Maybe you know Lily Rabe from her Tony-nominated turn in Shakespeare in the Park. Or maybe you know her as a demon-possessed nun in American Horror Story. If there’s one thing we know for sure, she’s good at keeping herself—and her audience—on their toes. there’s not much actress Lily Rabe can’t do. Throw into the mix her background in both writing and dance, and you’re left with a powerhouse performer who continues to come into her own, both on-camera and off. And as she keeps evolving, so does her personal style, which is one reason we’re thrilled to feature her as our January Influencer. Read on to find out why she’s all about the pussy bow and what she learned from a Vancouver film crew, then take a scroll through her must-have items.
The Window: Was your passion for acting a foregone conclusion from an early age, or something you came to gradually?
Lily Rabe: It really wasn’t. I did ballet—that’s what I loved to do outside of school—and I loved writing. Acting was something I came to after I stopped dancing, and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. Looking at it now, I think dancing was really just my roundabout way to get to acting. I just don’t think I was ready at an early age to admit it was what I wanted to do. I was pretty introverted, so acting seemed terrifying. Dancing fit better with being shy, and for a while, it scratched my itch to perform. For a while.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve gotten to play?
Picking a favorite would be too hard, but in terms of favorite costumes, I would probably choose Misty Day from the third season of American Horror Story. The costume designer, Lou Eyrich, is a full-blown genius. She would always play Stevie Nicks during our fittings, and we would just go piece by piece, take one thing off and add another, and end up somewhere incredible. Then she’d later come running up to me before the first shot in that outfit with a piece of lace and say, “Maybe one more thing tied around your wrist…” She is one of those designers who is never done, and to me, that’s always the most exciting type of artist to collaborate with.
How would you describe your personal style off-camera?
Sometimes I like to go super-feminine for an event, but in general I gravitate towards more laid-back, tomboy pieces. I don’t like a lot of fuss in my day-to-day, so I feel most at ease in my favorite pair of jeans, clogs, and a great sweater. I also find I gravitate toward the silhouettes of the ‘40s. I love a pussy bow blouse, a wide trouser, and a high neckline.
Any fashion rules you live by?
High-waisted everything. I have pretty muscular legs from dancing, so I like a shoe with some substance, nothing overly dainty, and my boyfriend seems to have an allergy to peplums, so I avoid those mostly to avoid being sneezed on.
You and Barneys have something in common—both being native to New York. What’s your favorite thing about the city?
It’s just the best. I do spent a lot of time in LA these days, and I’m not a New Yorker who hates LA at all. I quite like it, but every time I land in back in New York, I think “Oh, riiiiight, this is my city!” I guess the things I love most about it are the room for spontaneity and the fact that there’s no driving. No matter how much I do it, or how good my book on tape is, driving is just not for me. I love walking in the city, schlepping groceries and shopping bags. I love the noise of the city, the frenzy, the chaos—I find it calming actually. I love that you can get lost and stumble into the most wonderful places, places you will probably never go back to even, because there is so much in the city. So you get to just have that one precious experience, whether it’s 5 minutes or 5 hours in that cafe or bookshop or restaurant or boutique. In LA, I find I really have my ten places that I return to again and again. Although, let’s be honest, Barneys in New York is definitely not a place I’ve had just one experience in.
Well speaking of being back in New York, as we get deeper into winter here on the East Coast, what are your cold-weather wear-every-day pieces?
I’m always freezing, so I end up in a lot of layers. Cashmere mittens, shearling-lined boots, thick Wolford tights. I find I’m in colder in jeans than in a skirt, woolly pants, or a dress with great tights. My super-long, black Balmain coat, and a yummy sweater, likely Acne Studios, Helmut Lang, or Isabel Marant. Oh, and if it’s particularly brutal outside, Canada Goose really is a game changer. Oh, also—this brand of long underwear called Icebreaker, which I learned about from a Vancouver film crew. They know what’s up when it comes to the cold.