirt, which she wore in September 2014, it seems as though she’s doing her best to channel Alicia Silverstone's cult classic style in Clueless.
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"Actresses are always dressing the part," Sevigny says, who wore this mesh sweatshirt and miniskirt combo at a 2012 charity event in NYC. "For audition, you want people to be able to project on you, so you might have on something subtle that you think would help people see you more as the character. And then for business meetings, I try not to be as super wild. And then at night, when you’re trying to attract men or have fun with your friends, you might wear some heels to feel an extra boost of confidence."