The “Good Girls” and “Parks and Recreation” star talks all things shopping, quarantine style and her love of Rachel Antonoff jumpsuits.
We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you”? These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”
On “Parks and Recreation,” Retta helped make famous a phrase — nay, a rallying cry — that has been invoked many a time when contemplating whether or not you should buy something: “Treat Yo Self.”
IRL, Retta is well-versed in shopping herself: She’ll frequently scope out the luxury retail sites for specific handbag styles she’s eyed for years (a recent addition to her wardrobe: the Chanel Deauville) and even designed her own dream winter outfit for Eloquii last winter. For the actor — currently starring on NBC’s “Good Girls,” now in its fourth season — fashion is all about the confidence and attitude you bring to it.
“There’s always that thing where it’s like, ‘Oh, you look so good in yellow. I would never look good in yellow.’ That’s not true: If you feel good in yellow, you’ll look good in yellow,” she argues. “If you feel good in something, you’ll look good in it. If I like the look of it and I put it on and I think it looks good, I’m wearing it. I don’t wear tight clothes just because I don’t feel comfortable in it — but then again, sometimes I’ll wear the tight pants with this big sweater or I’ll wear something that’ll accentuate the boobs. I never used to do that before. It was all hiding everything. I think the look of the outfit comes from how you feel about it.”
Ahead of the “Good Girls” season premiere, Fashionista caught up with Retta to talk all things shopping, quarantine style and her love of Rachel Antonoff jumpsuits. Read on.
“I like the classic — I don’t think I’m necessarily trendy. I like the classics and I love color, color, color, color, color, color and more color. I think I’m color-block modernista. I get the color coordination thing from my mother: The bag and the purse and the outfit and the shoes always match. I do appreciate the eclectic look, where you wouldn’t think to put something together. But I tend to stick with the color-blocking and the monochromatic look. My mother was famous for that.
“I will say: The more intricate and fabulous the sleeve, the better. I love a fancy sleeve. I love an A-line dress with a cinched waist — not too high, I’m not an empire waist girl, but I do a higher cinched waist. I feel like it gives me a shape that I like, particularly in pictures.
“I was a hide-your-body girl all through college, and not even so much that I was aware of hiding it — I realized after the fact that I was. I liked big, baggy clothes. I didn’t feel there was anything to accentuate, so I never made an effort to do so. I realized I was hiding myself when I started working in TV, on ‘Parks,’ and I had to take pictures. I was panicked about it. I didn’t realize I was hiding my body until I knew I was going to have to take pictures. I was like, ‘Oh, well, that’s why I always wear those big shirts. I wasn’t trying to be seen.’ It was a little bit stressful. I had a bit of a panic attack because I wasn’t sure what I would look good in, because I never really tried anything. I still did love color. I always wore color, it was just big and shapeless.
“My friend wanted me to go shopping with her and was like, ‘Try on this dress.’ The top part was fitted, but it was an A-line swing dress. I loved the way it looked on me. I was like, ‘I’ve never worn anything that was tight around my boobs or my arms.’ It was the first time that I realized I could find stuff that looked good on me, even with not loving my body. You know what I mean? Then, my weight would fluctuate — it would go up and go down — but I knew I could still find things. It was exciting to find stuff that looked good.
“My mother is a clothes horse. She’s very fashionable. She does the nails, the makeup, the hair. I think I’ve always had that in me, I just never explored it. Once I realized there were ways I could look good, I was all in. I never wore makeup, now, I mean, I could open up a shop with the amount of makeup that I have.
“The first time I went to the Emmys in 2011, I was offered to be dressed by Rani Zakhem — which, that alone, I was like, ‘What?’ I went to a showroom in LA to see some of the dresses and I got to pick out the kinds of styles that I liked. Getting to put the pieces together for that is one of the favorites, just because it was my first big event. I was wearing bright yellow, which I love.
“I loved my look for the first time I went to the Veuve Clicquot polo match here in LA. My friend, Jaime Elyse, makes a lot of my stuff. I’m a big fan of Zimmermann, but I obviously can’t fit anything in Zimmermann — I always like send her pictures of things that I like, and there was a Zimmerman dress that we wouldn’t copy, but it was Zimmermann-esque. I love that look, the hat… I was like, ‘Give me a train.’ I always want a train.
“A look we put together for the Golden Globes parties — it was just the simplest thing, but I love the dress so much. It was black and white. I love a high collar. It was short-sleeved with a short, puffy sleeve. [Then] NBC had an event for their comedies and Jamie made me this almost like a ’70s print; another high collar with the puffy sleeve, and I wore it with a Lane Bryant lime green skirt. I loved that look.
“I’m usually pretty casual, l just because I have to go and get dressed [on set]. Chances are I’m just in loose pants, T-shirt, jacket or sweatshirt or something. Because of the recent quarantine and having nowhere to go — and nowhere to wear your clothes — I actually dress [up] a little more, just to wear my clothes. It’s mostly lounge, but for me, lounge is some soft pants and a T-shirt. I’ve got a couple of sets that are almost like teddy bear outfits. I got two of those from Eloquii and I’ve gotten some stuff from Ashley Stewart. I’ve got a couple of lounge looks from Zelie for She. She just got into Nordstrom. I tend to wear my sets to set. Or I’ll wear a jumpsuit.
“I wasn’t really into jumpsuits — I had a few, but I was like, ‘Ah, they’re a pain in the neck when you have to go to the bathroom.’ I made friends with Rachel Antonoff, because she’s really close to Mae Whitman. I would comment on Rachel’s stuff like, ‘I love this.’ And then Rachel started doing some plus sizes and she sent me some jumpsuits. Now, I have three or four of her jumpsuits that I’ll wear to work because they’re an easy thing to put on. I know that I’m going to have to go change into whatever it is I’m wearing for work, so I don’t have to worry about when I have to go to the bathroom, having to take off the jumpsuit, because I will have changed. That’s a good work outfit. I tend to wear either the maxi dresses or Rachel’s jumpsuits. She just sent me a new pink one, and pink is my favorite color. I can’t wait to wear that one.
“Well, most of [the designers I follow] are for inspiration just because they don’t do my size, but I like Marchesa, Balmain, Louis Vuitton — the classics, the Guccis, the Chanels and all of that. I follow 11 Honoré, Eloquii.
“I believe [Eloquii] approached Tej, my publicist, asking if I wanted to do [a collection last year] — I think the way they said it was, ‘If you could have one outfit, what would it be?’ I love a monochromatic look — I just feel like it’s so clean and neat. And white, of course. I was always impressed with women who could wear all white and not be afraid of getting it dirty in the winter, specifically. I just picture them in New York where all that gross snow is, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, still wearing this white.’ So I was like, ‘I want to do a winter white look.’ I love a chic coat, so I asked, ‘Can I include a coat?’ They’re like, ‘Whatever you want.’ I wanted to have fun with it, so I was like, ‘Can we do a removable collar?’ I have a couple of coats that have a removable collar. They were like, ‘Sure.’
“Again, I like a high collar, a puff sleeve. That was easy. I was inspired by a Zimmermann top — she does a lot of lace and I think two seasons ago, she did this crop top that was all lace. I don’t do crop tops, and for me, it was for a winter look, so my top is inspired by this crop top that she did. Then, I love a flat-panel pants. I always feel like I can’t get away with it, with my stomach, but I was like, ‘Let’s figure one out.’ I feel like the buttons help give it that straight-line look.
“I get a lot of stuff from Eloquii. There are some bloggers who I follow and a lot of them get their little Amazon drops; I got a set from one of those bloggers and another jumpsuit from other bloggers.
“Online is my go-to. It’s just easier for me. I mean, honestly, I feel like I keep Eloquii and Ashley Stewart in business because I’m constantly ordering from them. I try to buy one outfit from different places, just to see if they fit me right. If I don’t find the fit, which is always hard for me, it’s hard for me to go back. And [I ask,] how easy is it to do a return? ASOS is really great — another place I get my sets and just so many items. Honestly, I think ASOS is where I started buying clothes when I knew I could look good in clothes. I have so many of those little swing dresses. I just did a big haul from them recently. I just wish there were some higher-end plus size [brands]… If looks good, I’ll wear it. I don’t care if it’s high end, if it’s cheap — if it looks good, especially if I just need it for one night… I’m going to wear it. I will up fuck up Target in a Louis Vuitton bag. Don’t act like I won’t… Obviously, in the age of where we need to be more mindful of the Earth, I would really love to have some sustainable plus-sized brands. We’re still working on that sort of thing, but online is really my go-to just because I don’t have time, really.
“For a while, the Louis Alma was my thing — I had four of those… Now that I can afford bags that I used to look at in magazines… If something comes out and it just blows my mind, I’m like, ‘All right, you got to have it.’ Because I’ve had that experience where I see something in a store and I’m like, ‘God, this is so expensive. I can’t spend the money on it,’ and then I find myself going back to visit the bag in the store. I’m like, ‘If you’re going to keep going back, just go get it.’ Then you get that first compliment — like, ‘I love your bag’ — and you’re like, ‘Oh, it was worth it.’
“I’ve been finding old styles that I loved when I saw them but never could afford it. I do a lot of The RealReal, Fashionphile, Rebag. I’m always looking on those sites, see the things that I once loved and knew I could never have, and every once in a while they’ll pop up. My most recent is the Chanel Deauville — I love those. If I could get every color, I would, but it’s like, ‘Retta, settle down.’ I just now bought one. It’s blue with the wording in orange. I’m obsessed with it. I got this Dior folding bag that I was so excited [about]. Even in a position knowing that I could afford it, I kept looking at it and checking all these different sites for the price. Then, when it disappeared from The RealReal, I panicked, like, ‘I knew I should have bought it.’ And then it popped up. I wanted it in the maroon originally, but it was really hard to find, so I got it in the blue oblique pattern.
“The one thing that I’ve been going back and forth on is the Tory Burch Lee Radziwill big, brown travel bag. I’m like, ‘You’re not going anywhere. Relax. Maybe once you start traveling again.’ Maybe at that point, it’ll be on The RealReal. I keep checking.
“[When shopping resale online] basically, you check them all — check them all, follow them on Instagram or wherever you follow them, and if something pops up and you like it, immediately contact them, because if you like it, somebody else likes it. I have an alert for Julia Rose Boston’s Instagram Stories because she puts them on [there] and if there’s anything that I like, chances are it’s sold the moment she posted it. Especially if it’s something that you’ve thought about, if it actually pops up, you better get it, because somebody else wanted it, too.
“I have a friend who I call my enabler. Cindy Lee. If I know I want to buy something that’s expensive, I’ll be like, ‘Cindy, do you want to come with me to Chanel?’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah bitch,’ and then just pumps you up. She’s like, ‘Get it. You know you want it.’ Then, I don’t feel so guilty.
“During quarantine, my scarf game is through the roof. I’ve been covering my head. I’ve done a bunch of Hermès, Chanel and Emilio Pucci, not too many Louis. I got some really, really colorful, really pretty ones. I definitely stepped up my Hermès scarf game.
“I have a bad ankle and I have to wear flats, which is the most devastating thing ever. And I have big feet. I have a lot of sneakers. I do a lot of sandals in the summer. The d’Orsay flat is what I tend to go towards, because if I’m wearing a long skirt or pants, at least looks like a pump in the front. That’s the one thing that makes me sad, that I can’t wear heels. I used to be able to wear heels. No more.
“[My closet] is pretty color coordinated, which really helps in getting dressed quickly… I already have a lot of clothes, so I try to get rid of the stuff that I don’t really wear. I have a Poshmark page that I sell things on, to help make room. My closet is overstuffed. I forget where I heard this: If there’s something that you call your shitty sweatpants or your raggedy T-shirts, get rid of them. You have T-shirts. That way, you always look put together. You have friends that when you go out you’re like, ‘Why are you so dressed up?’ I’m not dressed up. I just don’t have shitty clothes anymore. My choices are decent choices now. That way, I never look like trash.”
Season four of “Good Girls” premieres March 7th at 10:00 p.m. EST on NBC. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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