Maggie Gyllenhaal on the Uses of Fashion and the State of Pakistan

“It’s okay to think about clothes as long as you think about other things,” the actress Maggie Gyllenhaal told the

“It’s okay to think about clothes as long as you think about other things,” the actress Maggie Gyllenhaal told the Daily Transom last night. “Otherwise it’s pretty problematic.”

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The clever moppet was looking like a young Joan Crawford with her long, dark and wavy hair framing a pair of claret-colored lips, a glass of Champagne in her hand, as she stood on a tented balcony that hugs the third floor of the Longchamp store on Spring Street. She was wearing a deep vintage black dress under a trench coat as guests gathered at the store for an intimate dinner party.

But she didn’t mean fashion can’t be deep. She said shopping provides an opportunity to "think about who you are."

“I think that’s the pleasure in it for me,” the 29-year-old said.

Tables had been set with gleaming flatware and starched linen inside, and several people were preparing to toast the evening’s guest of honor, Parisian power-DJ Michel Gaubert. Among the attendees were Gossip Girl co-stars Leighton Meester and Nicole Fiscella; members of the bands Brazilian Girls and Ambulance LTD; a brace of Condé Nast editors; and some fashion industrialists. Scattered Marlboro Red boxes with European warning labels blaring uncomfortable truths, and the hum of viscid accents, suggested that more than a few had just jumped the pond.

With all the time Ms. Gyllenhaal doesn’t spend thinking about fashion, she said she focuses on her family, the state of the world and her work. But because of the extraordinary nature of her profession, she knows first-hand that film can be influential far outside of itself. “A lot of the things I try to work on, I hope, say something about the troubled world we’re living in. I think it’s undeniable that the world is in a really chaotic and violent place right now,” Ms. Gyllenhaal said. Lately, she has been particularly concerned about the mounting civil unrest in Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf has declared emergency rule.

“I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to do everything they can to help sort out as much as they possibly can,” she said.

Ms. Gyllenhaal is an outspoken Democrat and a card-carrying A.C.L.U. member, but she said she understands that remaining politically proactive can be hard. After all, together with fellow actor Peter Sarsgaard, she is the parent of a one-year-old girl, Ramona. And “shocking” is how Ms. Gyllenhaal described the postnatal decrease in her once-voracious newspaper habit.

But simply keeping abreast of current events is, in her view, not enough even. “It’s important I think not to say, ‘Oh, I’m reading the newspaper; I’m actually doing something,’” she explained. “It doesn’t mean you’re taking action. But I’m not going to stand on any kind of high horse and say I’m doing all that much.”

Last week, Ms. Gyllenhaal shut the door on eight months of work for director Christopher Nolan’s newest contribution to the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight. In the film, she plays assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes (a role vacated by Katie Holmes, who wore the stainless character’s shoes in Batman Begins.) Laughing loudly, Ms. Gyllenhaal admitted that she has nothing else in her professional hopper at the moment. “I’m hoping to find something that I like and where they like me.

"It’s hard sometimes to make those things mesh,” she said quietly, before erupting: “I also have a baby! So I’m not actually dying to rush off and work, but I’m looking for something.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal on the Uses of Fashion and the State of Pakistan