If you've ever seen Stranger Things, the name Natalia Dyer likely conjures up an image of a seemingly innocent teenager outfitted in the cable knits and cardigans favored by her character, 16-year-old Nancy Wheeler. If so, you might have had trouble recognizing Dyer on Saturday morning, when she left behind small-town Hawkins, Indiana, for the mayhem of Milan Fashion Week, where she blended right in with the crowd in a head-to-toe black ensemble from Salvatore Ferragamo's pre-fall collection—appropriately enough, as she was about to sit front row at the house's fall/winter 2019 show.
As it turns out, she wasn't the only one to swap Hawkins for Milan this week. Her onscreen love interest and real-life boyfriend, Charlie Heaton, was right there with her when she discovered the "lovely surprise" Ferragamo had planned for her: a reunion with another of her Stranger Things costars, Joe Keery, whom she hadn't seen since last year, when they were in Atlanta shooting the show's third season. (Thanks to Keery's girlfriend, the actress Maika Monroe, their-run in doubled as a double date.)
Even before that, though, Ferragamo's show stood out from the rest on Dyer's schedule. It's the first under the leadership of the house's new creative director, Paul Andrew, who Dyer found to be a "a very lovely British gentleman" at her fitting the previous day, where he'd helped her pick out the all-black, "retro" ensemble that she wore to the show. Andrew didn't disappoint Dyer on the runway, either: "I think he did a great job," she said a few hours later in her hotel room, where she'd been trying to cope with her jet lag. "There were a lot of jumpsuits and very cool, wearable pieces—lots of big coats and bits of athleisure, which I always appreciate because I like to be comfortable," she continued. And while Andrew's patchwork wedges were the most widely praised, Dyer had her eye on a different type of footwear. "I really liked the men's shoes—I'm a big fan of the sort of Doc Martens, chunky look," she said.
In the two years or so that she's been attending Fashion Week, it's been relatively rare for Dyer to immediately want to wear the collections she takes in from the front row. Ferragamo's fall/winter designs, on the other hand, fit right in with the style she's developed as of late, staying true to comfort in her day-to-day life, and challenging herself to take more risks at premieres and events. "Playing Nancy has reaffirmed to me that I don't want to wear anything but high-waisted pants," she said with a laugh, though she's still working on branching out into wearing other '80s hallmarks, like brighter colors. (Thanks to her stylist Brad Goreski, she did manage to attend Oscar de la Renta's fall/winter 2019 show in a combo of bold pink and yellow.)
"I'm still new to the whole fashion thing," Dyer added. (Though it didn't take her long to catch on to the fact that "it seems like it’s always Fashion Week somewhere.") "It's a very interesting world to observe. I have a lot of respect for the prep work that goes into everything, but I'm still getting used to how the shows can be very short."
And while she's been dating Heaton since 2017, a year after they started filming Stranger Things, Ferragamo was actually only the second show they've attended together. Thanks to Heaton's choice of sunglasses and darker hues for his own ensemble, it was also the first time that they coordinated, though Dyer maintained that that hadn't been their plan. "Everyone seems to think we meant to, but we never intentionally coordinate," Dyer said, insisting that she and Heaton just have "like minds."
Yes, filming Stranger Things with her boyfriend is still, well, "a little strange." It's also been "really bizarre," Dyer continued, to be right there alongside Millie Bobby Brown and the rest of their younger costars as they grow up. "Finn [Wolfhard]’s taller than I am now!" the 22-year-old actress added of the 16-year-old actor who plays her little brother, who was just 12 when they first met. "We see them for seven months, and then the next time we do, it's like, Wow, who are you? Kids that age grow so fast." In another instance of the show carrying over to real life, she's also come to feel that "older sibling sense of protection" for Wolfhard and the rest of the youngins, too. "I'm kind of protective of the younger guys. I want to make sure they're OK—even though I can't say I know how to navigate it," she added.
Just like her costar Sadie Sink, Dyer promised that season three of the series, which premieres on Netflix on July 4, is set to be "very different" from the rest. "It definitely has a darker tone, and there's more action and more gross things," she said, declining to elaborate on the latter. Aside from Uma Thurman's daughter Maya Hawke joining their gang of teens, it's also "the first time we filmed in the summer, and since [the characters] are not in school, you get to see a bit more of their personal lives." (While getting to know more of Nancy's rather surprising backstory this season, Dyer also got quite familiar with what Claire's stores looked like in the '80s, seeing as the bulk of the action next season takes place in a mall.)
Dyer is spending more and more time out of Hawkins as of late. She just moved to a fourth-floor walk-up in New York City, and recently starred in the over-the-top art-world thriller Velvet Buzzsaw, which saw her play a victimized gallery assistant alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. As for what's next, she's not opposed to making like Sink and taking the leap from the front row to the runway—though not without a little prep. "I would definitely need to practice in heels," she said with a laugh.