We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you”? These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”
When you think of Keke Palmer, your mind might go to glamour, red carpet, multiple outfit changes — but IRL, comfort comes above all else for the actor, singer and performer.
It’s not that surprising, then, that Aerie has been one of her go-to brands for years. She was introduced to it a while back — “Actually, through Emma Roberts, from ‘Scream Queens,'” she tells Fashionista. “I became a fan of them. I’ve always been into athleisure — it’s comfortable, the colors and designs are cool, the material is good, it’s not made cheap so it’s going to last you for a while. I just thought it was a good brand, the exact type of style that I like. I’m always trying to be comfortable in. Anything I can move in and dance in is the kind of stuff I like to wear.”
She’s now partnering with Aerie on a social media-first campaign that encourages users to share their authentic selves on Instagram and TikTok, in an effort to break with the often highly-stylized images these platforms promote. “The brand is so much like me: They’re all about keeping it real. They really encourage to their audience that it’s okay to be you,” Palmer says. “The #AerieREAL Reveal Challenge, it’s right in line with what I try to say. We can have fun with everything, we can get glammed up, we can get extra, but we got to also remember that it’s okay for us to be as we are. I like that that’s what they encourage.”
Ahead of the launch, we got on the phone with Palmer to discuss the hero pieces in her wardrobe, how living in New York has shaped her style and how her relationship with fashion has evolved over the years. Read on.
“I’m the kind of person that can play in and out of any type of style, that dresses according to my vibe. It really depends on my mood. One thing for sure is, I’m not a heel person — I can do it, I do it every now and then, but if anything, my favorite kind is a kitten heel. I love sneakers and I love joggers. I love just being able to be relaxed. The main things I have in my closet are comfortable things: T-shirts, vintage tees, onesies, joggers, leggings. Depending on [if I’m] going somewhere and wanting to get dressed up… sometimes I can go alternative, sometimes I can go more hip-hop chic. I can play around when I have to, but me on the every day, it’s all about comfort.
“I love [Aerie’s] onesies. There’s one that’s also strapless, with a little bit thinner bands. They also got the T-shirt one that goes [well] with everything. In New York, where I live now, sometimes it can get a little bit cold, but you still want to wear a chill outfit, I can find ways to layer a piece like that underneath and get that extra warmth, but it’s still-low key at the same time. Another one I like is their knitted hoodie, which is always comfortable. They’ve got them in so many different colors. It’s like, why do I have 20 of these in my closet?
“[Living in New York] totally does [affect my style] because you have people in L.A. [that] like fashion, but not like people in New York. In New York, when it comes to how I present my work, I’ve become a lot better, because the way that New York is. Even if you’re doing the comfort look, it’s still going to bring fashion to some degree. It’s going to scream, ‘I’m giving you a look,’ because something about New York gives that vibe. You’re going to have a bag, at least; you’re going to have a good accessory that’s going to make you go pop. I don’t know what it is. New York is so incredible.
“[For accessories] right now it’s a cross between my very small vintage Chanel bag that’s almost like a clutch but it’s a cross body, and this Chrome Hearts bag that I just got a couple of months ago. Both are specific things that can add to any of my looks — it doesn’t matter what the vibe is, I would just add that and then it’s like, boom, upgraded.
“I’m an online shopper, day in and day out. I don’t know why, I really just love online shopping. I was on a shopping kick about a month ago. I was damn near shopping online every damn day. It was so ridiculous. It got to the point where I had 10 packages at the door. Net-a-Porter and Farfetch, those are the ones that [I] really, really need to get off my phone. I mentioned my Chrome Hearts bag, but also Jennifer Fisher Jewelry, I’ve been kind of pretty obsessed with her stuff lately, too. I love her earrings. I love her jewelry.
“I don’t know if there’s a moment where I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I found my personal style,’ because I don’t think I’m the kind of person that subscribes that. I feel like a lot of different styles are me. I remember when I was in New York for a while — I’m not sure why I was in New York, but it was a period of time where I was in New York all the time and I really started getting into my fashion bag. It was just the whole paparazzi scene and for me, that was when I felt like I was really getting into my personal style, not because it was defined by a specific kind of look, but because I was just playing. I really accepted the fact that I don’t fit into a box.
“When I was younger, I was always thinking that I had to abide by a certain rule of fashion, or the concept of what I wanted fashion to be from what I was told that fashion should be. I was always met with the pressures of how to really find myself or express who I was, because I felt like I was trying so hard to be or do what other people wanted me to. As my relationship grew, I started to realize that there’s a certain kind of idea of what fashion is, but style, at the end of the day, is what you decide to make it. You don’t have to know the fashion in and outs to have style. You can play around. You can still be that girl without having to be defined by or bound to these rules. When I really let that go was the time that I was telling you about [in New York], of just not caring. That’s when I really found my voice in fashion, in terms of my identity, which matches up with who I am. I’m very daring. I don’t care. I go by the beat of my own drum. And I think that’s ultimately what fashion has become for me: It’s no longer this worrisome thing — it’s more so, I know what the hell I want to look like. I bring me to fashion. Fashion doesn’t bring me to it.
“I dress according to the mood. If I’m going to the studio, I might be more low-key, depending on if I’m going into recording, as opposed to if I’m having a meeting in [where] I might come up dressed like ‘that star Keke’ vibe. If I’m going to a business meeting, I might be in a blazer, shorts with a boot. I’m going to go kind of dressy but at the same time, give you that business-casual vibe. Then sometimes, with my friends, I’m going to be on some athleisure, maybe put my Aerie on — a little jumpsuit or a jogger set, put on a really dope bag and I’m out the door.
“One of my favorite [red carpet moments] is my VMAs look circa 2019 — absolutely loved my gold look there. Then, I remember when I did the Kids’ Choice Awards in 2009, I wore this leather purple dress and for many years, that was one of my favorite red carpet looks, because it was so edgy for me at that time, as a kid showing up at the Kid’s Choice Awards. When you’re working with Disney and Nickelodeon, image is their top priority. They’re very critical of what you wear and making sure you look young and not too mature. And all that stuff was really dope. I think it’s good for any parent when their kid works for Disney and Nickelodeon, because they really have huge moral guidelines. But at the same time, you’re a growing young woman. I was trying to really waiver that balance of being able to give a cool, edgy look while still being age-appropriate, and I felt like that look was so perfectly that.
“Definitely Zayday, from ‘Scream Queens’ [had an impact on my style]. Without a doubt. ‘True Jackson, VP’ as well, but True Jackson had a totally different style than me — True Jackson was by-the-book fashion girl, meaning she really kept to her specific identity of fashion. She lived in Tory Burch, day in and day out. Zayday mixed and matched a lot. She was more so a girl after my own heart. She was even more daring than I was, on a day-to-day basis. She just had her own specific flare. She did a lot of different tribal colors and add-ons, like head wraps. She was just so dope. She really brought me into the fashion world without me even trying, just because the character was so lit.
“I have become less intimidated by fashion, in terms of brands and stuff like that. One of the main things that I learned is that a lot of times, it’s just on the actual designer that’s working for the brand at that time — like, ‘I might not like Gucci this year because they changed the designer behind the brand. I might prefer this designer at this period in time, because I like that specific designer’s style.’ I started to realize that it’s bigger than the brand, and it’s really more so about the designers that become the voices of the brand, that have the ability to make or break a brand. That’s the cool thing that made me really start liking fashion.
“I like what Off-White is doing. I like what Chrome Hearts has been doing — Chrome Hearts has been around for such a long time; I feel like we’re just figuring out about it, but it’s probably always been what it’s been. I like what Gucci’s doing right now [under Alessandro Michele.] I like all the colors and the daringness with the patterns.
“I also like different stylists that have shifted the vibe of fashion. Think about people like Misa Hylton, Dapper Dan… I’m always looking at young people coming up online that are inspiring a shift when it comes to fashion and trends.”
Please note: Occasionally, we use affiliate links on our site. This in no way affects our editorial decision-making.