The first fashion show Elizabeth Olsen attended was because of family connections: The show was for her older twin sisters Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's upscale line The Row.
But her second was courtesy of a personal invitation from Karl Lagerfeld to sit front and center at his Chanel show during the 2012 Paris Couture Fashion Week. The invite was an indication of having truly arrived in the film and fashion worlds.
Olsen was one of a few select actresses – including Cameron Diaz and Diane Kruger -- who got to sit onboard a huge simulated jetliner and watch the models walk down the runway in Lagerfeld’s Fall/Winter couture designs. And yes, she wore Chanel, a smart double-breasted navy blazer with black leather leggings.
“It was my first big show and it was so cool,” Olsen said during our recent chat at the Four Seasons Hotel. “It was also cool that it was Chanel and I loved how you can hear the clothes move in a show. I’m a big fashion fan, so I really enjoyed it.”
Olsen, 23, admits she wasn’t prepared for the pressure of dressing for red carpets. She was only 20 when she began going on auditions and certainly didn’t expect the amount of attention she’s (deservedly) been getting since her breakout success in the 2011 indie film, Martha Marcy May Marlene.
“You literally have to use a stylist,” she says. “There’s no way you can figure it all out, especially when you are working on films.”
She recalled being at the recent Independent Spirit Awards when Michelle Williams talked about wearing her own clothes the first time she attended the awards.
“Now whatever you wear is like a huge statement to the world,” says Olsen. “So you have to have someone help you figure it all out.”
She’s been working with stylist Cher Coulter (one of The Hollywood Reporter's 2012 Power Stylists) whom she adores.
“I love clothes and my stylist Cher is so cool. I have a lot of fun with her. For a while I had no clue and I didn’t even like to wear dresses to begin with. Now it’s fun, like playing dress-up.”
Olsen describes her look as “schoolboy meets Faye Dunaway in Network.” Some of her favorite designers are Alexander McQueen, and Proenza Schouler. But she’s also mixed high with low, such as a Missoni for Target shift dress. While she’s not a slave to her sisters’ brand The Row, she admits: "I love all their jackets and their Spring 2012 collection" which she describes as “white Tahitian-Bohemian."
Olsen’s recent winning red carpet looks include: An Antonio Berardi white gown with an embroidered top at the Independent Spirit Awards and a bright yellow Pucci short dress at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
Olsen also gets to play dress up in her upcoming films. She sported ‘40s frocks to play Edie Parker, Jack Kerouac’s wife in Kill Your Darlings. She worked with an ensemble cast that includes Daniel Radcliffe (as Allen Ginsberg) Ben Foster (as William S. Burroughs), Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Naomi Ginsberg), David Cross (as Allen Ginsberg), and Jack Houston (as Kerouac).
"Most of my scenes are with Jack (Houston) and the script is so good. That’s why everyone wanted to be in it. It's basically four snippets of her (Parker's) life but my character is the glue that hooked them all up.”
She'll do corsets and hoop skirts for her next role, playing the lead in the period drama Therese Raquin, a new adaptation of Emile Zola’s 19th century play and novel, a book that–coincidentally–she recently studied in school.
“The stars are aligned right now," she marvels. "While reading the novel, I felt like the movie was haunting me. Her character and her lover murder her husband. Afterwards his ghost visits them, slowly turning their love for each other into hatred.”
She's looking forward to spending three months on location in Belgrade, Serbia for the film. She will work with Jessica Lange and Tom Felton, who is known for playing Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films. She’ll wear costumes designed by Pierre-Yves Gayraud (Perfume: A Love Story) and the lighting will be by cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister. You may have seen Hoffmeister's brilliant work in the most recent version of Great Expectations, starring Gillian Anderson as the decaying beauty, Miss Havershim, now airing on PBS Classics.
Another of Olsen’s upcoming films will feature more modern clothing. She stars in Very Good Girls, a coming-of-age film, also featuring Dakota Fanning, Anton Yelchin, Dustin Hoffman and Peter Sarsgaard.
"Dakota and I play best friends and there’s a boy that we’re both interested in. But it's more about the true friendship between women. There are so many buddy and bromance movies and often women in movies are really catty to each other,” Olsen says. “In my life, my girlfriends are like my family and that’s how my relationship is with Dakota in this movie."
Coincidentally, she and Dakota are also friends in real life. “I toured her around my high school when she was applying to my school. I was already in college but her best friends are my best friend’s younger siblings. And now she’s at NYU and I just left.”
It really is a small celebrity world.