Hailing from Sioux Falls, S.D., actress January Jones knows something about small towns. So slipping seamlessly into the cast of “We Are Marshall,” the film opening Friday about a Midwestern hamlet with a lot of heart, came naturally. This spring she will also appear in a new AMC television series called “Mad Men” in which she plays a Fifties housewife. “I love being dressed up,” Jones says from her home in Santa Monica, Calif. “It’s so easy to look in the mirror and just see the character.” And when it comes to her own ensembles, the 28-year-old — who is stylist-free, for now — takes the task just as seriously. “I love to go out and look for things and make meetings with designers myself,” she says. “I’ll do it as long as I have the time.” Here, the fashion-forward blonde expounds on life before Hollywood and dressing to stand out.

LIFE IN THE BIG CITY: Before landing in Los Angeles, Jones moved from South Dakota to New York to pursue fame and fortune. “Everything was a culture shock. The people were different, the sights were different, the food was different. But I was craving that difference. I was ready for it. I was experiencing a freedom I hadn’t before.”

FIRST GIG: Parodying Gwyneth Paltrow in a Jack-in-the-Box commercial. “I played Gwyneth in the pink [Ralph Lauren] dress and the slicked back hair, and I gave a quote-unquote Oscar to Jack for making cheeseburgers.” She met Paltrow at the Vanity Fair Oscar party last year, but — not surprisingly — declined to mention the spot.

MODEL CITIZEN: “I didn’t enjoy modeling. I wasn’t very good at it. I’m not very tall, and I wouldn’t say I’m unique-looking. Obviously, I wasn’t going to be a supermodel. But it prepared me for rejection. When I get turned down for acting jobs, I don’t sweat it. A lot of it has to do with physically what they had mind, or they wanted Natalie Portman. And what can you do about that?”

FAVE DESIGNERS: Alexander McQueen, Phillip Lim and Christian Lacroix. “I try not to look like everyone else. I’ll do vintage or sometimes I come home and I sew something to fit me or add buttons or cut off suspenders.”

This story first appeared in the December 21, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

FAVE SHOPPING HAUNTS: Satine, Yellow and Barneys New York for new ensembles; The Way We Wore for vintage. “I also love Urban Outfitters. It’s very cheap, so you can get all the trendy stuff and then chuck it.”

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