Judith Light is becoming more and more fun to watch on the red carpet. The iconic and beloved television and stage star, 68, has lived most of her life in the spotlight, from her breakout role in the late ‘70s on One Life to the ‘80s hit Live to Who’s the Boss? to one of today’s smash series, Transparent. And in the past decade, she’s risen as a fashion force, becoming known for her array of chic, tailored suiting, elegant evening separates and stunning long-sleeve gowns. She might not get the attention other, younger stars receive, but she’s right there with them when it comes to owning her style, taking risks and being unapologetic about her choices.
And the reason is simple: She loves—no, really, really loves—fashion.
“Fashion has always been very important for me,” Light told PEOPLE during New York Fashion Week, where she was on hand at La Prairie’s celebration of the Art of Caviar exhibition. “Fashion isn’t just about ‘let’s put something on and it’s this particular name designer.’ It’s about what that artist is creating and what you get to share by wearing it.”
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Her interest started when she was just a girl growing up in Trenton, New Jersey. “My mother was a womenswear buyer, so when I was growing up, she would always take me shopping,” Light explained. “We would go shopping every single weekend. She taught me how to shop—but she really taught me how to bargain shop.”
They used to spend a lot of their time at Loehmann’s, the now out-of-business discount retailer. “When I grew up, I didn’t have a lot of money,” she said. “I still have my gold card from Loehmann’s — I can’t throw it away!”
Now, times are different, of course, and she’s often spotted in designer pieces she picks out with help from her stylist, Jack Yeaton. “I rely on him in terms of every look that I have,” she said. “There’s no question about that.”
One of her go-to designers is Zac Posen. She’s worn his looks everywhere, from a white gown at the 2013 Tony Awards to front row at his fall 2015 fashion show to the raspberry two-piece suit she wore to the La Prairie event in September. “I think he is a genius designer, besides which he is a lovely human being,” she shared.
Some of her favorite looks were definitely red carpet standouts. She said the three below — the embroidered Zac Posen floral skirt at the 2015 Emmys, the Alexandra Vidal sparkly yellow gown to the 2016 Emmys and the zebra Balmain design to the 2017 Golden Globe Awards — were three looks “I really loved.”
“It goes back to the creativity,” Light said of why she adores those looks. “It goes back to the artistry of the creator that I can see in it. And when I put it on, I can feel something. There is an emotional connection to what that artist has created.”
One thing she looks for, now more than ever, is sleeves (as seen here). “I usually tend to wear long sleeves or three-quarter sleeves,” she said. “I just feel more comfortable in that. It’s been interesting because people have come up to me and said there’s an elegance to wearing long sleeves, especially with so much sleeveless and strapless [dresses]. I used to wear that more, but more recently, I¹ve just been wearing the long sleeves. I just love it.”
So, if she were to expound any advice it would be this: When you get dressed, “come from your understanding of yourself, and who you want to project into the world,” she advised. “And then honor the designer, the creative person who took the time and had the thought of what goes into something. Fashion isn’t just about putting something on because it’s a name designer. It’s about what that artist is creating and what you get to share by wearing it.”
For more inside scoop on Judith Light, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE in newsstands now.