Hi, It's Martha

One crisp fall afternoon, domestic goddess extraordinaire Martha Stewart and esteemed actress Martha Plimpton realized they have a lot in common. Though it was their first time speaking to each other, they soon bonded over gardening, dogs, and the art of upholstery. They also discovered that they might be tangentially related by marriage. Personal approach to social media is one area where they differ: Save for the occasional "thirst trap," Stewart, 80, keeps her accounts intentionally anodyne, while the 51-year-old Plimpton, currently being heralded for her role as a grieving mother in the film Mass, is "pretty political" on her feed. No matter; their shared can-do spirit is at the heart of their Marthahood. 

Hello to you both. Thanks for doing this! 

Martha Plimpton: Hello! Very nice to meet you, Martha! It's a very exciting moment for me. 

Martha Stewart: Me too! I have a brother-in-law called Randy Plimpton who professes to be related somehow to the Plimptons. Are you the same Plimptons who were in Long Island?

MP: I am! Absolutely. We're all related, yeah. 

MS: We're probably related by marriage. 

MP: Oh, how great! 

Look at that! How familiar are you with each other’s work?

MP: Obviously, I'm very familiar. Although I just learned about [the newly launched e-commerce site] Martha.com. Now I'm looking at it, and I'm certain that I'm going to be completely broke by the end of this afternoon.

MS: I saw you in one of your first big movies, The Mosquito Coast [1986]. I love that movie. That's when your face imprinted in my brain; I never forgot it after that. You have a very sweet face.

MP: Aw, thank you! I love that movie too. 

What does it take to be a successful Martha?

MS: Well, for me, I am so busy that it's almost too busy. I have a personal documentary that I'm working on with [filmmaker] R.J. Cutler. I have a huge number of archives, and to make a documentary that brings in current events along with my life is very hard. Then I have an autobiography to write; I have a company to run; I have TV shows. I have way more to do than any one human being should at the same time. Then I realize I haven't had a vacation in two years, and I haven't really relaxed for a hundred years. It's crazy. 

What about you, Martha Plimpton? I remember you were voted hardest-working actress at one point. 

MP: Well, yes. I'm not anywhere near as busy as Martha Stewart, nor do I wish to be. I'm very happy, particularly now. It sounds so corny, but when I turned 50 [in November 2020], something clicked. I stopped giving a shit about anything but being happy and living the life I want to live. Certainly, there are things I want to do that I haven't done, and there are days when I feel frustrated or like I'm not doing enough, but ultimately, I am living my best life right now. I'm working and traveling. I have three beautiful homes and wonderful friends. I certainly can't complain.

Would you both consider yourselves ambitious, then? 

MS: Well, of course, I'm very ambitious. I like having a stack of projects. I like to be very, very busy. That said, I think I've "been there, done that" a lot, and now I just wonder if that's not the end-all. There are a lot of other things to do rather than being ambitious. 

MP: I would agree with Martha. Yes, I feel I am ambitious, but maybe not in the typical sense. I'm not an early riser, necessarily. I have hopes and aspirations, but at the same time, there are a lot of actresses who are sort of multifaceted in their work: They're producing; they're writing; they're directing. I think of myself more as an interpretive artist. I don't need to be in control of every single aspect of the industry. It's more of an organic kind of thing. A desire to stay moving and try new things. 

Is there something you might want to learn from each other?

MP: Absolutely. I'd love to learn about farming, because I've gardened, but I've never farmed. And sewing. I don't know the first thing about sewing, and I'd love to be someone who could sew. I think that's an incredibly wonderful skill to have. 

MS: Really, huh? During COVID, we did sewing, we did knitting, we did upholstery, you know, all kinds of little projects. I haven't forgotten how to do any of that stuff. 

MP: Upholstery, that's an amazing thing! I hope to get a little travel trailer so I can drive with my dogs rather than fly because it's so traumatizing, and I would love to be able to reupholster my travel trailer. 

MS: That would be fun. 

Maybe this could be an episode of a show.

MP: Maybe it could! DIY, make your own travel trailer. 

Martha Stewart, were you ever inclined to act?

MS: What I can learn from somebody like Martha Plimpton is maybe how to be an actress. Although people say I could act, I have never really acted except in a few little TV commercials and stuff. But I would like to be in a full-length movie. That's one goal I would really like to achieve. I would like to be an actress playing a part at some point. 

MP: We can certainly trade tips anytime. Happy to do it. 

It’s like Trading Places, Martha edition! You both have pets. Martha P., you have two dogs. How many animals do you have now, Martha Stewart?

MS: Oh, about 350. [laughs] Those are the ones that I know about. And then all the wild animals, like birds and stuff. So, we have a lot of animals on my farm. They would all come into my house if I let them! But there must be a certain amount of separation. My Chow [Chow] dogs would probably kill the geese. 

MP: Do each of the animals have names or only some?

MS: No, only the dogs and the cats and the horses and the donkeys. You don't name chickens.

Naturally. How would you each describe your personal style?

MS: I am a very simple dresser. Until I started doing a daily television show, I had very few clothes. I had one closet, and it was a small closet. I remember being invited to a holiday party early on in my marriage in the 1960s and realizing there was nothing that I could possibly wear. I started to cry. 

MP: Awww!

MS: Then I ran down to 38th Street [in N.Y.C.], and I bought a piece of beautiful raspberry red peau de soie silk and made myself a dress. At the time I had a friend whose aunt owned a shop on Park Avenue, and she would buy the patterns from Balenciaga and Lanvin in Paris and then loan them to me. I made a beautiful square-necked dress with a cinched waist and a sort of puffy skirt, and that's what I wore to the party.

MP: Oh, how fabulous!

MS: It was fabulous! But I would say that I'm more classic in my choice of clothing. Shirts — work shirts, khaki shirts — jeans, and well-fitting slacks are kind of my thing.

MP: Yeah, you always look so elegant, and, obviously, it works on you. My tastes are pretty much the same. I've gone through a few phases. I grew up in the '80s, which is unfortunate, style-wise. The clothes were not particularly attractive — it was big sweaters and Air Jordans. I don't think I ever had any particular style until recently. I like very well-fitted slacks with wide legs and a high waist. And button-down shirts. I have a favorite store that I like to shop at in London called Toast, and they basically make my uniform. Just boxy but very chic. When it gets cold, I go to Walker Slater, and I get my tweed jackets and my vests. And I can't take the heels anymore.

MS: I love wearing high heels and high shoes; I wear high platforms. Also, after I discovered Hermès, Brunello Cucinelli, and The Row, I sort of went for those clothes. 

I don’t like to post any pictures of me looking bad, and I don’t like to post pictures of other people looking bad either.

You both have public Instagram accounts, and Martha Stewart, you will post about thirst traps, which brings me and the rest of the Internet much joy. 

MS: I don't necessarily post all the time about thirst traps, but people like to see a woman like me looking good. And it's really flattering. When I see a picture that looks especially great, I post it. As a result, I don't like to post any pictures of me looking bad, and I don't like to post pictures of other people looking bad either.

MP: I'm dubious, but I also semi-participate [in social media]. I quit Twitter ages ago just because it was a total time suck and an energy destroyer. I had no use for it. But I still do Instagram. I post pictures of things I like or things that have something to do with my charity, A Is For, which is about abortion rights. I think it's important to talk about abortion openly and remove some of the stigma that surrounds this subject, because too many people are afraid to even talk about it. It's health care, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Lately I've also been posting a lot of stuff about getting vaccinated, so I am pretty political on my page. I don't often read the comments; there are trolls who come on, and I just block them. No time for you!

MS: As an actress you can say whatever you want, and you're not going to lose too much. But as the face and founder of a major magazine, it's hard for me to take a political stance on anything, so I don't do that. You don't want to lose 50% of your readers. But I want people to know that I care about humanity; I care about the well-being of as many people as possible; and I care that we pay attention to these signs all around us pointing to disaster.

MP: I agree 100 percent. We're not all Jeff Bezos with a bunch of spaceships that we can go and colonize Mars with. This is it. You know?

MS: Jeff Bezos is never going to Mars.

MP: You know what I mean. We've only got this one planet!

MS: For the holidays, I'm trying to figure out how we can go to Antarctica and see the beauty of that amazing place. I've been already, but I want the [grand] children to see it before it melts. We plan our vacations to get to places before they are no longer the place that I remember them to be. My favorite trip was the Galápagos [Islands] until 20 years later when I took my grandchildren — it was a totally different place, and they were very disappointed, as was I. So, I want to get to places before they're disappointed. It's hard because the world is changing so quickly.

MP: I think that's very wise of you and a very loving thing to do, to make sure that they're able to see these places before they're gone. 

What are your plans for the holidays, Martha P.?

MP: I'm going to my mom's house in Oregon. We'll get a tree, decorate it with antique ornaments, fire up the 78 player, cook, and hang out with the dogs. It'll be boring, and I'm really looking forward to it. My mother and I, we're all about Christmas. We're kind of like Christmas fascists.

MS: Sounds like a good time! [laughs] 

For more stories like this, pick up the December/January 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Nov. 19. This digital download date changes every month and will be included with the email Shari sends about that month's assignments.

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