We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."
"Purple is my favorite color. Leopard print's my second favorite color. Glitter's my third," says Nicole Byer, with her signature infectious enthusiasm.
Like the true professional she is, the "Nailed It" host and star of the new NBC sitcom "Grand Crew" gamely jumped on a call with Fashionista, despite suffering through a root canal and wisdom teeth removal just two days earlier. Byer is an ace multitasker: She's an actor ("The Good Place," "Home Economics"), a stand-up comedian, a writer, a voice work artist ("Tuca & Bertie") and a triple-Emmy-nominated host of the Netflix feel-good baking disaster show and of "Wipeout," with John Cena, all while anchoring about 5,000 podcasts, including my favorite, "Why Won't You Date Me" and "Best Friends" with BFF Sasheer Zamata. She does most — or all — of these jobs simultaneously, on top of consistently making an impact with her fashion. (Yes, I watch "Nailed It" to see Byer banter with her très French and delightfully giggly co-host Jacques Torres not keep a straight face while taste-testing questionable baked goods, but also to see her debut a series of outfits usually involving sparkle of some kind.)
Byer meshed her clever, insightful, warm (like, how can you not just melt when you hear her laugh?) and she-went-there humor with her impeccable taste in swimwear in her 2020 book, "#VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl's Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini." Gracing the cover in a purple two-piece, she exhibits her stellar modeling skills while empowering readers to wear what makes them feel the happiest and most confident.
Oh wait, one more: She's also a skilled pole dancer, as seen in an awkward brother-sister outing in "Grand Crew" — kind of like a "Friends," but Central Perk is a Los Angeles wine bar — and the intro of her Netflix standup special, "Nicole Byer BBW (Big Beautiful Weirdo)," in which she makes her grand entrance in a playful burger bikini she found online and absolutely kills on-stage in a faaaaabulous purple pantsuit, custom-made by fashion and costume designer Howie B.
"I just told Marko [Monroe, her stylist], [I want a] purple suit with maybe leopard print underneath. He's like, 'What if we did a leopard print crop?' And I was like, 'Yeees, let's do it!'" she says. "Then, truly, I didn't see a sketch. I didn't see anything. I did my fitting and I almost started crying because I was like, 'You literally actualized exactly what I wanted to be wearing. I just wanted to be like a Power Bitch Barbie."
Monroe, who also styles Lizzo, has collaborated with Byer on excellent editorial looks, like a white corset dress and a shimmering green slip in a December The Hollywood Reporter feature, as well as red carpet moments. For the 2021 Emmys, she stunned in a purple Christian Siriano gown, which made all the best of galleries, as she'll discuss more in detail below.
Byer's close relationship with fashion (and juggling projects), however, has veered into the hazardous territory: Last year, she broke her ankle walking down her stairs while unzipping a garment bag holding the rainbow pastel tulle dress she wore for the "Double Trouble" season premiere of "Nailed It." Does she still have the dangerous dress? "Sure don't!" she says. "Maybe it stayed in my living room for a while, but then I stuffed it in my closet upstairs and was like, 'This has to leave. This is cursed.' So then I gave it to my friend Meatball."
Ahead, Byer discusses working with Monroe on her cry-worthy red carpet looks, shopping with best friend Zamata and urging brands to be more size inclusive via the 'gram.
"Marko works with Lizzo, and I wouldn't say Lizzo's style is necessarily my personal style, but I just like that she's daring and wears things that you wouldn't expect somebody to wear. That's cool to me. I like that Marko looks in unexpected places. He's not afraid to reach out and be like, 'Hey, can you do this custom?' We just have a vibe where I trust him and I give my input. It's not minimal, but I'm not crafting a look — he's crafting a look and sometimes, I'm like, 'Oh, I don't like that' or, 'Oh, that was a little too high for me.' But for the most part, he really understands what I want to look like, which is: adorable, elevated, but cute, with a wink to shit, you know?
"The Siriano Emmys look... I love purple. It's truly just my favorite color. Marko showed me the color and I was like, 'Yeah, I don't give a shit what it looks like. I just love that color.' Then it came and I put it on and I almost, again, started crying because I was like, 'I've never felt this pretty.' A lot of straight size people can go to a store, find something fabulous, wear it and feel good, whereas fat women don't always have that luxury. We've got six stores to go to, or you order something online and it takes two months to get to you, then, when you get it, you're like, 'Oh, they just made the pattern bigger. They didn't fit this to a person. The rise has to be a little bit longer or whatever. It's just wide.'
"It felt good that Christian took my measurements — this is the second time he's done a dress for me — and even left a little bit extra fabric in case I want to take it in a little bit. It's easier to take something in than to let it out. But we pinned it and it fit perfectly. Moira [Frazier], who did my hair, gave me this whole kinky texture up-do, this Brigitte Bardot [style]; Jen [Fragozo], my makeup girl, was like, 'Let's do this eye and this lip.' So it just really all came together, and I truly never felt prettier.
"For my personal style, I'd like to think, if I traveled back to the '80s or '90s, they be like 'OK, something's up.' I wear a lot of old vintage mixed with new pieces. The vintage is a nod to when I lived in New York and didn't have any money. I would nanny and on Wednesdays, when the Salvation Army had a half-off sale, I'd bring him down with me and get a whole new outfit for like, I don't know, $5. I learned how to move buttons over on stuff, so I could augment garments to fit me — because, again, it was like, 'OK, so you could go to Lane Bryant and pay like $100 for a pair of pants or you go to Salvation Army, buy a pair of pants for $5 and then move a button to make them a little smaller or hem them or whatever.' I still like vintage stuff because it's fun and it's patterns that you can't find in places.
"I do love the '80s and '90s, and I've always been about big, loud prints and colored denim. I have these purple jeans that fit me so good. They're Lane Bryant from the '80s and have a little bit of stretch in them. Then I have this vest with zebra print that I love. I'm not in a dress phase right now, but I have so many vintage dresses that I just love, some vintage rompers that I really like to wear in the summer.
"I perform a lot in vintage shirts. I love stripes, especially horizontal stripes, because I grew up with people being like, 'You can't wear horizontal stripes. You're fat.' Then I grew up and I was like, 'Oh! You can wear anything you want.'
"For vintage online, I like to shop a store called Shop Fatties. She specializes in plus size vintage and is really, really, really, really wonderful. Usually it's hard in L.A. and in New York because things are so picked over, but there's a place in the Valley that I like that's literally called Super Thrift Store. Every time I go, I find at least one or two things that are amazing. Generally, when I tour, I will hit up thrift stores and find magical things. I found these old, again, Lane Bryant shorts from the '90s, in North Carolina with my best friend, Sasheer; they're denim shorts with stars all over them, and I love them so so much. She's got this jumpsuit that we found in Edmonton that I love. It's funny because when she wears the stuff that we found together, I instantly remember it.
"[When we shop together], we're loud and we do laugh and we pick out funny things for each other to try on. She'll find things for me and I'll find things for her, so it's really a team effort. If they don't have anything in my size, she's pretty cognizant of like, 'Does it stretch? She might be able to get these over her tiny little titties.' She's a very kind, thoughtful, wonderful friend, and shopping with her is the best. Oh my god, am I gonna cry?
"But then, sometimes, you're like, 'I deserve something new that doesn't smell like mothballs.' I've been trying to shop ethically... But then you're just like, 'No, I want more things!' I'm an impulse shopper. I love just buying shit. I love buying things and waiting by the door for my package to arrive. I love opening them and going 'Oh, boy, these all have to go back.' And then they sit in my house. I just got a lovely new assistant, and she does the returns for me! Her name's Cleo. I love Cleo!
"I recently bought this cute little outfit to go to sleep in... Oh! 'Pajamas.' They're light purple and pink patchwork with flowers on them, then there's a little hoodie. They're really, really cute. I just bought leopard print overalls that uh, this... this person picked out for me. Ha ha ha, how vague and weird [am I being]? A friend of mine picked them out for me and they're really, really cute. I bought these really fun Nikes that another friend picked out for me.
"I found this store called Lisa Says Gah, which is a funny name for a store, but it has these really comfy flared ribbed pants that I'm wearing right now. I'm trying to get into cute loungewear, not keeping my trash to wear around the house, you know what I mean? Lisa Says Gah has a ton of stretchy things. So, if someone's a little bit bigger than me, they could probably fit into these a little ribbed pants.
"I like Big Bud Press; it has a lot of colorful shit. I didn't think the pants would fit me right; I went on the website and it said, '[The pants fit] tight. You have to break them in.' So I broke in a pair of pants and I was like, 'Ooh! They fit really well.' Rachel Antonoff makes really, really great jumpsuits. I've never had a jumpsuit fit me so well. I'm wearing a shirt from Wray and they go to a [6XL].
"No one's ever gotten back to me [after I post on Instagram stories asking brands to be more size inclusive]. Farm Rio is a brand that I fucking love and has some oversized pieces, but like, 'Just do plus size, please.' I just don't get it. Fat people have money. It's like, 'Yeah, fat people should be able to wear nice things.' But it's also like, 'We have money. We have money to spend. Let us spend it.'"
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.