How I Get Dressed: Rachelle Hruska MacPherson

The Lingua Franca founder has crafted a brand and a style that’s all her own.

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Hruska</p>

Courtesy of Rachel Hruska

The way we get dressed every morning is as personal as it gets. There are outfit repeaters, vintage treasure hunters, and even emotional dressers. But while everyone loves a good fashion trend, here at InStyle, we're interested in the deeper stuff, too: the way jewelry makes us feel, the way a beloved coat can spark joy on a cold day, the way a pair of shoes can pull a whole look together. How I Get Dressed unpacks fashion routines, rituals, and go-tos — straight from the fashion tastemakers we love.

It all started because Rachelle Hruska MacPherson needed something to do with her hands. The year was 2016 and she was suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression following the birth of her second son. An impulsive stop at Joann Fabrics led to her stitching the word “Booyah” (her then-4-year-old’s suggestion) on an old cashmere sweater. She snapped a picture, posted it on Instagram, and the rest, as they say, is history. Her resulting company, Lingua Franca, best known for their hand-embroidered pieces featuring phrases both whimsical and provocative, now has four stores, offers ready-to-wear and resort collections, has been worn by celebrities including Meryl Streep and Selma Blair, and, perhaps most impressively, has raised more than $1.25 million for over 200 organizations like the ACLU and Everytown for Gun Safety.

Nearly eight years later, the company “still embroiders everything to order,” Hruska MacPherson says. “We have this full distribution center on 36th street in the fashion district in New York, which I’m really proud of. We stitch everything here; we ship everything ourselves. There’s zero waste because it’s made to order.” She points out that they offered flexible work options before the pandemic made it fashionable. “Once [an embroiderer goes] through our training program, they can pick up and drop off at our studios,” she explains, noting that Lingua Franca is almost entirely women-run, their products almost entirely women-made. “A lot of these women have older family members to take care of, or children. And it was just really cool that we were providing this way for them to work and make money while they were at home caring for somebody.”

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Hruska</p>

Courtesy of Rachel Hruska

The brand is very much the embodiment of Hruska MacPherson’s ethos — and her aesthetic. “My husband calls me ‘vintage grandma,’” she says, a label that is clearly a term of endearment, not insult. She swears by turtlenecks and jeans, and, even in the heat, prefers more coverage. (The company created a lightweight material called silk cashmere, which they made into flowy matching skirt sets that she often turns to for a night out.) “I really love a button-down that’s thin,” she says. (Lingua Franca makes those, too.) “Every time I go to Greece, I go to the stores where they’re, like, $9 and buy tons. Throw them in the wash and, by the second year, they’re perfect.” Hruska MacPherson says she “loves a denim on denim moment,” so the brand is considering entering the denim space, which she admits is hard to do well and sustainably. (Vintage may be part of their solution.)

Hruska MacPherson has used her company as a way “to tell stories that matter to [her],” name-checking gun control, women’s rights, and women in politics as a few that top her list. But lately she’s been embracing a more subtle form of taking action. “I'm convinced that one's greatest form of activism is to create beauty in their own life,” she says. “Every day I scroll and it's so hard to do that and see [the news] and then go and live your life. And I think the only thing you can do is try your best to create some beauty, … simple beauty as a form of resistance.”

How do you plan your outfits? 

I'm not a planner at all. I literally plan what I'm wearing 10 minutes before I have to head out the door — to the disgust of everyone in my family because I'm always like, What am I gonna wear? And I have to leave in five minutes.

I have to be feeling [what] I want to wear. I have to be in the moment. I rarely think about the weather. In fact, I never look at the weather, which is also a problem, because I am inappropriately dressed for the weather a lot.

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Hruska</p>

Courtesy of Rachel Hruska

Do you have an outfit formula or uniform?

During the day, I have a basic uniform. I am a jeans person. My entire closet is basically just jeans. I do not show up to my office looking out of a fashion ad. A lot of the people on my team do. And I am impressed, every day. I do not have the bandwidth for that. I wear jeans every single day with comfortable shoes (either Birkenstocks or Adidas Sambas or Nikes) and usually a blank T-shirt — long sleeve or short sleeve — and a Lingua Franca sweater. If it's not a T-shirt, I'm in a button down shirt. And if it's not Lingua Franca, it’s a denim one. I wear denim on denim probably at least once a week.

During the day I'm one of comfort. If I'm not comfortable, I cannot focus on anything but that one discomfort. I can't get my work done because I'll be like, I have a blister. I'm like a child in that way. So it has to be comfortable. It has to be comfortable.

I have a lot of lucky jewelry that I wear during the day. I have my mother-in-law's diamond jaguar ring. We found it in a plastic bag mixed in with all these files after she passed away. It just happens to fit me. So I wear that every day. I have my Grandma Irene's wedding ring with my own wedding ring. I have a Marlo Laz good luck charm necklace. And then I have these Lucy Delias small diamond hoops. Then I have a lucky charm bracelet that my husband has been adding new charms to for holidays. So those are kind of my feel-good, I-need-security [pieces]. That’s my standard uniform.

Do you like to shop secondhand? Do you have a specific vintage obsession? 

I love getting pieces that are vintage. I think they're so special. What I tend to gravitate towards are people that have personal style. I don't like trends and I never have.

I have four pairs of Gucci loafers that are all vintage. I've gotten some from RealReal, some from 1stDibs. I'm obsessed. None of them are brand new. I'm convinced it's the best thing because they're already worn in. So you get no blisters. The more worn in, the better for me. You don't have to feel precious about them. You can just beat them up, throw them in suitcases, because they're a hundred bucks, not a thousand.

I went to the vintage show once in New York and it's not for me. I'm not good at shopping in person. I wish I was better at it. I feel like I don't have time to really put into it and you kind of need time to get really good stuff. When I travel, I actually have time to [roam] around stores. I was in Tokyo right before the pandemic and we went vintage shopping and that was fun. If I go to the Paris Flea market, I think that’s fun; my husband can go with me looking for his own thing and I can look for fashion.

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Hruska</p>

Courtesy of Rachel Hruska

Do you have a current fashion trend that you have strong feelings about? 

Low-rise I never want to come back. I like that high-rise. I'm a high-rise jean person. I don't care. I wear my Wranglers and my Levi's. I am not going [low-rise].

Thongs: I'm not going back. I'm not doing that. I've had two kids. I'm not doing thongs and I'm not doing low-rise. Okay? Those are my only nos. Everything else I'll maybe try.

How do you get dressed differently for an event than your day-to-day?

At night I put a little bit more thought into what I'm wearing. I wear [loafers] out, too. I love loafers. My standard, going out at the Chelsea [Hotel, which Hruska MacPherson’s husband owns]... I have a couple of vintage pleated skirts that I really like to wear with fun socks and my Gucci loafers. Lingua Franca I always wear out in some capacity. We're starting to do a lot more pants and skirts and dresses, which is nice.

I like color. [Lingua Franca has] this amazing silk, hand-painted Anja maxi dress that I am dying to get my hands on. It came in yesterday, so I'm gonna be wearing that a lot. I like to wear skirts. I don't show a lot of skin. I usually look like a grandmother — a knit cardigan with a pleated skirt and funky jewelry. I love Lisa Eisner. I have so many of her pieces. She's a dear friend.

I like bold. I do like colors. I love Vampire’s Wife. Love Batsheva. For my 40th [birthday] I wore this sleeveless dress and people were like, “Oh my god, you have arms!” I like turtlenecks. I'm a very big turtleneck-out-at-night person. I have so many turtlenecks and so many jeans. Those are the two things in my closet.

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Hruska</p>

Courtesy of Rachel Hruska

Where are your favorite places or brands to shop?

Any brands that I like the founder of and I know that they're doing a really great job in fashion sustainability. We stock a lot of these things. I love La Ligne; I love their cotton dresses. Birkenstock is a go-to. We've done a collab with them; we're doing another one this summer. I love Marfa Stance. Maria McManus is a good friend of mine. Rosie Assoulin. I love wearing my friends’ stuff. Batsheva is a very good friend of mine. I'm not a good shopper. So if it's not Lingua Franca, it's usually from a friend.

Who is your style inspiration?

Anyone that has a personal style that is authentic to them is someone that I gravitate towards. Caroline Bessette Kennedy had classic style that was so her. She is all over my feed, so I'm sure she's trending right now, because I see her every day. So she's top of mind. Lisa Eisner — I think she has this iconic personal-to-her style. My mother-in-law, Janet McPherson, had her own personal, weird style. I think any of these women who are unafraid of showing off who they are, even if that's not trendy, they are my style guides.

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Hruska</p>

Courtesy of Rachel Hruska

What item in your closet has the best backstory?

I have a vintage [Hermès] Kelly bag that my husband bought for me when we were first dating. I loved it so much, but wanted to make it look different from all of the rest. So, I enlisted Candice Bergen, a true favorite of mine, to hand paint a camel on top of it. I love it so much.

How would you describe your personal style in three words?

Classic, quirky, comfy.

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