Artwork by: Shaun Nicole Williams
Fanart by: Ryley Welch
Text and interview by: Tiffany Ferrell
A few weeks ago I got to talk to one of the most informed seventeen year olds when it comes to the fashion world. Kiernan Shipka got her big break playing the daughter of Don Draper in the hit show Mad Men. Since then she has been in a number of period pieces including FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan playing B.D. Hyman, daughter of the infamous Bette Davis, and Flowers In The Attic as well as more modern films like The Blackcoat’s Daughter and Fan Girl.
Aside from being a totally fashionable and chill seventeen year old, Kiernan is quite the fashion history buff and aside from talking about her role in Feud and about feminism, we also fangirled about some amazing iconic figures in fashion history like Edith Head and Grace Kelly.
Tiffany: If you could take home any of the dresses you wore in Feud, which would you and why?
Kiernan: Oh my gosh, It’s actually not a dress but if I could take home anything from B.D.’s costume it would be the white pants she wore that had a big cat on the side. They were so cute and fun and she wore them with the little blousey crop top and pants. It was matching and cute, but I think you could do that in a real modern way. Who doesn’t want a pair of pants with a giant cat on the side.
T: How did it feel playing a controversal person like B.D? I read ‘My mother’s keeper’ and ‘Mommie Dearest’. She seemed to get a lot of negative output from her book compared to Christina Crawford.
K: It was interesting playing someone that was a real person and that there was footage of, but what i was really interested in is that there wasn’t much about B.D. during that specific time in her life that I was playing her. With anything I wanted to bring humanity to the character and you want to bring a sense of understanding along with you while you’re playing a person. For me it was really just about not thinking about her as we know her now so much as thinking about her in that present moment. Really just focusing on the relationship between her and her mother that obviously developed and changed over time but at that moment it was what it was. That loving but often turbulent relationship.
T: I’ve also read some Bette Davis biographies too and after that book came out I can see a mom getting mad, but she just completely cut her out.
K: It’s definitely interesting and it’s a fine line considering where they are now or where they were 10, 15, 20 years ago and who they were in that moment. For me it was trying to stay as present as possible with her.
T: How did it feel to play a mother with two kids in that last scene that you had on Feud? I mean was it weird?
K: You know I really did not expect that coming because we were getting the scripts week by week. I was like oh! Now I’ve got two kids. How am I gonna dive into this? Yeah that was something totally new. I mean I got dogs, I feel like thats the most maternal part of me I can channel so it was sort of just about making BD feel different because it was such a time jump. It was important to me that she felt a new sense of priorities and a new sense of self. At that point in her life she had a lot of familial stability and when I was playing her before that she was kind of emotionally in a bit of an existential crisis. It was really important for me to make her tone feel a little bit calmer and more controlled and mature. That strong love that you have for a child. I asked around a bit then I kind of just went from there.
T: If you could choose any period role what would it be?
K: I mean I feel like right now I’m just on this sixties role! I don’t know if I’ll leave anytime soon at this rate, but if i could pick another era I think I would love to do an eighties thing. I think that could be really fun! Like something a little more wild and fun and edgy and on the cusp of modern but just a little bit different.
T: If you were able to meet one iconic fashion designer from history and spend a day following them around, who would it be?
K: That’s a really good question! If I could follow Edith Head around for a day and watch her work I think that would be insane! She probably had a ton to do and just like hearing, watching someone sort of create this story behind the outfit would be like watching the ultimate stylist at work.
T: So I heard you were a Grace Kelly fan. What was your favorite movie of hers?
K: I mean Rear Window man is totally like top, And you know To Catch A Thief is also is insane.
T: Did you ever have a specific dress or iconic outfit of hers that was just like “It” for you?
K: I think that as far as outfits go I loved her Oscar look. I mean I really thought it was like the epitome of classic Grace. And then also that teal silky number —I also loved that one giant tulle skirt that she wore that was kind of ballerina inspired with the tight black top.
T: I always loved her casual style too. She was so ahead of her time.
K: It was so effortless
T: A lot of the stuff she wore just going to the beach everyone wears now. It’s like man, she just called it.
K: I know it’s so true! she did call it!
T: Besides Grace do you have any other historical fashion icons
K: I mean for me growing up and learning about fashion it was really just a combination of being on Mad Men and being surrounded by it as well as just getting super interested in current fashion and what was happening at the moment. I was always pretty obsessed with it, so as far as fashion icons go its funny because theres so many peoples styles that I absolutely love past and present. I kind of taken fashion from everywhere and absorb it.
T: What are some of your favorite books? Anything recent that you have read?
K: I just read a book called Marlena which I loved. My friend Emma Roberts has a new book club online called Belletrist; it was one of the selections. It is awesome and that is the most recent book that I read from Belletrist and I thought it was so good.
T: That one is on my list.
K: You gotta do it; it’s super duper good!
T: What are some of the challenges you have faced so far in your profession?
K: It’s a hard line of work because it’s emotionally very taxing at times. It’s a whole lot of rejection that people don’t see. Nine times out of ten you’re told no. Nine times out of ten –‘you’re too this’ or ‘too that’ and it could get to a point where if you’re not having a good day and pile that on too it can get really hard, and that’s part of it. It’s my job and I love it but it definitely comes with a slew of rejection that is not normal in most other jobs. It’s something that you kind of get used to and acclimate it over time and it just is what it is but that doesn’t mean that from time to time that it doesn’t pose its own challenges. And I think that navigating the whole industry and handling the unpredictability of it because I consider myself to be quite the planner and that’s one part of my life and existence that I don’t have much control over because you never know what’s going to happen. You can only plan so much and it’s about learning to accept that. I think it’s actually a pretty good exercise for me to be in this business because you almost have to be more chill than you want to be because otherwise you’re just going to go crazy.
T: I know you have said that your parents are a big support system, but do you have other support like friends etc. to help cope with all of this?
K. Yeah, definitely. I think having an outside life from acting and having friends and family, and life experiences does more for your acting and your depth and your experience than sometimes you even think it does. For me growing up on Mad Men I was really lucky. I was able to have this amazing job but I wasn’t working 24-7 so as a six year old, seven year old, eight year old I could make friends that I still have now and have these experiences that sort of balanced this abnormal, incredible experience I was having. It’s about balance for sure.
T: If you weren’t in the entertainment industry, what do you think you might want to do as a career?
K: I was thinking about this the other day. I think it would be really fun to be a critic of any kind. I love experiencing things that I love or that I’m interesting in and then just talking about them forever so whether that be food or music or theater, I think that being a critic and getting to dive into something really deep consistantly would be super fun.
T: Correct me if I’m wrong but you have identified yourself as a feminist correct?
K: Oh yeah – hell yeah!
T: Social media is known for being a cesspool of mysoginistic people and comments. At the same time it fosters and helps to further the feminist movement. How has social media helped or hurt feminism in your experience?
K: In my experience I feel very lucky to be growing up in the time that I am growing up in, because I think that feminism has this insane platform now – which is super awesome, and yeah social media definitely exacerbates the sexist problems that have been happening since the beginning of time. I don’t think that it helps that it really is doing that but at the same token the voices that are being heard and the amount of exposure something can get now a days is so exponentially incredible that I think in the long run the pros of social media for feminism are totally gonna outweigh the cons of just social media being social media – life being life.
T: What have been some of your go to item in your closet this summer?
K: I love Rebecca Taylor she makes the prettiest dresess and flouncy tops. So into! She’s a summer staple for sure as well as these vintage Levi jeans that I got that I’ve defintely worn more often than not this summer. Just kind of having a really easy approach this summer. Keeping it simple. For the fall I get super excited and I love to layer and wear a ton of plaid and thicker fabrics and dresses and stockings — I channel my Blair Waldorf during the fall season but during the summer I just don’t care. It’s so hot and I just want to be comfortable.
T: In your opinion what’s a piece of fahion or clothing or accessory that never goes out of style?
K: I think that a good pair of jean. A well fitted classic denim pant. You can dress it up, you can dress it down; you can wear it in the summer or winter. That’s my go to classic.
T: What is your favorite movie based on costume design?
K: Marie Antoinette. That’s my favorite movie for costumes for sure. I mean just the color palette in general – that movie is just pure eye candy the whole time.
The entire series of Feud: Bette and Joan is available on Itunes for purchase and up for pre order on Amazon.com.