The One Thing
Our series The One Thing is a Sparknotes version of the products, rituals, and moments your favorite celebrities and influencers swear by—their go-tos, must-haves, and can’t-live-withouts. So go ahead—take a brief, intimate peek into the lives of your favorites through the things (and people, and moments) they hold dear.
Elle Fanning and I are sitting across from each other at the Plaza hotel, referring to the perfume bottle between us as "she." It may seem silly, but considering we're talking about the new Paco Rabanne Fame fragrance, it makes perfect sense: The bottle is shaped like a little gold robot, wearing a pair of cat eye shades and one of the brand's signature silver chain mail dresses. Pointy-toe boots and some earrings complete her fabulous look.
When I point out that we've been giving "her" a little personality, Fanning smiles and says that she basically treated the bottle like another actor in the campaign for the fragrance ("This is a person for sure—they have a soul!") in which she's the star. The spot shows Elle dressed in all her '60s and '70s best, breaking into the brand's Paris store to play with Fame. It could go cheesy fast had anyone else attempted it, but thanks to Fanning's signature whimsy and winning smile, it's completely charming.
It's this sense of playfulness that makes Fanning one of my favorite actors working today, both offscreen and on. In her decade-plus in the industry, her projects always feel true to her, from Sofia Coppola's sun-soaked Somewhere to The Great, which is just as funny as it is gorgeous. On the carpet, she's no stranger to a vintage moment (more on that later) and often uplifts lesser-known designers like Sharon Long, The Great's costume designer who made Fanning's 2022 Emmys gown. And I'd be remiss to mention her secret TikTok account, which stumbling up feels like being part of an exclusive club.
I chatted with Elle about some of her favorite fashion moments, her lucky charms, and her go-to beauty tips. All that and more, ahead.
The One Way Wearing Paco Rabanne Fame Makes Her Feel
"Paco was such an iconic brand. They've been around for so long and were so innovative. In the '60s, they were kind of groundbreaking with their iconic dress. Now, they are still just as innovative and kind of pushing the boundaries, just like they did back in the '60s. And when I wear their clothes and the fragrance, I feel like there's like an armor that I have—that's real self-confidence because I think you have to be kind of really sure of yourself to wear it. Because it is so unique. And it's all about the individual.
"I do love the duality of feminine strength and hard and soft that they have in their clothes, and this fragrance is particularly playful, as is the whole campaign."
The One Decade That Inspires Her Style
"I've always loved vintage fashion. Growing up, I thrifted a lot of clothes and was very obsessed with old Hollywood glamour—you know, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn—and I was always upset that I didn't get to live when people wore pencil skirts on airplanes.
"It definitely wasn't comfortable [then] with women's fashion. We can do what we want now, we're a bit freer. But there was such a glamour to that, you see in photos and gosh, it's just so, so beautiful. So I've always loved it. The '60s is fun because it's not so buttoned up. It's [more] free, short skirts, and more loose-fitting dresses. So for sure, I have an affinity for that [era]. I love a cat eye, and I love a little bump [in my hair]."
The One Hair Look She's Dying to Try
"I wish I could have bangs; I think I would look good in bangs, but my hair wouldn't do it, you know? You need your hair to be thick, and you need to cut a lot, so that would be my dream. I would love to have thick bangs. Or Sienna Miller bangs could be amazing, too; they're a little whispy-er. But I'm a big side-parter. I love a side part, so I can fake it."
The One Outfit That Pairs Perfectly With the Fragrance
"I wear this with sweatpants! I spray it every day. Fragrance I use as the finishing touch to make me feel like, alright, I'm ready to walk out the door. I think you can kind of wear it any which way, I mean, when I look at Her [the fragrance], I think it's great for going out at night. It's so metallic, so [paired with] something metallic in a way. I have some Paco necklaces that are like big chunky chains that look really good."
The One Fashion Look That Makes Her Feel Herself
"It's actually probably not what people would think it would be. Right now, at least, I'm very simple. I want a good pant, and a good button-down. I love a coat or a jacket—I think coats and jackets can transform your whole outfit. It's hard because I live in L.A. and I want to wear all the big nice coats, but at least I am in London a bit, so I can wear them there. I guess it's like men's tailoring and good, nice suiting. You can never go wrong with a great suit.
"Or, which is funny enough, since I'm wearing this, I think a lot of my friends would say that I'm a white dress, like a long white dress is me. I have so many... like a prairie dress. It just always looks so good. It just works."
The One Thing She Always Has On Set
"It's funny. I have this backpack that's like my good luck charm. Or I did, but I lost it, and it was very sad. But I have it back again—not the same [exact] one, but we found it somehow. It's a Snoopy—I think it's Jansport—backpack that I've used on basically every job, every movie. I bring all my scripts in it. It's my thing.
"And then my pillow! Not on set, but in my trailer—I'm, like, a real pillow freak. I bring my pillow everywhere. [I don't nap] between takes, but on a lunch break, I can nap. I'm a really good napper, and I can sleep anywhere. I love sleeping on planes. I once slept like 16 hours straight on a plane back from South Africa. It was a record."
The Last Thing She Bought and Loved
"I love... Justin Bieber wears them out, but the Star Face [pimple patches]. They're amazing. They're revolutionary, I love them. I think I saw them advertised on Instagram, but now they're A Thing. But I love them so much. They really work."
The One Red Carpet Look She'll Always Love
"I think what pops into mind right away is the Dior Cannes [look] with the hat. That was really something. It was a moment. I thought I wanted to wear an homage to the New Look, and it was for the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood premiere. And so I just thought that it would go hand in hand.
"The hat was actually an afterthought. The hat was not supposed to be with the look. But when we were there, and we had tried it on, I was like, 'I think it needs a hat.' So it wasn't supposed to be that way but found this hat, and they had it. I just love that moment. It was so unconventional, I think. It wasn't your average ballgown."
The Behind the Scenes Moment She'll Never Forget
"I did faint the night before [the Dior look]. It was a Prada pink dress. It was probably jetlag, I was on my period, and I fainted. But my sister was with me, so she got me together. But I'm known to faint. I've fainted a lot in my life, so It's not a bad thing. It's not scary. It's just like, 'there I go!' [laughs]. But it was very like ooooh, [glamorous]."
The One Thing She Does Before Bed
"I always take a bath every night. I take a bath. Sometimes I watch a show, but I don't like turning the TV on in my room like I don't really do that. I would watch it on my computer, but my room has to be pitch black. No light can be seeping in. It has to be pitch black. I mean, I probably look at my phone as the last thing, like looking at TikTok Get Ready With Me from Alix Earle. She's a phenomenon! She just started showing up on my TikTok. I didn't even know who she was. Now she's everywhere. It's fun to watch. I don't know why!"
The One Beauty Tip She's Picked Up On Set
"I have an amazing woman, Erin Ayanian, who works with me. She always does my makeup for red carpets and also for films. We don't tweeze my eyebrows, I don't do anything to my eyebrows. That's definitely a tip. I have really stubborn eyelashes... I will wear false eyelashes, but we're into the look now of no lashes. I wish that my eyelashes curled, but they don't. They're just flat out, and you try to curl them, but they go back. But hey, so we just have to accept it."
Her One Trick For Natural-Looking Foundation
"We've been doing freckles like waaaay back. That was a tip from Erin if you do your foundation and you want it to look like skin. Now they have freckle pens. We were using eyebrow pencils and little gels. We're so mad at ourselves. We should have made a product! Because I was doing this years ago. Years ago! And I love them. They're so cute."