Natalie Portman made her mark early. The Oscar-winning star of Black Swan and Vox Lux turns 40 today, but she’s been a household name since she was 13, when she starred in 1994’s Lêon: The Professional. She stole scenes from established stars like Gary Oldman and Jean Reno and cemented her status as an it-girl. 

In fashion circles, Portman was equally in demand and displayed a keen sense of style right from the start. She arrived at Lêon’s Los Angeles premiere in a polka-dot faux fur, black slip dress, and coordinating opaque tights, capturing several mid-nineties trends in a single quirky look. The rise of red carpet minimalism is often attributed to stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Winona Ryder, but by the time Beautiful Girls hit theaters in 1996, Portman had immersed herself in the look. When she arrived at a film screening with slicked-back hair and a graphic Prada slip dress, Portman was every bit as chic as her Gen-X peers. 

At the start of her career, critics noted Portman’s gamine beauty, comparing her to classic cinema icons like Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood. Though she could pass for an Old Hollywood star, Portman’s persona is modern. Principled and highly educated, Portman’s uses clothing to convey messages about feminism, environmental activism, and animal rights. The Dior cape she wore at the 2020 Academy Awards famously featured the names of female directors embroidered into its fabric, but that wasn’t the first time Portman’s outfit mirrored her views. A vegan since the age of 9, she doesn’t wear designs made with leather and other animal by-products. The choice seems conventional these days, but twenty years ago, it was a radical red carpet statement. 

Portman’s influence has led to designer breakthroughs. She helped put her close friend Zac Posen on the map when she wore a piece from his collection to the premiere of Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones back in 2002. 

Rather than limiting her wardrobe, Portman’s decision to keep her fashion vegan has led to designers creating one-of-a-kind pieces that are as captivating as anything you’ll see on the runway. Case in point: 2015 Alber Elbaz created a head-turning lace Lanvin gown for Portman’s trip to the Toronto International Film Festival. Likewise, when she was pregnant with son Aleph in 2011 and daughter Amalia in 2017, Portman spent the entirety of awards season in dazzling custom pieces from labels like Viktor and Rolf, Erdem, and Valentino. 

These days, Portman keeps things simple. A longtime ambassador for the house of Dior, she’s right at home in Maria Grazia Chiuri’s timeless gowns or lacy mini-dresses. Off-duty, she sticks to her favorite pieces—jeans from Acne Studios, Rodarte t-shirts, and vegan versions of Adidas’ Stan Smith sneakers. Set to return to the big screen in 2022 with the release of Thor: Love and Thunder, Portman will soon treat fans to the first female incarnation of Marvel’s Norse hero and (hopefully) an expansive press tour wardrobe to boot.