Katie Holmes has finally shared details on the mood that inspired her now-iconic cashmere bra look that broke the internet last summer and caused the item to completely sell out less than an hour after the brand shared photos of the actress on Instagram.
During an interview for InStyle’s April 2020 cover story, Holmes reflected on the moment she decided to don the Eda Bralette and Scarlet Cardigan, both from Khaite, during an Aug. 28 outing in New York City.
“Honestly, I wasn’t feeling so sexy,” Holmes told InStyle’s Laura Brown. “And I saw that and was like, ‘Sexy. I can do that!'”
“I thought it would be good if I was in a cabin sitting by the fire and wore the [matching] sweater over it,” she added of the cozy-chic look. “That’s how my brain works. But then I was like, ‘Oh, wait, I’m not in a cabin, and I’m not going to a cabin.’ I still thought I could pull it off, though. I had noticed other people wearing bras with blazers.”
Holmes said she paired the bralette with the matching cardigan to tone down her look just a bit in order to better suit the day’s occasion — back to school shopping.
“I didn’t want to get into trouble with my teenager!” she joked. “We were school shopping, and I was just trying to hail a cab on Sixth Avenue. It looked way more glamorous than it was.”
LAURA BROWN: You texted me that you were sliding into this interview like J.Lo at the Super Bowl. When was the last time you entered a room like J.Lo?
KATIE HOLMES: Well, I love a dance party. I try to do one every morning to wake up my child, but she has rejected that. I just need some knee pads and a little Versace number. [laughs]
LB: Instead you just cashmere-bra it! Anyway, you are having rather a fashion moment. A life moment too. Tell me, how are you doing?
KH: I have been in this business for quite some time. We both know you have ups and downs. It's been a really exciting time because of the cashmere bra. [laughs] No, it's really because my movie [Rare Objects, a story of female friendship] is coming together. Suri is 14, so we've gotten through the sort of girlie stage. I feel like I can be more creative and have more time, have my voice. It's sort of, like, just put your stuff out there and be yourself. It takes a while to be comfortable, though.
LB: How long did it take you to feel that way?
KH: Obviously, as a public person, I've gotten a lot of attention at different periods in my life. And when you have a lot of attention, sometimes you don't want to leave the house because it's just too much. You can get consumed by what people think, but suddenly you just decide to do things on your own terms. I feel like I'm finally figuring that out. I'm getting the projects I want made and just relaxing a little. I've been around for a long time, and I'm still here! I can't believe it. [laughs]
LB: Still here! For an actress, attention is a currency. When you started working at 17, what was it like?
KH: I thought things were going to be really fun. My first day in L.A. was January 21, 1996. My mom and I were driving on Santa Monica Boulevard and saw a big sign that said "Golden Globes." So we went and sat on the bleachers in the rain to watch movie stars arrive. We couldn't believe what we had stumbled upon.
LB: Were there stars in your eyes?
KH: Of course! We didn't get in — we were just outside. [laughs]
LB: How did you first metabolize getting attention as an actress and then, later, getting attention not as an actress?
KH: When I started, it was about being very mysterious. You were known through your work. There was much less attention in the '90s than there is now, and as a young actress, you just want to get the job. You want to be liked. You want a good take and think, "Was I good enough?" Over time there's a transition. I have my own confidence now. I'm not looking for somebody else to say, "Good job." It's more, "What are we going for?" It's more collaborative.
KH: People say you don't really know yourself until you're 40. I'm 41. I have seen things. I have experienced things. I know what I'm talking about, and I know that my feelings and my insights are worthy. I'm going to listen to myself instead of deferring to someone else. That's a big step as a human. It takes time.
LB: What was one moment when you made a decision and felt powerful like, "I really own my shit now"?
KH: Oh god. [laughs]
LB: You're giving me a sideways glance. There's the one we all know about. [gives slow clap]
KH: Oh, that one. Well, that's interesting. I didn't have that moment at the time. Here's an example, though. Rare Objects has been in the making for four or five years. It hurts when you ask the opinions of people you respect and they say it's not good. It's like, "Can you be a little more specific? I'm not an idiot. Give me a helpful note instead of dissing me." But whenever someone tells me no, I keep going. I'm not going to not do it. I called my dad to tell him the news when it was green-lit, and he said, "That's wonderful. Life is a real journey, and sometimes when things take a long time and you have to keep working hard, it just makes it that much sweeter. I'm really proud of you." That's all I needed to hear.
LB: How does it feel to have ownership of your life and your choices?
KH: I feel like that comes in waves. From 10 to 11 a.m. you're like, "Oh, yeah, I'm doing it!" Then at noon you're like, "I'm never gonna work again." But at 1 you're like, "Nope, I'm good."
LB: But you're more in the world now.
KH: Yeah, and I have more fun. I'll take a class at Broadway Dance Center. I'll go to the Joyce Theater. I do hot yoga and boxing classes. I have a book club. The city has a lot to offer, and I use it. Yes, it's a little too exposed at times, and we work hard to maneuver and navigate. But what I love about New York is that for me and my child, this is our vibe. When there are 25 things to do every night, it takes you out of your own thing. And you know what else I discovered? There's a place not far from my house that does foot massages until midnight. That's what New York offers!
LB: Did you always want to live here?
KH: Yes. We shot here for my first job, The Ice Storm, when I was a junior in high school, and they put my mom and me up at a hotel. I remember walking the city with my parents after dinner one night and thinking, "I need an apartment here. I need to be here."
LB: When you finally moved here in 2012 [after divorcing Cruise], there was, of course, a huge amount of attention on you.
KH: That time was intense. It was a lot of attention, and I had a little child on top of it. We had some funny moments out and about in public. So many people I didn't know became my friends and helped us out, and that's what I love about the city. There was one incredible moment when I think I actually cried. Suri was 6 or 7, and she was spending the night at a friend's house while I was seeing the ballet at Lincoln Center. At 10 o'clock I got a call: "Mommy, can you come get me?" I got a cab and went down to Battery Park to pick her up. She was exhausted. She fell asleep on the way home, and when we pulled up to our building, the cab driver opened the door and helped me not wake her. He helped carry her to the building. He was so kind.
LB: I love that you're very in the world — especially because there were years when you couldn't be. How great does it feel to be able to take cabs and not have to retreat at all?
KH: Well, part of that is my lack of ability with technology. The Uber app and I just don't work out. But when I was young, Dawson's Creek was such a huge leap. Within a year of graduating from high school, we were known everywhere. It was quite a lot. Obviously, the world was not what it is today — there weren't as many paparazzi or people with phones. But it was still weird that I was treated differently. It felt unnatural, and I didn't understand it. Now I don't lead with being a public person; I lead with being a person. You should be kind because that's what people do, not because you want people to think you are kind.
KH: — look at the Khaite website and see the cashmere bra? [laughs]
LB: Exactly. Why does a cashmere bra seem like a practical and fundamental item in your closet?
KH: Honestly, I wasn't feeling so sexy. And I saw that and was like, "Sexy. I can do that!" I thought it would be good if I was in a cabin sitting by the fire and wore the [matching] sweater over it. That's how my brain works. But then I was like, "Oh, wait, I'm not in a cabin, and I'm not going to a cabin." I still thought I could pull it off, though. I had noticed other people wearing bras with blazers.
LB: Yes. But your sweater was perfectly positioned. It was a little off the shoulder but not totally off the shoulder.
KH: I didn't want to get into trouble with my teenager! We were school shopping, and I was just trying to hail a cab on Sixth Avenue. It looked way more glamorous than it was. [laughs]
LB: What designers float your boat right now?
KH: I'd like to wear more Valentino. And then, I'm not going to lie, I thought J.Lo's costumes during the [Super Bowl] halftime show were absolutely incredible. I watched her story where they were putting on all the Swarovski crystals.
LB: Do you remember the first look you felt really great wearing?
KH: I went through this phase as a kid where I changed my clothes 10 times a day. I think I drove my mother crazy. But I loved my prom dress senior year. It was a long gold lace dress from Caché, that store in the mall. This was 1997, so it was grunge time. Was I cool enough to wear my dress with Doc Martens? No, I wasn't. Did I want to? Yes, I did. I still have it in a storage unit.
Josie Natori slip. Alexandre Vauthier jacket (on bed). Chanel Fine Jewelry pearl earrings and watch. Bracelets, Tiffany & Co. (right arm) and Cartier (her own). Photo by Sebastian Faena/LENS. LB: What was a more recent look that you loved?
KH: I felt really good in the white Khaite dress that I wore [to the American Australian Association Arts Awards]. And I liked the pantyhose I wore with it. Testing out the black hose with open-toed shoes and a summer dress.
LB: And today, a topknot with a purple velvet scrunchie!
KH: Scrunchies are back, you know. [points to her head] We used to make them when I was growing up.
LB: You make lots of things. And you paint too.
KH: I was a bit of an only child since my siblings are older, so I got very used to entertaining myself. I still do; I like to stay busy. My mother had a very successful drapery business, but then when I was born — I was a lot of work. [laughs] So she gave it up. But my mom is an incredible quilter, and one of my sisters is an art teacher, so I grew up with that. I've always wanted Suri to feel empowered [in that way] too. I remember asking her what kind of party she wanted for her fourth or fifth birthday, and she said a fairy party. So we went to the fabric store and picked out everything we needed for fairies. I wanted her to create things instead of having stuff done for her. That way she was always in charge.
LB: I say this to people all the time: Make a thing. Because having ownership of that thing and pride in what you've made is the best. What are you ambitious for now?
KH: My projects. Finding good material and putting out stories that are authentic to the female experience. Rare Objects is about the journey of this girl who has had quite a bit of hardship and tragedy. It hits on things that are very relevant — immigration, female issues. And then there are different directors I've always wanted to work with, so I'm doing that.
LB: What are you ambitious for as a mother?
KH: [To be] a well-balanced, independent person with a great skill set for handling the world. I hope our world comes back into a sense of fairness and decency and empathy.
LB: Little Katie Holmes didn't know she was in for quite a ride, eh?
KH: I always wanted adventure, and I got it. And I'm still on one. In life you're supposed to have joy, pain, loss, calm. We're not supposed to say, "If I could go back, I would want everything joyful," because it's not going to happen. That's life. Nobody gets off free, and you're not supposed to. Because then you're going to miss things.
LB: So tell me, what is Katie Holmes thirsty for?
KH: Well, now that I know what the term "thirsty" means... [laughs] I am very thirsty for artful experiences that keep me uplifted and inspired. It resets me.
LB: Otherwise your brain over-revs. But when yours does, you probably just go see a show or get on your Peloton.
KH: It's so true. But now I have to really stretch after the Peloton. Otherwise my back hurts, and it defeats the purpose. [laughs] When you're 40-plus, you've really gotta take your vitamins.
Photographed by Sebastian Faena. Styled by Julia von Boehm. Hair: DJ Quintero for The Wall Group. Makeup: Genevieve Herr for Sally Harlor. Manicure: Elle for Tracey Mattingly. Production: Faktory.NYC.
For more stories like this, pick up the April issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download March 20.