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DeWanda Wise, Star of ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ Goes Thrift Shopping

Category: Fashion & Style,Lifestyle

Whooshing back the dressing room curtain, DeWanda Wise emerged in a red-and-white-striped bandeau top and matching wide-legged pants — a circus clown’s idea of resort wear. “Eighty-nine percent of my style choices are like, ‘Can I get away with this?’” Ms. Wise said, laughing. She decided that she could.

Nola Darling, the polyamorous character Ms. Wise plays on “She’s Gotta Have It,” now in its second season on Netflix, gets away with a lot, too.

During filming, Ms. Wise, 35, doesn’t have time to shop. But with the season wrapped, she was spending a cloudy afternoon at City Opera Thrift Shop, a charity store near Gramercy Park in Manhattan that she discovered as an undergrad at New York University.

A lot of Nola’s outfits come from thrift stores and the like. A lot of Ms. Wise’s do, too. At City Opera, a handsome shop with a mezzanine framed by wrought-iron balustrades, she had arrived in a black crisscross jumpsuit embellished with gold buttons. She had snagged it at a North Carolina flea market, then altered it to fit like a very snug glove.

A dress-up devotee since kindergarten, Ms. Wise began thrift shopping as a child in Baltimore. Sensitive to her mother’s financial situation, she adorned her hand-me-down wardrobe with colorful finds from the Salvation Army and Goodwill. “I’ve always had, like, a taste and an affinity for vintage,” she said.

Her style back then was “very bohemian, very layers oriented. Almost ’70s. I was really into bell bottoms.” She took that look to N.Y.U. and let it evolve after graduating, while working a series of survival jobs: teaching artist, a waitress at Umami Burger, a promotional model who got paid $30 per hour to stand around and look pretty at publicity events.

Now, as she stalked the racks like an apex predator in faun eye shadow, she was in an ’80s mood. Was she looking for anything in particular? “Probably just not crop tops,” she said. Nola had worn so many in the second season that it had actually become a running joke. “I was like, ‘Let me guess. A crop top.’”

She was briefly seduced by a black minidress with a leopard-print peplum but soured on it when she found the same dress on another rack. “Doesn’t this feel like betrayal?” she said.

Next, Ms. Wise considered a silky pink shirt, then put it back. “This is a nice lady shirt. I don’t really wear nice lady shirts,” she said. She has a closet full of nice lady shirts she had bought to audition for episodic television — a “Law & Order” here, a “Boardwalk Empire” there — in the 10 years since she went from struggling actress to star of a show.

Just before booking “She’s Gotta Have It,” she landed major roles in “Shots Fired,” a mini-series about a North Carolina police shooting, and “Underground,” a historical drama that also starred her husband, Alano Miller.

To audition for “She’s Gotta Have It,” she recorded a selfie video of Nola in bed, wearing what Nola would wear: a bra. “A very basic bra,” she said. “I don’t buy nice bras.” Her bra collection has since improved, largely because she has taken home most of the lingerie. “Thankfully my costume designer likes me,” she said.

Ms. Wise’s penchant for knowing what she wants also extends to her romantic life. She married Mr. Miller in 2009, three months after they met at a fund-raiser. It was a difficult time for both of them: his father was dying, her mother was incarcerated (she declined to disclose the crime). “Neither of us had any facade or barriers or boundaries,” she said. “It was just so clear. And it’s still so clear.”

They’re celebrating their 10th anniversary by producing a romantic comedy. It shoots in Chicago this summer.

When offered “She’s Gotta Have It,” Ms. Wise wavered, but once she talked it over with her husband and negotiated a very specific nudity rider (no full frontal, no fondling of her breasts), she decided she wanted that, too.

Nola’s life is messier than her own, and Ms. Wise likes that. Sometimes she envies it. “She’s taking up space to explore, and we haven’t seen a lot of black women do that,” she said.

After surveying the shoe racks, Ms. Wise sorted through her finds and took the remaining clothes to the front counter, where she spotted a pair of pink-rimmed sunglasses.

The sales representative, Marlene Gutierrez, approved. “Oh my gosh. You know your style, that is fabulous,” she said, admiring the frames. She told Ms. Wise that she had pulled a few items for her. Did she want to see them?

“Style me!” Ms. Wise said

Ms. Gutierrez held up a white sequined dress. “Too much?” she asked.

“Nothing is ever too much,” Ms. Wise said.

“Extra-small tube dresses are obviously my kryptonite,” Ms. Wise said, as Ms. Gutierrez handed her a few.

Finally there was a backless dress with red string insets. “That might be my birthday outfit, it’s in two days,” Ms. Wise said. “I’m going skydiving.”

The total haul: two tube dresses, the white sequined dress, the red-and-white two piece, two blouses, a knit skirt, a tennis skirt and a lacy number she called “Black Cher.”

The total came to $340. Ms. Gutierrez threw in the sunglasses for free.

“I guarantee you I will wear all these things within the next week because I’m like 5 years old,” Ms. Wise said, lifting the stuffed brown paper bag. “I won today.”

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