The actress talks denim, donating and date night in an exclusive People interview

By Sarah Kinonen
Updated October 09, 2015 10:55 PM

If there’s one thing to know about Lake Bell, it’s that she loves a good pair of jeans. Which makes sense considering her closet is filled with an “embarrassing” amount of denim (about 40 pairs, if you’re curious). And because her denim wardrobe is well-stocked for every season, the actress has teamed up with Madewell and Blue Jeans Go Green to recycle her old pairs through the National Denim Recycling Drive. To learn more about her involvement in the drive, People sat down with the star to chat all things denim, date night and more.

Credit: Courtesy Madewell

Courtesy Madewell

The 36-year-old actress has partnered with the clothing retailer to help reach its goal of collecting 40,000 pairs of unwanted, donated jeans, which, she says, was a very organic collaboration.

“I love the idea of upcycling or recycling in a really creative way and I’m a fan of the brand, so it made sense that I would come out and support them in this capacity, certainly when they’re doing something so creative and innovative,” Bell told People exclusively at one of the drive pop-up shops in N.Y.C.

“And it comes at a perfect point — the timing of it is so perfect — because I’m in that place where I’m taking my Tupperware containers of my winter clothes and I’m bringing them up and doing a little switch off, which, as New Yorkers, we can’t have everything in the same space, so I have separate storage. So I’m going through all of my jeans and I’m like, ‘Good God! I have so many jeans and I have to get rid of them,’ so I’m shedding all of my jeans and bringing them to Madewell; it’s a perfect example of starting a new wardrobe for the winter and giving back at the same time. It’s kind of an amazing marriage.”

The actress added that she remembers growing up in denim — in one of today’s most-notable comeback styles.

“Overalls are my first memory of denim, when I was a kid I had Oshkosh,” she said. “I just remember when I was really little. It’s so interesting that, culturally, the Oshkosh denim overalls were a part of so many people’s childhood, certainly in this country.”

Courtesy Madewell

But nowadays, while Bell may be shedding some styles from her wardrobe for the season, she says there’s one specific style she will never part with because it fits her in all the right ways.

“I love just a super high-rise skinny because I have quite a long waist,” she said. “So I like the high that are really, super high so that it goes to the smallest portion — that’s one of my things, that’s one of my best things — I try to illuminate the old sealed waist moment.”

And there’s one style you’ll never catch her in: boyfriend jeans.

“The stiff boyfriend jean — I can’t pull it off,” she confesses. “Because again, if you’re a person with some bits and bobs, a.k.a. some boobs and butt, then that’s not going to work for you as well. I always envy the people [who] are so live and so, sort of, sexually sinewy that they can just throw on a boyfriend jean that just sort of drips off of them, but I’m not that person. I just look sort of sausage.”

Credit: Courtesy Madewell

Courtesy Madewell

She adds that finding the perfect-fitting jean can be what feels like a lifelong quest. “Jeans are like bathing suits. You’ve really got to [find the perfect one], so it is the kind of thing that as your body changes, as you get older, after having a baby things are a little different. But I do like the high-rise, especially after having a baby — it holds everything in more.”

The actress says one of her favorite go-to outfits — denim-on-denim — also happens to be one of Hollywood’s favorite looks right now.

“For me, it’s like the bad hair day of outfits,” Bell told People. “When I don’t know what to wear and I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’m like, ‘I could do denim on denim on denim.'”

And the third piece of denim? “The jacket. So I do a chambray — I mean [the outfit is] always with a wink, you know what I mean — but you could do the great jeans with a chambray denim shirt buttoned all the way to the top, and the denim jacket over it.” (And we could totally see Bell pulling off a look like that.)

Courtesy Madewell

But just because she has an “obscene” (her words, not ours) amount of jeans, it doesn’t mean Bell wears pants all the time. She does mix in some other pieces.

“I think denim’s incredibly versatile, but there’s a time and place still,” she told People. “I think it’s the most personal of items, but you can’t wear it to a funeral is what I’m trying to say. You can’t wear it to a funeral or a wedding — and that also depends on the person who’s dying or getting married.”

And like her Apple Watch commercial points out, you probably won’t catch her in jeans on date night.

“I try to go for a dress, because I think to indicate that it is a special occasion,” she said. “I like dresses. If I could wear a dress every day, that would be pretty cool. It’s easy, it’s one-stop shopping.”

How many pairs of jeans do you own? What is your favorite jean style? Do you prefer high-waisted like Lake? Share below!

–Sarah Kinonen

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