Over 20 years ago, the wonderfully charming and funny Melissa McCarthy dropped out of the Fashion Institute of Technology to pursue a career in comedy. Now, at 44, the actress returns to her love of design with Melissa McCarthy Seven7, her own collection for women of all sizes, from 4 to 28, available in just a few days at melissamccarthy.com, HSN, Macy’s and Lane Bryant stores starting August 1.
“I wanted to make the clothes that I couldn’t find, especially for plus sizes,” she tells us over the phone, calling from the set of the upcoming comedy Michelle Darnell in Chicago. “I did not want the typical ‘make things bigger, make things drapier’ approach. I wanted to make things cooler.”
Hence, she set out to create “a closet that I wished I could go out and shop, but I didn’t feel like I could find,” she explains. She filled it with only her favorite things, like comfy jersey tees, tapered patterned cigarette pants in flattering grays and black and white graphics, abstract heart-print tops, cowl-neck sweaters in rich purples, knit wraparound sweaters, and blouses and slacks with hints of faux-leather. “I think fashion should be fun,” she says. “I dress for my mood. I’m eclectic. You can feel sexy or sporty or edgy, and the fun of it is that you don’t have to pick. Fashion’s not supposed to be a uniform, or else we would all be wearing smocks. You should be able to mix things up in different ways.”
Several weeks later, we caught up with her during her editor preview at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York City, where she walked us through each piece in her collection. She was cheerily giddy discussing the clothes she created for a line that's been two decades in the making. It was impossible not to share her excitement. Just scroll down and see.
You’ve wanted your own line since high school. How did you end up back at plan A?
I have fixated on making women’s clothing since then. When I went to college at Southern Illinois University, I went into clothing and textiles. When I moved to New York, I thought I was going to finish school at FIT. Then, my second night in New York, I did stand up and it threw me in a completely different trajectory for the next 20-plus years of my life. It’s wild. I feel crazy lucky to be able to do something that I spent so much time loving, and I love it just as much now. The first time I saw my name on the label, I completely got choked up. It seemed surreal. I just about died.
RELATED: Melissa McCarthy Opens Up About Confronting One of Her CriticsWhat was important to you to include in the line?
Honestly, just a cool T-shirt. It’s impossible to find one above a size 12. You can’t go get a Helmut Lang and get a cool distressed thing. Everything I found were older women’s tops that had bad cuts, bad everything. It’s all the little things, like a simple cool T-shirt, that somehow become unavailable just because you’ve gone above a certain size. About 57% of women in this country are a size 14 and I feel like you’re telling the largest group of women that something’s wrong with them.
So of course your line will have a cool T-shirt.
Yes. I’m making all sizes, from 4 to 28, but I’m giving special attention to plus size. I find it very unusual that for some reason there’s a feeling that once you hit a certain size, you don’t want clothes to fit well. It’s not true. You still have to fit the female form. We all have curves. I dress differently every day of my life, and most women should have the option to. For my pieces, I love that you can wear them preppy one day and you can wear them rock-and-roll the next. I feel like clothes have to be flexible, you’ve got to be able to wear it to work, or out, or to dinner. That’s how we dress now.
It’s so true! Your line is really a representation of your personality.
It is everything that I like. My daughter’s involved, too. Right now I’m wearing the Le Meow sweater. [She wore this on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.] My eight-year-old daughter Vivian drew the cat. I loved it so much. She’s done several other prints for me. Every season, she does one or two drawings for me. Some are all-over prints and some are graphics. I am so happy my daughter can be a part of this. She’s so excited, too.
You also included a lot of color.
I love color. I really love playing with prints and patterns. Somehow someone’s put it out there that you should only wear solids at a certain point in your life, and I just think that’s crazy. I love patterns. I love prints. I love mixing them. Sometimes the more you mix, the more interesting it gets.
Do you have any fashion don’ts?
No. If you love something and it makes you feel great, wear it. I have two young daughters so I don’t like anything that tears women down. If you want to wear a hot pink tutu and Dr. Martens, I am the first person to say I love it. That’s true too as a designer. I want to make comfy jeans that have studs all over the sides. Because why not?
There’s definitely an energy fashion can give you.
For sure—and it should be good. I know there are certain lines that are much more serious and austere, and it’s great, I have a love for those, too. But for my line, it’s really about what you are going to wear everyday. I wanted things to be comfy. Everyone is so busy now, I think you want to look like you’re completely put together and tailored, but you want to feel like you’re in your jammies. If you can merge those two worlds, you’ve got me.
RELATED: The Smart, Funny Ladies Who Still Can't Believe You're Talking About Their BodiesHow did you know the clothes hit that standard you set?
I tested a lot of the stuff out personally. I wanted to know if by the end of the day are my skinny jeans still skinny? Do they still keep their shape so by the end of the day you still feel like you look good? Everything comes up higher and has like a great waistband with fit in it so it stays to you and it also doesn’t gap in the back. I want people to feel and to look good.
It’s really about confidence.
It totally is. I don’t believe any of the shoulds, don'ts, this is out, this is in. Because the second something’s out and then someone wears it in a new way, it just comes right back in [laughs]. Nothing is out, because we’re constantly rehashing what we’ve already done. A friend of mine had something on recently that I absolutely loved, and she was like, ‘This is from high school!’
Will you merge your two loves and wear your clothes in your movies and on your show?
For sure! I think I’ll wear it all on Mike & Molly. It has a bit of energy and fun to it, and there’s whimsy to it, it doesn’t have to be too serious. I think most of the stuff I do can handle that. I plan on really wearing it on Mike & Molly exclusively, because it fits the character for sure.
Clearly, you’ve had experience. Not just growing up and in college, but you’ve made a lot of red carpet looks, too.
I designed almost all of them. I’ve had lovely things made, which is really fun. I just love the whole creative process. I love finding the fabric, figuring out the shape, and I even love the fails. I love when I think it should be this way, and we make it and we go, ‘Oh! Oh no, let’s remember that doesn’t work.’
What hasn't worked?
Different things. I have to remember I’m 5’2”, and I never, ever think about being 5’2”. So I try to do things that just simply take a little bit more height. Then I go, ‘Okay, I’m still 5’2” aren’t I? Let’s reevaluate.’ It’s the trial and error. It’s the same as acting or writing for me—you don’t have to get the right idea. It’s the struggle to get to the right idea that I find so fun and so creative. Because then when you do actually get it, you’ve worked for it, and it’s so exciting.
And you've worked so hard to see your own line in stores…
I’m just over the moon about it. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I first go to a store and see it. I feel like I’m going to pass out or burst out crying.
You’re going to tell all of the shoppers to buy it!
Yes, right before I pass out I’ll say, ‘Buy this!’