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.”
Over seven seasons of “Younger,” Molly Bernard religiously steals scenes as Lauren Heller, power publicist and best friend/roomie of publisher Kelsey Peters (played by real life BFF Hilary Duff). Fans quickly embraced Bernard as a favorite, thanks to her sharply hilarious, pitch-perfect line deliveries — “Heller Good PR, we’re not great, we’re Heller good” — and finesse in nailing the most costume-y of high fashion from Jacqueline Demeterio and consultant Patricia Field. (See: Lauren co-opting a honeymooning Diana’s marketing prowess through the most oversized of oversized necklaces and authoritative blazers, below.)
This season brings the New York City-based series to a close, but Bernard has an exciting new release — and first headlining role — as different kind of aspirational Brooklynite. In the indie film “Milkwater,” premiering on VOD on Friday, she plays Milo, a lost 20-something who impulsively decides to become a surrogate to an older gay man she meets at a bar.
“First of all, that script just got me,” says Bernard. “It’s so complicated and I really identified with Milo. She’s flailing and she’s really, really, really aggressively searching for meaning and I spent like most of my 20s suffering, so I was like, ‘This will be hard to play, because I’ll have to go back there.”
But she’s not totally ready to let go of her “Younger” character, whose sartorial spectrum looms large. “I’m experimenting today with an off-the-shoulder top, inspired by Lauren Heller. This is actually by my friend Wray, who’s my favorite designer,” says Bernard, as she does a Lauren-esque poses in a puff-sleeve, wrap-front top with a porcelain-inspired blue print. “I was like, ‘Give me the off-the-shoulder. Let me bolden my life up!’ Because otherwise I would just be in a black turtleneck.”‘
Like her small-screen character, Bernard is a native New Yorker, but she has a natural flair for very non-Lauren pared-down, yet individual style flourishes. (She’s partial to downtown indie labels, like her friend Wray Serna’s.) Ahead, she talks about how the legendary Field influenced her personal style, what her “Adult French Toddler Chic” aesthetic entails and why shopping with Duff is “dangerous.”
“During season one of ‘Younger,’ Patricia Field just blasted my eyes open to expressing yourself via clothes. To be honest, since I was a kid, fashion was interesting to me. I was always drawn to stripes and boat necks — ‘Adult French Toddler Chic’ has always been my aesthetic. No, it was ‘Adult French Toddler,’ and now there’s ‘chic’ added on because of Patricia Field, who taught me to embrace the fact that I’m quirky in my clothes. Sometimes I like to go in costume, in like a full Jack Kerouac plain look. But I know, at that point, I need like a quirky sock or a red shoe or a weird bag or a funny headband, because Pat Field was like, ‘You have to express yourself, even if you’re in all black.’
“I wore this all-black shorts and shirt, and I bought these Calzuros — they’re Italian nursing shoes, kind of like Dansko clogs. I bought a bright red pair, like cherry bomb red. So I was in this very ‘cool girl, I live in Brooklyn,’ tough-guy outfit and I had these bright red clown shoes on. I was like, ‘I look great. Don’t know what to say.’ I had a big white bow in my hair, and I was like, ‘This is it for me. Perfect.’
“The ‘Adult French Toddler Chic’ vibe definitely involves a bow and a Mary Jane shoe or two. I have a couple of pairs of Mary Janes, a white and a black. Definitely some socks that have a little bit of frill. That’s the secret: a little plain, but with those cutesy details that only a French mother could adorn you with. Extra points for a little cute little hanky.
“I like finding clothes that feel good. I think it’s really hard to find clothes that actually feel good. A lot of my clothes. I feel fine in, and it’s like, ‘OK, I’ll wear this.’ But I have a very few a small number of items that I actually feel physically comfortable in and also I feel like, ‘Oh, I look cute. I like this so much.’
“I have this really cute, kind of loose Maje… Hilary [Duff] pronounces it ‘Mah-jay,’ but I call it ‘Maaj.’ It’s this short-sleeve, collared little button-down sweater. It’s really cropped and red, with sweet pockets and a beautiful line. I feel it’s both physically comfortable and just looks so cute. I’m obsessed. Hilary turned me on to Moussy jeans and they feel great. I’m sitting in them right now — I haven’t taken them off basically since I bought them.
“I basically exclusively only own Wray’s clothes. She just makes incredible, awesome, all-season-long, beautiful, simple well-curated, designed-in-New York pieces. Because I’m friends with [founder] Wray Serna, I have the advantage of going into her studio and trying things on.
“I think it’s really important to try on swimsuits, too. I’ll go to stores that carry Mara Hoffman because I really like her swimsuits. It’s really hard to find a good swimsuit that works. That was one pandemic silver lining: I ordered a bunch of swimsuits online and ended up keeping one. I returned the rest because I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, yes. OK, bye bye.’
“I feel like stores need to get better at making the try-on experience comfortable and kind of sexy. The Rachel Comey store in Soho has velvet on the walls, a soft orange velvet curtain and a corduroy bench. It’s just nice to be in there.
“I went over to Hilary’s house when I was recently in L.A. I showed up and she was like, ‘Well, you are a New Yorker. Are people stopping you on the street, like, ‘Where’s the subway?’ ‘Cuz my outfit [looked so New York]: my shoes, a cute pair of jeans, a blazer, a turtleneck. I usually wear glasses. I feel like L.A. is sweatpants, sweatsuits, athleisure. People are really into leather jackets right now in L.A, though — I was like, ‘OK, got it. Interesting. Leather jacket brigade here.’
“I hate that I’m an impulse shopper. To my detriment. I did just do some impulse shopping. I bought the cutest little shirt at a store in L.A. called The Great. I had never heard of them and I ended up wearing it to Hilary’s birthday. It’s this cute little button-down with a slight puff sleeve and a tiny little floral print. It looks like what a French toddler would wear. I went to Outdoor Voices and bought a bunch of new workout clothes. They make this great thing called the Exercise Dress, a dress you can workout in. They were having a sale and I was like, ‘Sign me up.’
“I end up giving things away to my friends or doing donations. I feel like there are very few clothes that I have that I’ll hold on to and try to give to my children. I try not to be too precious about my items. I tried to do that rule, if I haven’t even thought about it or touched it in a year to assess whether I really need it.
“I have this shirt that I wore when I was 15 — I got it on St. Mark’s Place, and it’s this tiny blue graphic tee with a little scoop neck — that I will just hold onto forever. It says, ‘love is a blast,’ in this funny little ’60s font. That’s probably my most emotional piece of clothing because I just feel like it was such a sweet, weird time as a teen. I have a bunch of my grandmother’s scarves, little neckerchiefs, and I will hold on to those. They’re treasures for me. I have three of my grandfather’s shirts that he liked to wear — just like a basic striped short-sleeve button-down. A friend of mine, in high school, after he died, took them home and on her sewing machine made them my size.
“Hilary and I call shopping together ‘dangerous.’ I complain the whole time. I’m like, ‘I can’t believe you’re making me do this.’ And she’s like, ‘I’m not making you do anything.’ I call it ‘my bad girl’ mode. She loves to shop and she’s got such great taste. She’s taught me how to be discerning, how to treat yourself and how to mark occasions, like to buy a memento. That it’s an earned right.
“I bought myself a really pretty bracelet with Hilary that encapsulates the seven years of ‘Younger’ — she was like, ‘You did the show for seven years. You earned it.’ It’ll become an heirloom piece. It’s a little gold Tiffany & Co. bracelet. I’d never stepped foot into that store before. And I was just like, ‘You know what? I’ll do this.’ It felt scary. And, also, I was like, ‘I will be giving this to a child of mine.’
“I have a Tiffany’s necklace locket thing from my grandmother, and these are my grandmother’s diamonds, actually, that my fiancé put into our engagement rings. It’s something that was definitely inspired by the character that I played for so long that it’s kind my personality. But I have to say, I love it and I think every time I look at it, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s seven years of hard work.'”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.