Chrissy Metz is having her own red carpet renaissance. Over the past year, the This Is Us actress, 36, has worked to burst the “little black dress” red carpet bubble that curvy women face by stepping out in bold colors, whimsical prints, and even latex. But in this week’s issue of PEOPLE (on newsstands everywhere Friday), the star says feeling comfortable on the carpet took time.
“The red carpet transformed how I dressed,” she tells PEOPLE in our annual style issue. “I never wore form-fitting dresses before. There are a lot of people who make you feel uncomfortable if you show a chubby stomach, arm or leg. I was being educated, while becoming part of the conversation on size inclusivity.”
Metz, who works with L.A.-based tailor House of Cinderella on custom, one-of-a-kind pieces for red carpet appearances, says she makes a conscious effort to break away from basic black styles.
“When I started promoting This Is Us, I was worried about how things would photograph, but I slowly gained confidence,” she says. “I love bold colors and prints now, like the floral gown I wore to the 2017 Critics’ Choice Awards. Being a big girl, you want to hide sometimes, but with that dress, it was like ‘Boom! I’m here, in all my embroidered glory.'”
Another personal red carpet victory for the star? The red latex dress she wore to the MTV Movie Awards in May.
“People were up in arms: ‘There’s a big girl in latex!’ I was surprised, because it was a baby-doll silhouette I’d worn before, but everyone thought it was taboo.” Metz says. “I showed a little more cleavage than usual. As people, we evolve, and so do our fashion choices.”
Metz shares that she hopes her experimentation with different prints and fabrics prompts other women to have fun with fashion and make unexpected choices.
“I want to encourage women to enjoy what they’re wearing, as opposed to just finding a boring black dress that fits,” she says.
That’s why a clothing line is part of star’s 10-year plan.
“We need to be specific about how clothing fits different body shapes. I want to show personality, and make something that I want to wear,” she says. “If I don’t want to wear it, I would not want to sell it.”
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.