This Old Thing?
In today’s world, what’s old is new again. Between fashion nostalgia and the mainstreaming of vintage hauls, more and more, we’re looking to years past for inspiration. And why shouldn’t we? Sometimes the answer isn’t buying new clothes, it’s working with what you’ve got. With This Old Thing?, we’re bringing you all the fashionable details, red carpet memories, and styling tips you’ll ever need—straight from the celebs you love.
Everybody should want to be Natalie Morales’ friend. The actress and director has exuded cool charm since she first popped into the collective consciousness in 2006 via a guest spot on CSI: Miami. She’s since gone on to appear in everything from Parks And Recreation to Dead To Me, and will join the cast of the hit Apple TV+ series The Morning Show for its upcoming third season. Morales has also stepped behind the camera, directing two movies that were released in 2021: The abortion road trip comedy Plan B and the intimate Zoom-made Language Lessons, which she also appears in alongside Mark Duplass.
Morales’ latest project is the paranormal comedy I’m Totally Fine, which is in theaters and on demand now. In the movie, a woman (Jillian Bell) comes face-to-face with her recently deceased best friend (Morales), who now claims to be an alien. The pair spend the next 48 hours hashing out what that means for their friendship, getting a little loaded, and looking back at their time together on Earth.
Below, Morales shares her thoughts on growing up amidst Miami’s Chonga culture, the joy of paging through a Delia’s catalog, and her first big Hollywood fashion splurge.
The Sweet Throwback Nod in Her 'I'm Totally Fine' Wardrobe
It was a super, super small budget movie, and we shot in November of 2020, so there really wasn’t a costume department other than our producer Kyle [Newacheck], who has a friend who owns this store in LA called Haley Solar, and they provided my costume.
I ended up taking the entire outfit home with me after filming. The shoes were mine, though. I’ve actually used them a few times. They’re these green Converse that I got when I first moved to L.A. I wore them all the time when I was waiting tables and bartending and they're super beat up and dirty, but I have a special place in my heart for them because I would sit in the bathroom just to take a break because I don't smoke, I would just sit there for 10 minutes and stare at my feet, which were in pain because Converses aren’t super supportive.
I would look at my shoes and just hope and wish that someday I could be a working actor so I didn't have to wait tables or bartend anymore, and that’s why I still have those shoes.
Her Ideal Sunday Outfit
If I'm staying home I'm wearing whatever I wore to sleep, which is usually a very comfortable T-shirt. I am obsessed with this shirt I got from Jungmaven, which is a company that makes these hemp shirts that are super comfortable and super soft. I thought that hemp was hard, but it’s actually so soft.
I wear that shirt all the time. Like, too much. I got it in a gift bag from an event that I went to for Edie Parker Flower and it's my favorite shirt.
I will say, Jungmaven’s shirts are really expensive. I still genuinely can't justify $60 or $70 for a T-Shirt, like it doesn't make sense in my brain. But, really, they are worth it so whenever I see them on sale, I buy them.
Her Go-To Audition Looks
As an actor, I think you have your go-to audition shirts. There's the cop shirt, which also works for a lawyer or a detective. It’s a button-down James Perse shirt that you’ve seen on every TV show. I know I’ve worn them several times on different shows. But I also own that shirt, and I probably got it at a Marshalls or a Nordstrom Rack when I was looking for something to audition in. I don't feel powerful in it, but I do feel like a cop.
Then I have this other shirt, and I’ve had it forever but I haven’t worn it in a bit, but it’s the hottest shirt to ever exist. I remember trying it on and thinking, “I look so hot in the shirt. I've never looked hotter.” It’s a black All Saints shirt that I found and wore to death. I wore it to every audition where I needed to look attractive for a time.
Now, though, it’s changed, especially depending on what I'm going for. If it's a Zoom meeting or Zoom pitch, I’m just dressed nicely from the waist up. From the waist down, I'm in my pajama pants or sweats or underwear. Up top, though, I’m wearing a full blazer and full face makeup.
Three weeks ago I [did stand up for the first time] and I was like, “I need to feel amazing when I do this,” so I bought these white Sam Edelman knee high boots that look like they’re made of snakeskin but they're actually vegan, which I'm so excited about.
I don't buy new leather anymore and all good shoes and purses are typically leather. But Sam Edelman makes really great shoes, so I bought these white knee-high boots that made me look like a 1970s Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. I feel amazing in them, though, because I just feel so powerful.
How the Pandemic Changed Her Style
I rediscovered my excitement about fashion and clothes, because I didn't get to go out and I didn't have any reason to buy clothes.
I think that’s also what happened to me when I was young, because I went to a parochial school where we had to wear the same uniform from the time I was in kindergarten to eighth grade. Then, in ninth grade, I went to a public high school and for the first time in my life, I got to pick clothes.
I didn't know what I liked, because I had worn a uniform every day of my life and just had hand-me-downs otherwise, so for the first time I actually had a reason to buy stuff from the Delia’s catalog. I remember thinking, “I need everything in here.” It felt like an opportunity to curate my own personal style and I took it very, very seriously. I never wore the same outfit combination. I was so excited to put together looks.
I think the same thing happened after the pandemic, not that it's over. I'm excited about clothes again and I'm excited about expressing myself through fashion and finding different opportunities to wear different things. I’m exploring new things that I haven't worn before, too, so it's been very fruitful fashion-wise for me lately.
She Still Loves An Old Catalog
I went to my parents house not that long ago and found a few of my old catalogs hidden away. I had this enormous feeling of gratitude just looking through the pages again. It was like meditation when I was a teenage girl, just to sit there and listen to Alanis Morissette or Fiona Apple and flip through the Delia’s catalog and hope that you could buy just one thing.
Growing Up Among Miami's Chonga Culture
For a long time, I think what people thought Miami style was really just wearing high hipped bikini bottoms while rollerblading on Ocean Drive. At least that’s what it was to the outside world, but growing up, Miami style was very specific.
What people in California called the “Chola” look, in Miami we called it the “Chonga” look. It was really big either khaki pants or jeans worn really low and then a tight shirt and your hair pulled back. Basically, it’s the clean girl aesthetic that is now really popular, but it was co-opted from Latina culture, where it has always existed. Everyone was doing a very clean face, pulled back hair, lip liner with gloss… that kind of thing. Big hoop earrings.
That was Miami when I grew up, for sure, but I did not want to be like everybody else so I was definitely different. I did wear really big pants. I loved them and I still love them. I was very into JNCOs. I'm sorry, but in middle school that was what I was into.
I always just thought, “I want to have my own sense of style,” and I think I always stood out in that way. I got a lot of shit for it for a while, especially because comfort has always played a big part in the way I dress. Like, in high school, my best friend worked for a pediatrician and she would give me all her old scrubs to wear to school which, I don’t know, did people think I was a medical student? They were comfortable, though!
Her First Big Hollywood Splurge
This is so hilarious if you know me now, but I was in the Maxim Hot 100. I was number 68 or something. Anyway, they had this big party and I was like, “Oh my god, I get to do a red carpet.” Because it was all so new to me, I didn't have a stylist and I didn't really have anything. I didn't know that people borrowed clothes, either. I had no idea.
I ended up buying this Hervé Léger dress that was very “in” at the time, and I think they're coming back again now. This was 2009 or 2010, and I think I paid what was an obscene amount of money to me at the time, which was like $500 or $600. I also bought Jimmy Choo shoes for that outfit, and I think to this day, those two things are the most expensive items of clothing I’ve ever purchased.
I’ve always preferred to buy vintage or buy intelligently. I like to buy things that are well made. I really don't love fast fashion, either, and I come from a family that didn't have a lot of money so I don't understand spending tons of money on one thing.
All that being said, listen: I’ll still say that was a really fucking good outfit. You can look at the pictures and they’re great. So, I’m happy that I did that, and that whole look is still in my closet somewhere.
The Fashion Items She Covets Most
I love everything Stella McCartney does. I don't eat meat and I don't buy leather, so I love that a lot of different brands and labels are doing things with a sustainable mindset. I think that fashion in general is moving that way, so those are typically the things I seek out. I love to find, like, a Stella McCartney thing at a secondhand store or on sale, because she’s just so innovative to me.
In general, I just want to be a Stella McCartney girl. That's the message I want to put out in the universe.