Chloë Grace Moretz on Fashion, Feminism, and the Future of Her Career

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I’m trying not to spill cold brew on the rainbow of expensive garments currently hanging like fresh fruits from an iron rack at a loft in Downtown Los Angeles when Chloë Grace Moretz arrives for her photo shoot, right on time, wearing a sundress spattered with cherries. A week ago, Harper’s Bazaar deemed that red cherry prints were “taking over” summer 2018. “It’s impossible not to turn heads,” the reporter wrote of the playful pattern, so cartoonishly sweet in its likeness that it almost seems like a cheeky parody of warm-weather womenswear. Unlike classic florals or polka dots, cherries say—with a wink—I know this looks like a costume. In 1931, Ethel Merman sang, “Life is just a bowl of cherries. Don’t take it serious; it’s too mysterious.” That’s what the image of a barefaced, stone fruit–clad Moretz seems to say this morning.

Whether or not Merman’s words factored in as the 21-year-old film star got dressed for our interview, it turns out that not taking life too seriously is reflective of Moretz’s style in general. “It’s been fun to play with the role of femininity as a young woman,” she tells me after we take our seats, clutching twin iced coffees, at a long reclaimed-wood table in the back of the studio. Raised in Georgia by a single mom (her “feminist icon”) and four older brothers, Moretz classifies her style growing up as “incredibly tomboy.” Between surviving breast cancer and raising five kids, Moretz’s mother didn’t have much time to teach her daughter about fashion, but she did instill in her a rare confidence, which radiates off Moretz’s skin, effortlessly, like sunlight. “My mother is just a badass,” Moretz says. “After my father left my family, I saw her pick up the slack in a lot of different ways. She first and foremost never made me feel different than my brothers. It was just kind of like, Cool, you want that? Go fight for it. And that’s always what I did.

I don’t want to be beholden to anyone’s gender construct.

Moretz made use of that confidence as the spunky child star we remember from films like 500 Days of Summer and Kick-Ass, and she continues to use it as she makes the formidable transition to ingénue. In her newest film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post (set for release August 3), Moretz plays a lesbian teenager in a conservative town in the ’90s who’s sent to gay conversion camp. Offscreen, Moretz grew up surrounded by a strong LGBTQ+ presence that included two gay brothers. Unlike in Cameron Post’s world, being gay was so accepted in Moretz’s family that it’s still hard for her to grasp what is so controversial about loving who you naturally love. “I want to get to a place where coming out isn’t a thing,” she tells me. “Take the person for who they are, not their gender.

In Cameron Post, Moretz’s angsty, low-femme aesthetic consists of track pants, hoodies, jean jackets, and a pair of enviable feathered eyebrows. Like her character, Moretz also experimented with a more masculine presentation as a teen, replacing the lip gloss and ruffled dresses that defined her tweenhood in the late 2000s with iconoclastic suits and band tees. “I don’t want to be beholden to anyone’s gender construct,” she says.

Since entering her 20s, the actress has started using fashion to explore a wide spectrum of identities (feminine, masculine, minimalist, maximalist). She does this more as a means of “daily self-expression,” she says, less connected to her truest self and more to her mood or rebellious nature. “I love going on the red carpet and looking like a princess. I also love wearing a power suit and slicking my hair back. For me, it’s like, who am I today?” Challenging the public’s expectations is another motivator for Moretz: “If I’m doing a movie like [Cameron Post], I like throwing it on its head and doing super-feminine looks on the carpet—Barbie-doll hair; over exaggerated, almost drag-like looks sometimes. Why not push both boundaries? I feel comfortable in both skins, and I like messing with what people expect.

But neither the Barbie hair nor the power suit is the laid-back version of Moretz you’ll find at home, or at the studio today, sitting before me. Her carefully curated public persona is a form of what Moretz calls self-preservation. “Especially having grown up in [show business], people know a lot about me. So I have to wear a sort of mask not to be completely terrified of going in front of a hundred cameras,” she says. The fact that her appearance is a big part of her job is still scary to Moretz. “So I do compartmentalize,” she explains. “The Chloë Grace Moretz that people see on a carpet is a different person, and I think that’s okay. … When I’m at home, I rarely ever get dressed in a proper outfit. I enjoy a lack of vanity, a lack of presentation.

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