Because it's hard not to obsess over the fashion in grown-ish 

By Briana Draguca
January 26, 2018 02:00 PM
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Yara Shahidi is dominating 2018 and the new year only just started. Since the premiere of her black-ish spin-off, grown-ish, the 17-year-old actress has been sending social media into a frenzy on everything from her ultra-stylish wardrobe to societal issues students face on college campuses. And that’s not all she has us talking about. She’s slated to attend Harvard next fall, she’s was just named a brand ambassador for Chanel, and she recently launched the “18 by 18” philanthropic initiative to encourage young voters to take advantage of their power and vote. Is there anything this girl can’t do?

It’s no surprise that her character’s style on grown-ish isnothing short of powerful and on-trend. From bold printed dresses to leather mini skirts to menswear-inspired blazers, Shahidi experiments with a lot of clothing on set and luckily, has a trusted costume designer who understands Zoey Johnson’s relationship with fashion.

Credit: Aerie/Ali Mitton

“Michelle Cole, the costume designer, is phenomenal. She did the costumes for In Living Color, she did some for black-ish, and grown-ish too. She really does understand how integral our wardrobe is into our character,” Shahidi told PEOPLE at the Aerie Real Role Model Campaign launch dinner on Thursday in New York. “So we started the season with full mood boards, all sorts of stuff. I trust them so much so it’s more so that I get veto power if we ever come across an outfit I don’t like. But for the most part I like pretty much everything, and she does have that great eye for doing high/low [designers] and a lot of vintage stuff. She’s definitely opened my eyes to a lot. I have to shop with her.”

Shahidi added that dressing the characters on grown-ish is less about fitting the stereotype about what teenagers are expected to look like and more about expressing authenticity in who these characters really are. “It really is about who the person is and what they’re doing and so there are moments in which characters wear crop tops, there are moments in which somebody may wear something where theoretically more skin is showing but it’s driven by who they are personally and it’s not about trying to feed the theoretical need of this is what teenagers do. It always makes sense in the context of who that character is,” she told PEOPLE.

Credit: Aerie/Neil Rasmus

Since the wardrobe is such an integral part of the show, Shahidi reveals that constant wardrobe changes are the norm. In fact, she changed a total of 14 times during the first episode.

Although Shahidi admits it’s difficult for her to pick a favorite outfit, if she’d had to choose it would be the ’70s-inspired ensemble she wore during episode four. “There was one really retro kind of moment … I’m in a dress and I have bell-bottom jeans on and glasses and a little ascot situation going on—that was a great one. I have some good ones throughout these 13 episodes,” Shahidi said.

Zoey’s love for fashion on grown-ish is something Shahidi shares with her character in real life. The actress revealed that she’s had a long-time obsession with high-top sneakers and ended up spending her first big paycheck on a brand new pair after her younger brother messed up the pairs she outgrew. “I remember when black-ish came out I got some really cool high-tops … I had the best high-top collection when I was younger. I still have literally every pair that I’ve gotten as long as they still fit me. I am tennis shoe obsessed,” she told PEOPLE.

Yara’s passion for activism and fashion can be seen in her new campaign with Aerie, where she joins gymnast Aly Raisman, singer-songwriter Rachel Platten, and body positivity activist Iskra Lawrence as an Aerie Real Role Model. “I just love the fact that I get to work with a brand whose message I appreciate and whose clothes I wear and who is really intentionally making campaigns,” she said of the campaign. “We’re not fitting into what their campaign is supposed to be but they’re fitting a platform to us.”