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When you’re a famous Emmy-nominated actress, free clothes kind of come with the territory. But while Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Ellie Kemper could just as well sit back and luxuriate in the mountains of swag that are likely sent her way, the St. Louis native still loves nothing more than the thrill of a bargain hunt.
I caught up with Kemper at the Kate Spade x Man Repeller all-leopard pop-up shop (like the Unbreakable heroine she plays, Kemper loves a bold print) to discuss her sale-shopping tactics, best scores, and how Kimmy Schmidt has changed her own personal style.
Hi, Ellie! What’s the last thing you bought for yourself?
A Living Proof hair mask; it’s such a great pampering activity, and it makes me feel like I’m taking good care of myself. I can actually feel my hair getting healthier and growing stronger every time I use it.
How about your first big fashion splurge?
It was when I booked my first movie, which was called Cayman Went — get it, like the Cayman Islands? [Laughs weakly] I bought myself a ring. I was down in Soho and found this pretty stone ring; I wish I remembered what the store was called. I do remember that it was $100, and I remember thinking, “You deserve this, Ellie. Treat yourself.”
Do you typically prefer to shop online or IRL?
So like a lot of people, I have trouble with choice. So I try to limit the number of choices by shopping online. I know that sounds funny, because [the internet] literally has unlimited choices, but I feel like I can’t spend forever doing it. It’s easier to search for what you want. But no matter where I’m shopping, it’s always the same: The more options I have, the more stressed out I get. It’s the paradox of choice!
What’s your absolute favorite place to shop?
I love T.J. Maxx — I love it. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. I’m always shopping their sites, but I also love going to the store in St. Louis; I don’t like the T.J. Maxx here in New York, I’ll be honest. The more foot traffic, the more picked-over it is...
All T.J. Maxxes are not created equal!
But, like, they really aren’t. It’s very hit or miss.
Also, I know it’s not clothes, but I do love One Kings Lane. But I mostly just look at things — I rarely buy.
What makes you actually pull the trigger on a purchase?
Sales! [Laughs] Because I feel like everything eventually ends up going on sale, so I’d rather just wait and get it for less.
What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten on something?
Ooh, there’s two. One was a jean jacket from Old Navy that literally cost $2.29. I couldn’t believe it! It was already on sale, so I took it up to the counter — and when they rang it up, it was $2.29. I was like, “There’s no way that’s correct.” She told me it was an online special, and I was like, “Yeah, but I’m physically here in the store...?” I don’t know why I was arguing with her.
The other — and I swear I’m not just saying this because we’re at a Kate Spade event — was a Kate Spade coat I found at a Marshalls in Los Angeles, in Studio City. It’s gorgeous; it’s black with enormous beige polka dots. So beautiful. Every time I wear that coat, people stop me on the street. They’re like, “That’s a great coat!” And I’m like, “I know — and I got it on sale!”
Speaking of polka dots, has playing Kimmy Schmidt changed your personal style at all?
A little bit! What’s crazy about Kimmy is that she’s weirdly coordinated; like, her bag will match her sneakers, and her earrings will echo a print on her shirt. I personally am not good at stuff like that; I need help. So I feel like I’ve noticed [and tried to copy] what Kimmy — and our wardrobe team — does there. Because there’s something really calming about having a pulled-together look. I also like that she’s so bright; that’s something I’ve sort of pulled into my own wardrobe, too.
She definitely toned it down a bit for season 3, though...
She did, because she’s grown up a bit. She’s still very girlish, which I love — but now if I go to a coffee shop during filming breaks, people don’t stare at me like I’m crazy. She can kind of pass for a hipster now.
What are some of your favorite looks of Kimmy’s?
There’s a sweatshirt with a cat on it that I just love. It’s so comfy, and the neckline is surprisingly flattering, if that’s possible. And she does still wear her light-up shoes occasionally; those are my favorite.