If Melissa McCarthy weren't working in comedy, it’s very likely that she would have been in the fashion industry, having moved to NYC in the '80s to attend FIT alongside her BFF Brian Atwood. While, happily, McCarthy’s early stints doing stand-up proved more fruitful than her time behind the workbench (two words: “which end?”), it’s evident from how different her clothing line Melissa McCarthy Seven7 is from the typical celebrity pet-project fare that she could have done very well for herself if her jokes didn’t slay, too. Case in point: how thoughtful, insightful, and passionate she is about every aspect of her collection, including the industry term her line is classified as, “plus-size.” “Women come in all sizes. Seventy percent of women in the United States are a size 14 or above, and that’s technically ‘plus-size,’ so you’re taking your biggest category of people and telling them, ‘You’re not really worthy.’ I find that very strange,” McCarthy told us. “I also find it very bad business. It doesn’t make a lot of sense numbers-wise. It’s like, if you open a restaurant and you say, ‘We’re primarily gonna serve people that don’t eat.’ It’s like, what? You would be nuts. Yet, people do it with clothing lines all the time, and no one seems to have a problem with it. I just don’t get why we always have to group everything into a good or bad, right or wrong category. I just think, if you’re going to make women’s clothing, make women’s clothing. Designers that put everyone in categories are over-complicating something that should be easy.” It’s not just the word that’s inherently less-than, but it’s how the plus category gets merchandised and placed in stores, too. “I don’t like the segregated plus section. You’re saying: ‘You don’t get what everybody else gets. You have to go shop up by the tire section.’ I have a couple of very big retailers that I think are going to help me chip away at that in a very meaningful way, and I’m really excited about it. I’m not ready to announce them yet, but they agreed to just put me on the floor. I said, ‘Run the sizes as I make them and let friends go shopping with their friends. Stop segregating women.’ And they said, ‘Okay.’”
Melissa McCarthy Seven7 comes in sizes four through a 28, and launches this month in retailers across the world, including Nordstrom, Macy’s, HSN, Lane Bryant, and Evans, which is a coup in the world of celebrity fashion lines that always feel more like a one-off side hustle than something that should exist on its own merit. The line is filled with sophisticated basics that come with considered details (pockets on everything!), and much of the inspiration comes from McCarthy’s own experience of not being able to find well-made, well-fitting, actually beautiful clothes, despite being a celebrity with incredible access. “Even starting with Gilmore Girls, [I’d say to the costume designer,] ‘Let’s rip the bottom off. Can I put different sleeves on it? If I rip this sweater apart, can you make a hat out of it?' And then when I would go out and shop by myself, I guess I was always kind of repeatedly disappointed that things skewed so much older or so much younger. It was always kind of like a grandmother or a 14-year-old hooker-type look, and I just thought, ‘Where are the clothes for me?’ And then I would have things made, and when I would wear them, I can’t tell you how many times I would have another woman say, ‘Oh my god, where did you get that?’ And I frankly felt guilty saying, ‘Oh, I made it for a show and I begged them for it because I loved it so much.’” These forays into custom clothes proved useful for McCarthy when designing her line. Standing up for yourself in the face of consumer research and market trends (those things responsible for the aforementioned “grandmother or 14-year-old hooker” binary) wasn’t an easy thing: “I got so many comments letters from women that are like, ‘Please don’t make a muumuu. Please don’t make crop tops and short sleeves.’ And certain manufacturers would tell me, ‘We want short sleeves, we want something that ends at the waist…’ Every single time they told me something, it was the exact opposite of what I wanted to wear.”
Partnering with Seven7 also gave McCarthy a new perspective on jeans. “They didn’t interest me before, and I was really reluctant to go into so much denim stuff," she says. "It never fits great, and they’re not that comfortable. By the end of the day, my knees and the seat of my pants are baggy, and I want to go home and rip them off. But [making them] changed the way I feel about it — I made them a little higher, I have a second button so they don’t push on a weird pressure point. The fabric doesn’t sag. I’m weirdly in jeans like four days a week now. I get what the fuss is about.” The line is already available on HSN, and if you like it, don’t like it, want more of something, don’t want something…speak up and say something. Melissa’s in it for the long haul. “I love to get feedback — I believe in collaboration and I think you can always learn a lot from people that immerse themselves in it. Every season, all you can do is improve.” After all, at the end of the day, the line is for you. “Sure — I don’t want to make stuff that disappoints me. But I don’t want to make stuff that disappoints other women, too.” For more ways to Fuck The Fashion Rules, click here.