There are a few constants about fall: The leaves will change. Girls everywhere will line up for Pumpkin Spice Lattes. And Gap will come out with some super-cool ads that get us in the mood for sweaters instantly. This autumn’s “Dress Normal” ad campaign features stars including Anjelica Huston, Michael K. Williams and Zosia Mamet, as well as Elisabeth Moss, 32, who was snapped feeding birds on the beach in one seriously cool coat. The actress (who describes her style as “girly, summery and comfortable”) shared a behind-the-scenes look at her ad shoot, and answered our questions about participating in one of those memorable campaigns you know Buzzfeed will be using for a 2010s nostalgia post in 2023. And after our fun Q&A, we’d love to be her shopping buddy — or at least get an invite to her next bird-feeding adventure.
What was it like to star in a Gap ad?
It’s really kind of an honor to be asked — it’s such an iconic campaign. And I was especially excited to be a part of the new one they are doing. I read the whole pitch for it and it sounded so cool and different. I think it’s really brave of them to try something new since they don’t have to, you know? They didn’t settle and wanted to continue pushing the envelope.
I also loved the idea of doing what your “normal” is, and wearing what most represents you every day. Like: What’s that go to outfit that you put on when you want to really feel like yourself? Or when you want to feel confident or strong or just comfortable in your own skin? Nobody looks good when they don’t feel confident. So that’s how I connected to this campaign.
Any reservations about modeling with birds?
The birds were possibly the easiest costars I’ve ever worked with! The bread thing — nobody knew if it would work, but it worked like a charm. All I had to do was show those birds the goods I had and they were mine. It was so easy and definitely one of those moments where you love your job! I was like, “My job today is to come to this beautiful beach and throw bread to the birds while this man takes my picture. My life is awesome and also ridiculous.”
The only bad thing was when we would run out of bread. This poor man kept running up and down the beach with bread because everyone liked the shot, I think, more than they thought they would so we quickly ran out! To this day I’m really not sure where they got that bread. But those birds probably go back there every day expecting some actress to show up and feed them now. They’re totally spoiled Malibu birds!
Did you take anything home from the set?
I wanted everything from the shoot, especially that grey coat I wore. It was so gorgeous! I couldn’t believe Gap made such a designer, expensive-looking, chic coat! Alas, I couldn’t take anything because it wasn’t in stores yet. But I have no problem walking into the local Gap and buying it myself! I’ve been a Gap shopper since I was a kid so I’ve spent many an hour in a Gap store. I’m sure the first things I bought from Gap were sweaters. Now they have fancier stuff, but when I was growing up it was all about the basics, jeans and T-shirts and sweaters. They still do the best basics in town.
Was it fun to be the face of “dressing normally” after so many years being identified with Peggy Olsen on Mad Men?
I mean, obviously I don’t dress like Peggy except when I’m playing Peggy so it’s not as unusual for me to dress normal as it maybe is for people to see me like that. It’s changed over the years — after Top of the Lake people got used to more modern clothes on me. But it used to be strange for people; I would run into a fan in my normal clothes and they couldn’t get over the fact I was wearing jeans!
Did you take home anything from the Mad Men set?
I took a lot of stuff from Mad Men. I pilfered my office! Some with permission, some without. [Laughs] But the things I can tell you about are: the ring that Peggy wears every episode, the red thermos, her phone and a purple chair from my office. They’ll probably just go in storage but I’m sure 30 years from now it’ll be cool to have them.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve bought lately?
I’ve just been on [Italy’s] Amalfi Coast so I’ve been loading up on sandals and summer dresses. They can custom-make sandals there in, like, 10 minutes, right in front of you! Needless to say I didn’t get just one pair. Also the best summer scarves. I was in London before that and bought the most beautiful red Liberty print cross-body that I am obsessed with. Liberty is my favorite store in London and I am obsessed with their prints. Keira Knightley introduced me to it and I’ve cursed her name (lovingly!) every time I go and have to spend money there.
What has Keira Knightley forced you to buy recently? Do you love the ads?