How I Shop: Kelly Rutherford

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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."

During each fashion week around the world, there's always a certain ubiquitous VIP attendee who becomes an MVP of sorts for each city. A buzzy reality star may take over New York while an unlikely musician may appear consistently throughout Paris, for example. Rarely does one celeb reign supreme over the entire fashion week cycle, but that's precisely what Kelly Rutherford has achieved over the past few seasons.

The actor — best known for her role as the unapologetically glamorous and complex Lily Van der Woodsen on "Gossip Girl" — has quickly regained her rightful place as a fashion superstar, thanks not just to her many appearances at fashion events, but also the beloved elevator selfies she posts to her Instagram documenting her immaculate personal style.

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"It's so easy. I get up in the morning, go get my coffee and take a picture [in my elevator]. There's decent lighting and it's consistent," Rutherford shares with Fashionista. "It's so much more casual [than having someone else take your photo]. It's not like you have to hire a crew and have it be a whole thing. It's about convenience and ease, to be honest."

Rutherford has earned a level of rarely-awarded respect in internet culture for her documentation of her ultra-refined, envy-inducing taste in clothing. Whether she's snapping a selfie in a red carpet-ready outfit, accessorized to perfection, or a casual on-the-run T-shirt and jeans beneath a fabulous statement coat, the actor encapsulates the effortless stylishness that so many strive to pull off.

Though it would seem a given that Rutherford gained some of her fashion expertise from playing a wealthy, sophisticated socialite for five years on "Gossip Girl" — a show revered for its fashion — that knack for polished style existed well before she was cast in the role that cemented her into the pop-culture canon. In fact, fashion was already so engrained in her being that she had a personal hand in setting the tone of her character's wardrobe.

Blake Lively (left) and Kelly Rutherford (right) on the set of "Gossip Girl" in 2008.<p>Photo: James Devaney/WireImage</p>
Blake Lively (left) and Kelly Rutherford (right) on the set of "Gossip Girl" in 2008.

Photo: James Devaney/WireImage

"Eric Daman, the costume designer for 'Gossip Girl,' was a dream to work with. There were so many characters and [all of us actors] had our own ideas and visions," Rutherford recalls. "He was so patient and kind and would just bring the most incredible clothes to choose from. Even if I or somebody else requested a specific brand, he would always find it and bring it in. It was very collaborative."

Nearly 12 years after the original show ended, Rutherford happily recounts her experience (unlike some actors who refrain from talking about their past roles) and looks back at Lily Van der Woodsen with tenderness and a newfound appreciation: "At the time, I was playing a bit older with [Lily]. Because I'm kind of her age now, I've grown into some of her style. But I think we influenced each other a lot. I think [actors] learn from the characters we play."

Ahead, Rutherford discusses her shopping habits, the "Gossip Girl" character with whom she identifies most, her favorite cities to visit for fashion week, the Fall 2024 collection she most wants to shop and more.

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Rutherford</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Rutherford

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Rutherford</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Rutherford

"My mom was a model when I was growing up, so I was always kind of aware of fashion. She had such great style and loved beauty. There's obviously influence there, but I was always much more of a tomboy growing up. I think some people are more inward and thoughtful, more sensitive to things. So in a way, it's easier to be a tomboy and not attract attention when you're young and figuring yourself out.

"I loved making collages out of magazines with the fashion and quotes, though. So that's probably where all of that started — creating worlds with fashion and design and ideas and things like that.

"Now, I really like classic things that are timeless and last a long time. I tend to start with a T-shirt and jeans and add on accessories I like. Whether it's shoes, a handbag, a sweater, a jacket — whatever I'm in the mood for that day. I've really gotten into ease.

Kelly Rutherford at the Christian Dior Haute Couture Spring 2024 show in Paris.<p>Photo: Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images</p>
Kelly Rutherford at the Christian Dior Haute Couture Spring 2024 show in Paris.

Photo: Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

"For events and the red carpet, I really like to stay comfortable. Even if it's super chic, it's still very comfortable. I think the fun part of the red carpet is the dreaminess of it. I recently wore a Dior look at the brand's Haute Couture Spring 2024 show that I really loved. It was this beautiful, elegant little jacket and skirt that just felt so simple and nice.

"I've loved all the looks I've worn to fashion shows the last few months. I really liked the Simone Rocha outfit I wore to the Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture show. The pink was just so happy and fun and, again, really comfortable. I just put my hair up and [wore] a little heel. I really enjoyed how that contrasted the Dior [look].

Kelly Rutherford at the Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Spring 2024 show in Paris.<p>Photo: Marc Piasecki/WireImage</p>
Kelly Rutherford at the Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Spring 2024 show in Paris.

Photo: Marc Piasecki/WireImage

"My favorite part of attending fashion shows is the surprise of what the designer has done and just the opportunity to see it early and share in the experience of the birth of a collection. I love people that make things. When you go and see a show and realize how much work went into those 15 minutes that a show lasts, I have such appreciation for the artistry and creativity of it all.

"The Tommy Hilfiger Fall 2024 show in New York felt very 'Gossip Girl.' I loved all the tweeds and the oversized silhouettes. I also loved the Emilia Wickstead collection. Dior, Simone [Rocha] — I mean, there's something from everything. Of course, I'm sitting there going, 'Okay, I would take that one, I would do that.'

Kelly Rutherford at the Tommy Hilfiger Fall 2024 show in New York.<p>Photo: Nina Westervelt/WWD via Getty Images</p>
Kelly Rutherford at the Tommy Hilfiger Fall 2024 show in New York.

Photo: Nina Westervelt/WWD via Getty Images

"Aside from Lily on 'Gossip Girl,' I probably enjoyed Blair [Waldorf]'s style the most. It was so unique and different at the time and had such a huge impact.

"I don't have one favorite look I wore on 'Gossip Girl' — I loved them all. I mean, I really, really loved all of them. One wardrobe moment that stands out to me is Lily's wedding with Bart [Bass]. We tried on all these wedding dresses and one literally just zipped up and fit perfectly. That dress was meant to be.

Kelly Rutherford at the Song Jun Wan Fall 2018 show in New York.<p>Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows</p>
Kelly Rutherford at the Song Jun Wan Fall 2018 show in New York.

Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

"I discover a lot of my favorite brands off the streets of Paris or New York. Over the years, my awareness and love of fashion has just expanded. So naturally, I discover things because it's on my radar or part of my algorithm online. I've discovered a lot through Instagram, friends and just being in different cities. My favorite things tend to be made by smaller brands — things made in small batches and by hand or by women artisans. I like the energy of that. How we express ourselves through clothes is really energy-driven. At the end of the day, you wear something because of how it makes you feel.

"It's not about the money you spend on fashion. It's about feeling good about you. If you feel good about you, then your radiance expands and you're engaged in the flow of the universe and attracting the right things. I think it's good to move that energy, too. I'm constantly giving things away because they might remind me of a time in my life that I don't identify with anymore. So, I move on and let somebody else enjoy that piece now.

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"I don't remember the first elevator selfie I took, but now my daughter is like, 'Mom, what is going on? You're taking so many pictures in the elevator.' I like that it's easy and well-lit and contained, for the most part. People have walked in as I'm taking a selfie and I'm like, 'Oh my goodness, how do I explain this situation?' But they just kind of look at me like, 'It's okay.' Now, every time my friends are in an elevator, they send me a photo of themselves like, 'Hey, I'm doing it too!' And people in my building do it. They're very funny. It's cute.

"I shop basically all in-store. I don't shop online really for anything unless I have to. I like to see the fabric, feel it and try it on. I grew up going to Neiman Marcus with my mom. We'd go have lunch there and shop together. We did that a lot when I was growing up. Now, I love Le Bon Marché in Paris. It's a really cool shop. I also love places like the Brentwood Country Mart in L.A.

"I've always been a bit of a practical shopper. Of course, running around in stores I may not always go to might lead to some more impulsive buys, but for the most part, I always buy very consistent things. I'm pretty predictable.

Kelly Rutherford at the 49th Annual Writers Guild of America Awards in 1997.<p>Photo: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images</p>
Kelly Rutherford at the 49th Annual Writers Guild of America Awards in 1997.

Photo: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

"My first big splurge once I felt like I made it in my career was an Hermès bag. It was a black Box Kelly with gold hardware. When I was doing 'Melrose Place,' we were working 12-to-18-hour days. I was in my late 20 or early 30s. I remember saving up and getting myself that bag. I had wanted it for a long time. I also remember buying myself a Cartier Nouvelle Vague ring. I don't think they make it anymore, that's how long ago it was. I had seen it on my friend, so I wanted to get it for myself. I had that and wore it every day for years.

"One of my more recent purchases that I love are my little Loro Piana shoes. They're really comfortable. I wear them every day. They're already really worn. I am very high-low, though. I am very happy with a Uniqlo sweater. I think as long as you love something and you really wear it, it's worth it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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