Meet the #Midsize community that redefined what style means to me

·6-min read
Photo credit: @midsizegal @styledby.chloe
Photo credit: @midsizegal @styledby.chloe
Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

“I’ve been catfished again,” I said to my friend, peeling off my latest failed online purchase — a dress that looked perfect on Instagram but left a lot to be desired on my figure. Staring at the mirror, I questioned how my favourite fashion blogger was able to look so gorgeous in such an unforgiving fabric.

My relationship with my body has always been a point of contention. I’ve never been considered plus-size but to call me petite would be a lie. At school, I was teased about my weight and was branded both, ‘too fat’ and ‘too skinny’ depending on the year and whether it fell pre or post-puberty. But, no matter the hang-ups I’ve had with my body, I’ve always found confidence in putting together a killer outfit.

As a self-confessed Instagram addict, scrolling for style inspiration is my favourite pastime. Despite my best effort to follow diverse accounts, my Instagram Explore page has always had a bias towards very slim women. Their beautifully edited images have inspired many failed purchases over the years and each one is met with the same disappointment and impending confidence crisis. Soon, I had devised a list of things to avoid: cycling shorts, bodycon dresses and cami tops were all no-gos.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

I knew the last thing Instagram needed was another slim, white woman preaching about body positivity and so, I internalised the issues I had with my average-sized body and began to fall out of love with fashion altogether.

I stumbled across the term ‘midsize’ when YouTuber Lucy Wood appeared on my recommended page. Through her videos, I learnt that the term referred to anyone between UK sizes 10-18; not petite but not quite plus-size either. After checking out a few Instagrammers Lucy had mentioned, I discovered a whole world of midsize representation. As I began to engage with the community online, I finally confronted the body confidence issues that had plagued my young adult life while equally acknowledging the privilege I had benefited from as a slim woman.

Unlike plus-size shoppers, midsize people can walk into most high street shops and purchase ready-to-wear clothes but many of us still feel neglected by the industry; settling for items originally designed for smaller frames, lazily made a few sizes bigger. Or, forced to play a painful game of ‘Guess My Size’ after fluctuating from shop to shop.

Since discovering the community, #midsizefashion has been tagged 166 thousand times on Instagram and #midsize has attracted over 922 million views on TikTok alone. Taking to social media, midsize fashion lovers are refusing to be squeezed into either end of the spectrum. We are documenting our own style journeys, free from the pressures of an industry we feel underrepresented by.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

“Being midsize makes us feel like we have just been forgotten about. We are not petite, but likewise, we are not catered for in the same way that plus sizes are”, explains Chloe (or @styledby.chloe as she is known to her 72 thousand Instagram followers). Chloe started her account in 2018 as a way to break into the industry after noticing a lack of representation in mainstream fashion markets. Two years later, she is thriving across Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Just like me, she felt excluded by an industry she admired and in turn, created her own niche within it.

Through Instagram, Chloe has met some of her closest friends including fellow midsize trailblazer Abi, who runs the 74 thousand-follower strong account @midsizegal. Abi’s biggest tip for finding body confidence is to curate a feed that makes you feel good about yourself. She says, “I can’t state enough how important it is to unfollow accounts that don’t make you feel joy, you don’t owe any influencer or friend your follow.”

This revelation was a turning point for me; when I noticed that consuming certain fashion content was having a negative impact on my confidence, the 'unfollow' button became my new best friend.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Abi explains, “I found other girls creating the same content and we all started to support each other” – marking the birth of her journey in the midsize community.

The moral support Abi mentions was integral in reclaiming my love of fashion. When talking to Chloe, she admitted that before joining the community, she would also avoid certain styles or trends out of fear of what others would think but, through the support of her followers, has learnt how to dress for herself.

If you lack Insta-fame like myself, then let me reassure you that you don’t need thousands of followers to join in. Bethany (@bethanymooreson) is a midsize micro-influencer, she describes her experience of watching from the sidelines, wanting to be a part of the community but lacking the confidence to start. Flash forward, Bethany regularly posts fashion content and founded the popular hashtag #normalisemidsize.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

While it is great that, as a community, we now have a safe space to celebrate our bodies, the term midsize has faced criticism from plus-size communities for appropriating body positivity and turning the conversation away from those for who the movement was originally created.

'Body confidence' and 'body positivity' are not interchangeable terms and while we can, and should, celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes, body positivity originally fought for the representation of plus-size women of colour and disabled bodies after historically facing gross mistreatment. While intentions can be well-meaning, the fact is body positivity is not our space to occupy. Particularly when creators, like myself, have benefited from multiple forms of privilege from being white, slim and able-bodied.

After struggling with body dysmorphia as a teenager, I wasn’t always aware of the slim privilege I held because my own thoughts about my body didn’t align with what others saw but that is the definition of privilege - it is so ingrained that you benefit from it without even realising.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Last year, I read a piece by one of my favourite midsize bloggers, Nicole Ocran titled “On Body Positivity - we as allies are allowed to just be quiet.” Nicole articulated that even if we can resonate with the cause, we must act as allies and uplift the voices of those for who the movement was originally coined.

Midsize people have never faced the prejudices that plus-size people experience daily. Recognising this, the midsize community is a separate space. One that serves as an outlet for 'average-sized' women who have experienced body confidence issues in their own way, without distracting from the real purpose of the body positivity movement.

Two years after discovering the midsize community, the previously discarded cycling shorts and form-fitting dresses have pride of place in my wardrobe and disappointing online orders are met with humour, not heartbreak. I have rediscovered the joy of experimenting with my style and know that in times of doubt, I have a community of supportive women behind me. Plus-size, petite and every size in between, my curated Instagram feed is a haven for diverse fashionable women.

Positively engaging with the midsize community is easy. Whether it be interacting with midsize fashion accounts, or in my case, sharing my own OOTDs - something that would have caused major anxiety only a few years ago. As the online midsize community rapidly expands, our hope is that the fashion industry will take note and finally bring universal size representation into the mainstream.

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