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Beanie Feldstein is having the best year ever. Not only can you currently catch her on Broadway as Minnie Fay in the Bette Midler-led Hello, Dolly!, but Feldstein also steals countless scenes in Greta Gerwig’s critically acclaimed directorial debut, Lady Bird — only her second major film role, by the way.
Set in early-2000s Sacramento, Lady Bird paints a vivid picture of the struggle to find yourself and fit in (or, more often, not) as a teenage girl. Anyone who came of age in the aughts will appreciate all the sonic and style details that nod to the decade. The titular Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) wears a peace-sign choker and a yin-and-yang bracelet, for instance, while her drama class crush prefers puka shells. And Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me” plays during not one but two pivotal scenes.
Below, Beanie chats about developing her character Julie’s dorky but sweet style (thick-soled Skechers are involved), her deep love of statement manicures, and the late-night shopping problem she’s developed since joining the Hello, Dolly! cast.
I loved Lady Bird’s wardrobe! What was it like getting into character as Julie?
Thank you! Greta and April [Napier], our incredible costume designer, were so beautifully specific and careful with the looks in this film. It really is a period piece, when you think about it.
Greta actually had us initially meet with April without her — she joined us later. I thought that was so great and so giving; she wanted me and April to really create Julie’s look together. The one thing I was very clear about from the get-go was her footwear: I knew it had to be a thick white Skecher. [Laughs] I don’t know why, it just came to me!
Even though Lady Bird and Julie wear their school uniforms for most of the movie, you can still see their bond reflected in their matching jewelry, too.
Yes! We wear matching purple friendship bracelets — like, the kind you make at summer camp. I still have mine, actually. And we’ve got chokers with charms on them, too. Lady Bird’s is a peace sign; Julie’s, of course, is a teddy bear.
I think you can almost tell people’s personalities better by how they differentiate their school uniforms than if they were allowed to wear whatever they wanted. And we wanted for their looks to be similar while still showing that Julie doesn’t have quite as much style. Lady Bird puts things together in such a cool way, whereas Julie doesn’t quite get it. She has more of a simple sweetness in the way she presents herself, with the hair clips and the Skechers and everything.
I loved her purple prom dress, too; it looked great next to Lady Bird’s pink lace.
I remember trying on a lot of dresses for the prom scene, and that one just felt right. Purple’s sort of their color; like, you’ll notice that we wear matching purple nail polish for at least half the film. Funny enough, Saoirse and I actually showed up wearing matching nail polish on the first day of rehearsal. Hands and toes, different colors on each. It was so funny.
And then we’ve got matching purple backpacks, too. So a purple prom dress just made the most sense. And I loved my hair in that scene. Remember those hair gems that had Velcro attached? If you look closely, I’ve got a bunch of those on. Aubrey [Marie], our incredible head of hair, made them, and they were so fun to wear.
Of course I remember hair gems! Is color-coordinated dressing with friends something you find yourself doing IRL, too?
Totally. My roommate — who’s one of my best friends — and I will buy the exact same thing, but in different colors. She’ll get the blue, I’ll get the pink, or something like that. With friends, your style definitely rubs off on one other, I think.
While stalking your Instagram, I also noticed you’re really into nail art...
Oh, I’m the most into nail art — but I just can’t do it myself. It’s funny: I don’t have much of a temper, but in college, my roommates could always tell when I was painting my nails because they’d hear me chucking things across the room! I’m so bad at it. Nails and cooking are the two things I try to do, but am deeply unable to. So I love getting manicures.
What’s your favorite nail place?
I always go to Valley; they’re the best. My brothers actually went to elementary school with the girls who created it, and our moms are really good friends. So about seven years ago, my mom was like, Nina and Julia [Werman] started this nail place, and we have to go! That’s actually what got me into nail art.
Tell me about the coolest manicure you’ve ever gotten.
My favorite, which I’ve done twice now, I get at WAH Nails in London. It’s all black, silver, and white, but each nail has a different design. So one will have houndstooth, another has a heart — all sorts of fun things.
What’s the last great thing you bought yourself?
Well, the thing I spend the most money on is nail art, but I haven’t been doing it during the show. So it was probably my Tonys dress — and the shoes and hair and makeup to go with it, because I really wanted to feel great that night. The dress was Kate Spade, and it fit me like a glove. The shoes were Stuart Weitzman. I’ve actually been styling myself this year for all our Lady Bird press, and it’s been so fun.
Recently, though, my shopping weakness has been backpacks. I have to own close to 40 at this point! I’ve been wearing them every day to the theater, since they fit everything I could possibly need to bring. My favorites are probably from Ban.do; the one I wore to set every day on Lady Bird was this fun pink floral print. And I wore a bright pink backpack all through college, too. So I guess it’s my thing!
Do you typically wind up shopping in stores or online?
I enjoy both! My mom actually used to be a personal stylist, so I grew up going shopping with her and her clients. That gave me such a deep appreciation for style and shopping, but it also tested my limits of how long I could go for before needing, like, an iced tea and a nap. My mom’s a firecracker; she has so much energy and could shop for hours.
Lately, though, I’ve been doing this really bad thing at night after the show. When I come home, I’ll be so tired but still awake, so I’ll go online and order things without really remembering. And then they show up! It’s usually from places like Forever 21 or ASOS, so I’m not dropping crazy cash. But sleepy online shopping: It’s a real problem.
I always wind up buying more than I should on ASOS.
I love ASOS because they have such inclusive sizing and everything you could possibly need — like, when I was looking for a pleather dress for my Halloween costume, of course they had it! But I’ll just add stuff to my cart to get the expedited shipping, and I’m like: Child, you do not need this.
So what’s the next big thing you’re planning on buying?
So I’m kind of a ring fanatic. I wear nine rings every single day. My philosophy with nice jewelry, unless it’s a real statement piece, is that I might as well wear it daily; I figure that if I lose it or something happens to it, at least it got worn!
Anyway, there’s one I’ve had for at least six or seven years now, and I think it might be time to switch it out. And there’s this gorgeous jewelry store in my neighborhood called Phoenix Roze; everything there is exactly my taste. So I think at the end of this year, since it’s been a big year, I should get myself a nice new ring.
Lady Bird is out in limited release now.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.