The Aesthete

Girl of Summer

At her home in Chelsea, Boardwalk Empire actress Gretchen Mol shares her personal style and the looks she loves for the season

by Misty White Sidell photography Hannan Saleh

In an airy, idyllic west Chelsea apartment sits Gretchen Mol, star of Boardwalk Empire and who, at 25, broke through Hollywood’s glass ceiling with a 1998 Vanity Fair cover declaring her an ‘It Girl.’ Mol, now 40, has since settled into a more requisite lifestyle—one that accommodates her husband, director Kip Williams, and their two children, ages five and two. But that hasn’t inhibited the actress from surrounding herself with a quietly curated collection of beloved clothing and objets.

“I love pretty things, but I can’t put it all on me at once—I get lost quickly.”

Perched in a Liberty-print dress that she procured from the West Village boutique Annelore, Mol describes her style ethos: “I love pretty things, but I can’t put it all on me at once—I get lost quickly.” It’s a motto that, from surveying her cleanly decorated home and favorite closet items, might extend to many facets of her life. This summer, style-wise, she’s interpreted the unfussy feeling as a lighthearted edit of her preexisting wardrobe. “Over the years I have collected a lot of summer dresses,” Mol says of her approach to the season, much of which will be spent on family vacations to Fishers Island. “You always have that impulse to start the season buying new things, and I was looking in my closet and said ‘I have enough.’”

A transplant to New York by way of Connecticut, the soft-spoken, remarkably blue-eyed Mol fell into collecting-mode when she moved to the city as a young actress. “When I first moved here, I was just blown away by everyone’s willingness to just experiment with their style and be strong and take risks,” she recalls, while also noting, wistfully, that, “I used to love going over to the East Village and finding those sundresses from the ’70s and ’80s. I still have those dresses, and I still get a lot of use out of them.”

The same goes for some of the higher-end items that she’s acquired over the years, like Prada babydoll dresses and Marc Jacobs near-relics from 2001. “I wore one of them to a little party when I was in California last year and I got so many compliments,” says Mol of her Marc Jacobs frocks. “I thought enough time has gone by where you can take these things out again, and they sort of feel fresh.” With the insight of a truly thoughtful collector, Mol says that, “to go back and to look at your collection does say a lot about who you are—when you gave into the whim and when you didn’t.”

But fashion takes a side seat to the actress’s run on the hit show Boardwalk Empire, in which she plays Gillian, a character loosely based on Evelyn Nesbit, an infamous turn-of-the-century seductive chanteuse. “This is one of the greatest jobs I’ve ever had,” Mol enthusiastically says of the role, which is only her second on television. “What’s interesting to me about the whole TV experience, is the relationship between you and your character. Even when you are not working they are still stewing in you—actors don’t get to do that a lot, and I think it just makes it deeper.”

"To go back and to look at your collection does say a lot about who you are—when you gave into the whim and when you didn’t."

Boardwalk has found success amid a flurry of other highly produced period dramas. Viewers’ fascination with the series’ portrayal of 1920s Atlantic City has soared alongside other historical series like Downton Abbey and Mad Men. Part of Boardwalk’s modern allure, says Mol, has to do with an era so far removed from today, one that “is a total departure from where we are—it’s total fantasy.”

The boardwalk, with its highly conservative Victorian allure, is a long way from Mol’s initial breakout moment when she appeared in a translucent slip dress on that memorable Vanity Fair cover. In fact, her personal style fits somewhere in the middle. Mol says that she favors dresses that feel “a little bit like an apron, a house dress-y vibe.”

When shopping for new looks outside of her own wardrobe, Mol prefers pieces by newer, ladylike labels such as Prabal Gurung, Erdem and Sophie Theallet. “The more you live, the more you just narrow down your style and you kind of just get comfortable with it,” she says with a veteran outlook. “You aren’t always looking around searching for that thing that is going to make you feel like your true self—you have sort of found it.”


Editor's Note: Main image features a portrait of Mol as a teenager painted by her mother, artist Janet Morgan Mol.