Chrissy Metz was designing her own clothes long before she started collaborating with stylists and seamstresses on red carpet looks. The This Is Us star’s interest in fashion started at a young age, and she’s opening up to PEOPLE about how the lack of options available to curvy women led her to find other ways to express herself.
“I was the only chubby girl in my friend group. I remember Wet Seal becoming popular when I was in school, but the clothes didn’t fit me the same way they fit my friends,” she shares. “Only Lane Bryant had clothing I could wear.”
Metz adds: “I had to make [my style] my own, because otherwise you’d look like someone’s grandma and you’re 14.”
Instead of having clothing swaps with her friends, the star began trading accessories.
“I got super creative. I made a purse out of an old Baskin Robbins ice cream tub,” she shares, adding that she also made bags out of old jeans and would bedazzle T-shirts she found at the local thrift store in her hometown of Homestead, Florida.
However, while she learned to cope, the actress maintains that some of the most difficult experiences she had as a teenager involved going back-to-school shopping.
“It was terrible. I had to settle for clothes. I wanted cute little cutoff shorts, but I had to get the longer ones because of my thighs. I thought, ‘Maybe I could cut them and maybe I could make them my own,’” she shared. “And then I would try to wear those little lacy bike shorts underneath them, because that was all the rage. It was really hard. My younger sister is thin and she would always be wearing cute clothes, so I had no one to talk to.”
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It wasn’t until she moved to Los Angeles at the age of 23 that she began feeling more confident in her self and her wardrobe.
“My style started to shift when I moved to L.A. I had a roommate who wore funky clothes. I was like, ‘If she can do it, I can do it,’” Metz says.
Now she’s happy to be part of the growing conversation on size inclusivity and feels it’s very important to encourage and empower young women to embrace their bodies.
“Because of the role of Kate on This Is Us and how her character was written, people got to see her many layers and realized she’s not solely characterized on her size or her weight,” Metz says. “I relate so much to that character. When I was younger, I was cognizant of being different and people made me feel that way. I had to cover up, and I always wore t-shirts around my friends. It’s a terrible thing, because size doesn’t, of course, equate to beauty. People aren’t educated and there’s fear around that. You might be bigger than the next person, but that doesn’t mean you’re not worthy or you’re lazy or whatever some people think plus-size is.”
Metz, who is the keynote speaker at CurvyCon on September 9, says she admires young body positive activists like Gabi Fresh and Ayesha Hines for breaking down boundaries in the fashion industry. “And Tess Holiday — I love that she’s not afraid to show her bum or her arms or her legs,” she says.
For more on Metz’s fashion journey, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, no newsstands everywhere.