Rooney Mara

For Oscar-nominated actress Rooney Mara, getting into character is no joke. Embracing the darkly compelling, deeply damaged persona of androgynous Swedish hacker Lisbeth Salander for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a top priority for the breakout star, who underwent a shocking, 180-degree transformation for the role. We'll never forget the first time we saw her in full Salander mode on the cover of W magazine with a raven mohawk, eyebrow and lip piercings, and a chest tattoo! They say that life imitates art, so it's not surprising that Mara's personal style was impacted too, evolving from youthful, girly selections to her current taste for austere and edgy looks. From skin-baring cutouts to architectural silhouettes, Mara's latest sartorial choices are unquestionably sophisticated and unfailingly fashion-forward. As such, Mara seemed a fitting choice for this month's edition of Style Spotlight!

Promotional events for the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo have invariably served as Mara's must-see fashion show, replete with countless black dresses and elegant gowns from in-demand designers. Her willingness to take risks on the red carpet landed her on numerous best-dressed lists, including our recent Golden Globes coverage. Speaking of daring sartorial moves, praise is in order for Mara's ability to pull off a number of skin-revealing silhouettes. For example, at the premiere of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Germany early last month, the actress selected a Michael Kors dress from the Pre-Fall 12 collection, which featured a slashed bodice and a leg-baring asymmetrical hemline (bottom row, left). Earlier that day at a photocall, she revealed even more skin via a head-turning midriff crop top and A-line skirt from Miu Miu's S/S 12 collection (top row, right). While these ensembles could appear flirtatious on other women, Mara's minimal beauty choices-pulled-back hair, natural makeup-make the outfits strong and chic. The grey and black colour palette also elevates the more revealing silhouettes, ensuring her final look is feminine in a fuss-free way.

Though Mara appreciates cutout frocks for red-carpet appearances, they're not the only kind of dresses in her arsenal! The actress also favours unfussy, simple, and occasionally classic silhouettes, as demonstrated by the black cap-sleeve Miu Miu shift she wore to the National Board of Review Awards Gala in New York last month (top row, left). And though our style subject is currently having a love affair with the colour black, her lighter choices prove quite memorable as well! How could one forget her ensemble at the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund last year (bottom row, right)? The actress looked radiant in Calvin Klein Collection's almost-nude Pleated Panel Slip Dress ($3795, 212.292.9000). Of course, the look was not complete without Mara's signature touch, this time a swipe of wine-coloured lipstick.

Naturally, Mara's edgier approach to fashion is also apparent in her off-duty attire. Often lacking overtly feminine pieces, her cold-weather uniform typically consists of a statement piece and biker boots, like the Yves Saint Laurent Prince of Wales Checked Dress ($3,350, 212.980.2970) and AllSaints Damisi Boots ($295) she wore arriving at David Letterman last month (large image). While Mara's style has changed dramatically from her decidedly sweet and girly sensibilities two years ago, her outfit choices are still exceptional, and as always, truly inspiring.

Happily, attaining Mara's signature look is easier than you think. Just be sure to grab a few of today's suggested items! Sartorial risk-takers after Mara's revealing choices will certainly get a kick out of Guess' Miranda Corset Dress ($185) and ASOS' Paprika Cut Out Body-Conscious Dress ($25); both sultry picks are well-suited for a GNO. If you felt drawn to our style subject's crop top and A-line skirt combo instead, snag Opening Ceremony's Cropped Cable Tank ($262) and Herve Leger's Signature Essentials A Line Skirt ($750) for an equally stylish look. Tend to err on the conservative side? Try Keepsake's Make You Mine Dress ($185) for an asymmetrical hemline similar to Mara's Michael Kors dress or Topshop's Plain Shift Dress ($72) for a minimalist silhouette. We also approve of Antipodium's Sleeveless Dress ($519) in Silk Organza and Parker's Side Ruffle Dress ($198), as both offer spot-on alternatives to Mara's Calvin Klein slip dress and give you a head start on spring's pastel trend too!

Last, but certainly not least, you need just a few essentials to emulate Mara's off-the-clock outfits. Most important of all is a statement coat, like Markus Lupfer's Asymmetrical Coat ($408) or Clemens en August's Tartan Wool-Blend Coat ($535). Then, pick up either her exact AllSaints boots or Madewell's similar Lace-Up Combat Boots ($178), and finish with Love Quotes' Eyelash Fringe Scarf ($62). Whatever pieces you go with, opt for minimal accessories and a natural beauty look to really mimic Mara's cool style!-Jessica Baker

Photos of Rooney Mara, courtesy of Pacific Coast News, Splash, and Wenn.