On the short list of things based in Seattle: Nordstrom, and director Lynn Shelton. Okay, so that’s the very short list, but the geographical coupling is a recently significant one. While the movie industry churns on in Los Angeles and New York, the Cannes-featured, Sundance Special Jury Prize-winning filmmaker stays put. Her most recent must-see, Laggies, takes place in the Emerald City—and, in part, at Nordstrom. We spoke with Shelton about shooting the upcoming film in her hometown, and we dished leading ladies, fashion choices on-camera and off, and those ever-natty Mad Men.
THE THREAD: Okay so, Half-Yearly Sale? New shoes? What brings Keira Knightley and Chloë Moretz’s characters into Nordstrom?
Lynn Shelton: There’s a little scene at the beginning, where they’re in the store’s entryway with a couple of guy friends, [but the main scene involves] Keira’s character going with Chloë’s to find prom dresses. The scene ends up being very dramatic; Chloë ends up storming out.
I understand you really lobbied to get the film shot in Seattle.
We’d been talking about Atlanta and L.A. and all these other places. As a Seattle-based filmmaker, I get special satisfaction out of things being really geographically specific. When they’re at the Northgate Nordstrom, that’s exactly where they would’ve gone for prom dresses. Later, they crash a car near the mall and end up at the North Seattle Police Department. It was so wonderful that Nordstrom let us shoot there. That’s the mall I grew up in. We went there all the time.
Style is often as definitive as location. What’s the style like in Laggies?
It really is all about the characters. I’ve never made a film that had a different objective than this, but this is a film where I wanted the characters to feel real. It was like the apartments and the houses that these people lived in were real, too. This was not aspirational living like in some films, where characters have a simple job but they live in a crazy mansion. Keira’s character was floating along. She wears outfits that she doesn’t stick out in—though trying to make Keira Knightley not stick out in a crowd? That’s a tall order. To be not supermodel gorgeous, but instead like a real human being, she really dressed down.
Chloë’s character is 16 years old. She has a very retro vibe. She listens to ’70s music. We had her in flare jeans and some vintage pieces, like old leather jackets. She’s an au naturale girl. We had fun with her in terms of her having that kind of teenage experimentation. Every day she wore something a little bit different.
So you had Keira Knightley, this amazing personality who’s known for her style and grace, but you needed to dress her down. Way down.
Yes! One of the outfits was a white T-shirt and Levi’s. We had her playing around on a skateboard. Kind of tomboy-ish. There’s also a scene where she goes to her friend’s wedding brunch and wears a navy cardigan and a plain little skirt with little flats, an iconic look. Also, her dad’s a tax accountant, and she takes a temporary gig as his sign twirler. The uniform for that is white jeans and a white shirt and white Keds. Her hair was back. She looked very natural, a no-makeup look. We had her on the street, right on the corner. Cars were just going by her. Not a single person noticed it was her.
What was her style like on-set? Tell us she at least showed up in some great pieces?
Keira likes to dress up. She definitely obviously does an incredible job of that when she does it. But I’ve got to tell you, more often than not she would come to set in baggy overalls and a T-shirt, and that was adorable—I mean adorable. She can just pull anything off. She is one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. When it’s not dress-up time, she wants to be comfortable. She does have those opportunities to really go over the top—for galas, on set—but she’s somebody who just really likes to be comfortable and is comfortable in her own skin.
As for Chloë, jeans and jackets and funkiness were her personal everyday look. She had a lot of opinions about what her character would wear. Chloë was similar in a lot of ways to what her character, Annika, is like.
Let’s switch platforms. You’ve done some television, too; what was it like directing an episode of Mad Men, when work becomes this impeccably and specific well-dressed environment?
It’s a total time capsule. You’re thrust into this whole other era. And then, just on the other side of their acting space, you’re looking at this crew of people wearing hoodies; fifty people just on the outside of the frame who all look casual. It’s very funny to be in those extremes.
What about with New Girl?
Zooey [Deschanel]’s look on her show is so awesome. Her character, Jess, definitely has a style, but it includes a lot of really fun, playful looks. She can be sexy, but she can also be in flannel PJs with little cherries on them. You’re always looking to see what’s next.
I also directed episode four of the current season of The Mindy Project. Mindy Kaling is really into fashion. She has really specific ideas about the things she wants her character to wear. I got to see her Emmy dress before she went on to present for the Emmys and had a lot of conversations with her about that dress.
And what about your own look? What are you craving for the fall season?
I always want new boots. That’s an obsession for me, along with the other 90 percent of women in this country. And I definitely need a new coat, too. There are a lot of things that I covet, for sure. I keep having different premieres and red carpet events to go to!
Laggies film stills shot on location at Nordstrom by Barbara Kinney
Laggies opens nationwide on October 24.