The actress writes that she hit her style stride after three decades in Hollywood and a couple mid-nineties misfires — just in time to be thrown off her game anew with her second pregnancy.

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Christina Ricci
Styling by Sean Knight. Hair by Teddy Charles/The Wall Group. Makeup by Lisa Storey/The Wall Group.
| Credit: Martin Schoeller

I was totally discombobulated by the idea of being a famous person early on in my career. I wasn't comfortable being photographed, especially on the red carpet. I'd hear about people like Robert De Niro, who didn't always have to do press, and think, "Why can't that be me?" It was difficult to have confidence in outfits I put together myself. Eventually I figured it out, but it was trial by fire. 

Christina Ricci
Ricci in 1998.
| Credit: Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection/Getty

It can be a struggle to show who you are through your style as you're growing up, especially when you're not 100 percent sure of that yourself. I've played characters for work all my life, so the last thing I want to do is look like something I'm not.

To this day, I have so many fashion regrets. I remember going to a premiere after a photo shoot in 1998 — I had intense makeup on and decided to wear a wild cape from Anna Sui. It must have been dark in my apartment, because when I stepped outside, my publicist said, "Oh, no. We shouldn't have done the crazy makeup and the crazy cape." At the event, other actresses tried to make me feel better by saying my look was "kind of Bowie-esque," which was nice. But I was still horrified. 

Christina Ricci
Ricci in 2002.
| Credit: Toni Anne Barson Archive/WireImage

In my mid-20s, I started wearing things that felt good. Until that point, I was told I had to be different from who I was; we weren't encouraged to be ourselves back then. Everyone was supposed to look the same and be less specific, so I tried to be as commercial as possible. I didn't want to appear goth since that wasn't popular in Hollywood, but that didn't work because everyone seemed to classify my style at the time as goth anyway. Today pop culture doesn't expect people to conform. If you don't want to go the route of surgery, fake teeth, and extensions, you don't have to. You can be real. 

Certain projects have come along when I really needed a change, like The Addams Family [1991], The Opposite of Sex [1998], and Buffalo '66 [1998]. But it was never my goal to play edgy characters. If you'd asked me in my 20s who I wanted to be, I would have said Sarah Michelle Gellar. I auditioned for rom-coms a lot in the early 2000s, but I'm just not believable at saying "I love you" on camera. I have different specialties, and you need to hire the right craftsman for the right job.

Christina Ricci
Ricci in 2009.
| Credit: AFP/Getty

When I did Monster [2003] at 22, it was difficult for me to wear a hideous wig and no makeup. But now taking on a character free of vanity is liberating. In my new show, Yellowjackets, I play a woman named Misty who is not at all sexy. There was no ego involved in creating her, and it's funny to see people aghast at how you're willing to look. I once caught a younger actress on set looking at my overdrawn lips like, "Is she actually going on camera like that?"

Christina Ricci
Ricci in 2017.
| Credit: John Sciulli/Getty

At 41, I finally feel like an adult, and it's incredible. Sometimes I think I would've been more confident had I been allowed to establish who I was for myself, without other people telling me who I should be. I was still very insecure in my thirties, but I'm much more comfortable in my forties. Although I will say that, being pregnant [with my second child], some days I'm just like, "Whose body is this?" I'm 5'2, so I'm basically just a ball with arms and legs at this point — and that is difficult to dress.

I was able to wear Fendi and Rodarte and Batsheva early on, but now nothing is forgiving. Luckily I'm good friends with [Fendi artistic director] Kim Jones, who promised to help dress me for events so that I look less like a ball.

Christina Ricci
Ricci in 2020.
| Credit: Tommaso Boddi/Getty

What matters most to me at this point is having a fulfilling life and a happy family. Based on my own experience, I don't think I would ever let my kids go into acting as children — I wouldn't want to expose them to the judgment of the whole world before they're able to handle it. Once they're mature, fully formed adults, they're welcome to make that decision on their own.

Although the different aspects of fame can be frustrating at times, I've never considered leaving acting behind. I love the glamour of it all — getting dressed up, having my hair and makeup done, flying all over the world to fashion shows. Even after 30 years, nothing compares to walking onto a set and feeling like a movie star.

Yellowjackets airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime. 

For more stories like this, pick up the December/January 2022 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Nov. 19.