Shailene in Teen Vogue

July 17, 2012

TEEN VOGUE – “Fashion is instant language”—so states its reigning royal highness, Miuccia Prada. If this is true, starlet Shailene Woodley proved her style fluency during her recent meteoric rise from star of ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager to bona fide film actress in The Descendants, hitting the red carpet in coveted labels like Valentino, Proenza Schouler, and Marchesa.

So it’s surprising to find that Shailene, whom I styled in 2009 for the Teen Vogue Young Hollywood party (in a green See by Chloë number), feels at home in more relaxed fare. “I wish the boundaries between being an actor and being a fashionista were more distinct. I started acting because I love the art of it, not because I wanted to dress in fancy clothes,” explains the California native. “I have fun playing dress-up every now and then, but when it comes down to it, put me in a long skirt and a loose cotton shirt and I’m the happiest camper alive.”

But her fondness for relaxed duds doesn’t lessen her sartorial point of view. “My fashion vocabulary has expanded over the past few months, and I don’t allow anyone to pressure me into wearing something that doesn’t properly represent who I am as a person,” she says.

So when trailblazing designer Christopher Kane offered to make Shailene a custom gown—of metal, wires, and leather—for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s gala opening of “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations,” it seemed like a match made in heaven. “Shailene really loved the chain-mail pieces in my recent fall collection and wanted a version for herself,” says Kane. “She is talented and beautiful and has a strong personality. The strength and power of the chain-mail and leather details matched her confidence.”

After Shailene wore the designer to this year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards, she was an instant fan. “Christopher has mastered eccentric simplicity. His designs are straightforward, but the fabrics and embellishments are uniquely his own. They are masculine in structure and feminine in aesthetic,” says the 20-year-old.

On the steps of the Met, I rendezvous with Shailene, who is clad in what she deems “wearable art”—perfect for a night at a museum, not to mention the fashion world’s most high-profile evening. “On an average Monday night, I’d be sipping tea and reading a book,” she tells me. “This is by far the most glamorous and beautiful event I’ve been to.” That’s saying a lot for a girl who attended the Oscars just a few months prior.

“How do you stay so normal and grounded?” I ask her. “I don’t know how not to stay normal,” she nonchalantly says, chuckling, and explains: “I take time for myself. Outside noise is fantastic, but it is key to be able to hear your own inner voice.”

As we scan the scene’s dazzling statement dresses, I’m curious if this laid-back lady has any red carpet regrets from over the years. “I love looking back at the things I’ve worn, even if they make me cringe now,” she states. “It brings back a flood of memories; like popping in an old mix tape, it takes me back to who I was at that moment in time.” Looks like she’ll be adding another very special tune to her mix after this soiree.