Most 12 year olds are doing homework, wearing braces, and navigating the pressures of seventh grade. They’re not walking the red carpet, dazzling in Valentino, and working the crowded patio at Chateau Marmont. But that’s old hat to Elle Fanning, the 12-year-old star of Sofia Coppola’s new film, Somewhere, which opens Wednesday.
Gallery: Elle Fanning’s Style Evolution
Fanning, little sister of Dakota, has been in the limelight for over a decade, appearing onscreen for the first time in I Am Sam at the ripe old age of 2. But this fall, she’s become veritable Hollywood royalty. She recently starred in The Nutcracker in 3D and is now shooting Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film Super 8. This month alone, The New York Times magazine called Fanning “exceptional,” Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy chose her to be part of the Lula Magazine issue they guest-edited, and an eight-page spread in Interview magazine highlighted her poise and precocity.
Two years ago, Elle looked like every other girl her age in ruffled dresses, hair bands, and Mary Janes. But as she made the rounds to promote Somewhere this fall, she appeared effectively Sofia-Coppola’d in a string of perfectly appropriate designer dresses. At Somewhere’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, Fanning swanned in a Marc Jacobs aqua dress and silver Mary Janes; she wore beaded Marchesa to an event in Los Angeles a month later, and a structured Valentino mini-dress to the L.A. premiere of the film in December. But Fanning’s crowning moment came last week when, at the film’s New York premiere, she chose a tan suede and gold leather embossed dress by Rodarte, which she wore directly as it had appeared on the Spring/Summer 2011 runway: with sheer Rodarte socks and gold Nicholas Kirkwood wooden heels. Though she’s still missing five teeth, Elle has shot up to 5-foot-6, and dresses look good on her ballet-dancer frame. “More designers are going to want to dress her because she’s tall—it’s sounds crazy to say someone has a good figure at 12—but she captures a youthful spirit,” says Interview’s entertainment director, Lauren Tabach-Bank. “She’s not oversexed, but she can wear clothing well.”
The fashion world loves Elle—and it’s clear that the affection is mutual. “I love fashion! I love clothes!” Fanning has said. “I really like vintage clothes, so in my closet there’s a lot of ’50s stuff. I go to the stores and shop around.” And she described her style to WWD: “I like mixing vintage with new…I love anything high-waisted, like cropped pants.” With all this dressing up, it’s clear that Elle is having fun. According to Tabach-Bank, at her photo shoot, Fanning was “so excited about all of the fashion, and she loved the fact that we used labels such as Valentino. And she recognized the labels—she had a respect for fashion.”
Isabel Wilkinson is an assistant editor at The Daily Beast based in Los Angeles.