It’s a frustrating fact that, even in this new era of much improved plus-size clothing options, it can still be a struggle to find the right ensemble for a very specific occasion. What, then, do you do if your TV show becomes a runaway success and you are making highly photographed public appearances everywhere from panels to award shows?
Despite her sudden ubiquity, This Is Us star Chrissy Metz never seems to repeat a look, playing with hot pink and bright flowers and recently getting downright edgy with the red latex babydoll dress she wore to present at the MTV Movie Awards. At least once—in the case of this sundress covered in lipsticks—I’ve found myself googling frantically in an attempt to figure out where it came from, so I could get my own.
In her March Harper’s Bazaar profile, Metz shouted out her stylist, Jordan Grossman, for encouraging her to experiment. Together they craft not just ready-to-wear looks, but also custom looks with dressmakers. I called up Grossman to get more details on how they make it happen. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
JEZEBEL: So how long have you guys been working together?
Jordan Grossman: We’ve been working together since September. I met her about three weeks before the show premiered. Almost a year, basically.
So when you met she was starting this show, but you didn’t really know how big it would blow up, right?
I had no idea that it would blow up like this. I’m still like—and I say this to her all the time—I can’t believe I have your number in my phone book and I can text you. That’s how crazy it is to me, because it was like, just Chrissy, and now she’s become so much more and such a role model and an icon that people look up to. So, for me, it’s inspiring working with her, because it feels like we’re doing something good and inspiring other people.
Just to set the stage for somebody who isn’t as familiar with the ins and outs of the business, could you explain a little bit what you do in your capacity as a stylist generally? Not specifically for Chrissy, but what’s involved typically with the job.
It is all case by case. Every single client, celebrity, model, person that you work with is different. Shape, size, taste, colors—everything’s different. One second I could be working on pink frilly stuff and the next moment go to a completely androgynous kind of look. It all depends on the girl. But really what styling is about is listening to your client and feeling out what their style is.
What are some of the specific needs or challenges when you are working with a client that is plus size?
Well, you can’t generally just go over to the department stores and pick up something last minute. That is the challenge. Luckily, living in LA, there are Torrid, City Chic and those type of stores, but there’s very few of them, and they don’t always carry whichever type of body style/size your girl is. So it takes a bit more planning. You never know how something is gonna look. The key thing is tailoring. That is basically your number-one rule—have your pieces tailored, even if you just go to your dry cleaner tailor down the street, that can make a difference.
So an event like the MTV Movie Awards, where she wore that gorgeous red latex baby doll dress—how far in advance do you have to plan a big event like that?
It depends—obviously with the latex, that took more time, because it is latex and working with latex is basically a science. With that, we did one meeting with our latex designer, Jane Doe Latex, and she worked on it for three weeks and then we did another fitting and that was about it.
But since Chrissy’s entire year all happened so fast, we were hit with a lot of last-minute events or last-minute this or that. We’ve pretty much got it down to a science at this point. I would say I probably have, right now, a rack to a half a rack of already put-together outfits that we can just place wherever works best for her, whatever the event is. Because now it is very important to me and to her as well that it’s going to be different and not just something that we threw together in five minutes. We hope to do a thought-out outfit that others can be inspired by.
Are you using a lot of off-the-rack stuff? A certain amount is custom work, right?
I would say it’s 50/50 with her. Some stuff is off the rack and then we’ll tweak it a little—lowering a neckline, making it shorter, taking the sleeves off, something like that. And the rest is custom. When it comes to custom, it’s pretty much Chrissy and I putting stuff together, or I’ll see a fabric I really like and then we’ll go back and forth with ideas.
So when you first started working with her, how familiar were you with what’s involved in sourcing and shopping for plus-size clothing?
I was actually pretty up to speed. I had worked with another stylist who had a plus-size client, and I worked on a lot of her custom stuff, so I was pretty familiar with everything. It was just a matter of figuring out what was going to work best on Chrissy and what doesn’t. That was I guess the testing part, seeing what’s going to work best, what fabrics are best, what cuts, all of that good stuff.
So how do you figure out what brands to approach? Like I think of Melissa McCarthy talking about not being able to find a dress for the Oscars and that’s a complaint you hear, about the difficulty of getting someone to work with you. How did you figure out who to go to?
Well, I don’t want to be one of those stylists or people that, not complains, but makes a point of saying it’s so hard to find a dress for this and that, because it’s definitely out there. It just takes a bit of research and being knowledgeable of what’s going to work on your client and what’s not. So for me, in the beginning, it was kind of difficult finding a designer that actually understood Chrissy’s body. It wasn’t difficult to find people to make her stuff. It was just difficult to find someone who actually understood her body type. We had a few scenarios that they didn’t exactly listen to what we were saying and the outfit didn’t really work because it wasn’t anything that would ever work on her body.
That’s also how we got into doing custom, because I know what’s going to work on her, I know what fabric I want, I know where to get it. Instead of being constricted to one person’s idea who’s never seen her in person before.
But luckily we’ve come across a lot of amazing brands like Eloquii, Torrid, Yona New York has made some amazing pieces for her. The list goes on and on. And now I get emails almost every day with someone offering to make Chrissy custom stuff.
Tell me about how you go about doing the custom pieces. For instance, her dress for the Critic’s Choice Awards, you guys created that one yourselves, right?
That one, I had seen that fabric like the first week I had met Chrissy, in September. And she really loved it and I ordered it and sent this reference photo to one of our custom dressmakers and, you know, a couple of days later we tried it on and did some tweaks and that was about it. So it’s really, it’s not as complicated as it may seem. It’s really about finding what fabric inspires us and what we can do with it. So there’s been plenty of times where I’ve bought fabrics that I’ve seen and it doesn’t actually work. It’s still always seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Is it common for stylists to do a lot of custom work? Or is that something that you do for her specifically?
It just depends on who you are. If you’re a musician, you do a lot more custom work because usually, you know, musicians have a certain style or taste that they’re going to fit into. But for us, the reason I do custom is because I don’t want to be constricted to what’s in the stores. I want to be inspired by other things. Like right now I’m working on a blue velvet tuxedo for her. I love Eloquii, I love Torrid, I love all the brands, but it’s like, sometimes you just want to do something different. And if we have the capability to, why not?
That’s always been one of the most frustrating things about dressing as somebody who’s a size 22/24—you knew whenever you went somewhere there was a good chance somebody your size was going to be wearing the same thing. For a long time the universe of options was so limited. That’s less true now, but that’s what’s so cool about seeing what she wears—I can’t immediately be like, oh yeah, there’s that dress that I’ve seen and there’s that dress that I’ve seen.
Exactly. But also we like to do different shapes and stuff—like, she wore something to Paleyfest about a month and a half ago. It was a Prabal Gurang X Lane Bryant collaboration. It was a skirt and a blouse and instead of just tucking the blouse in, we did a little tie on it so it was kind of a crop top but with a little tie on it. Which was different than it was worn in pictures. We just like to put a little spin on it.
How did you go about thinking about what Chrissy’s look or style is? Did you have some sort of a thesis about it? How do you go about creating a consistent style?
In the beginning we were going more girly feminine, and now we’re trying to be a little bit more edgy. She is America’s sweetheart, but she does want to dress a little more edgy and out there, like the latex dress. We’re not trying to stay in the lines of having her in one style. It’s a variety of different things. And you’ll see the next couple of months, it’s going to be from a blue tuxedo to a feminine dress to a pantsuit or gosh knows what. It’s just about what looks good, what she likes, what she’s comfortable in, what’s on trend.
If you’re plus size there’s this sense there are all these rules—all the stuff about black and stripes and just generally a sense of “this is what’s appropriate to wear.” And I think of this bright pink dress that she wore that was just very large and flowing and bright and present in a way that a lot of times people traditionally would steer you away from if you were that shopper. How do you guys think about those rules?
Well, we just threw the rule book out the window the first day I met her. The rules don’t apply to Chrissy and they don’t apply to what I’m trying to do for her. And the pink dress, Michael Costello made her that. I had seen that dress a couple of years before and I had always loved it, and I really wanted to do it on Chrissy. I had that dress for probably like three months before she wore it. So for me, if I see something, I’ll have it made and hold onto it until the right moment.
For that one, I know it was a lot of fabric and a lot of pink and just a lot happening, and it wasn’t something that was going to try and give the illusion of making her look smaller. But that wasn’t the point of it all. It was that she looked amazing in the dress. There’s a photo where her arms are out and all the fabric’s out and she’s almost yelling, I think. It was her smiling, screaming. And that is just the best photo of my life, basically. Because that says it all. She looks amazing, the dress looks amazing, and we couldn’t care less about what anyone says. As long as she’s happy, comfortable, looks great, feels great, that’s what’s most important.