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Why The #MidSize Label Means So Much

image via @justgirlproject on instagram

The fashion industry keeps inventing new terms and I’m, for the most part, sick of it. I rolled my eyes the first time I heard “VPL”, “hip dips” and “thunder thighs”. “Why can’t we just stop coming up with words to describe our bang-average bodies?” I thought.

Then I stumbled across the “midsize” hashtag and had to take it all back. I’d found my people.

“Midsize” covers UK sizes 10 to 16. Anushka Moore, the blogger behind @midsizecollective, created the term to celebrate those who are “not petite but not plus-sized”. Though it’s still relatively unheard of in the fashion industry, with over 230,000 Instagram posts tagged #midsizestyle the term is skyrocketing. Perhaps because it’s comforting people, like me, who’ve always felt their bodies were out of place.

I am a UK size 12, occasionally a 14, and have struggled with dysmorphia most of my life. I first remember feeling overweight while changing for a Year 4 PE lesson, meaning I’d have been age 8 or 9.

From then on, I’d refuse to wear shorts or skirts. Trips to Next and New Look changing rooms resulted in tears and tantrums. I’d go through periods of skipping lunch and on holidays, I’d spend a significant amount of time doing situps in the hotel bathroom.

Gazing around my high school classrooms, I’d pay less attention to the whiteboard and more to other girls bodies’ – did they have the same round stomach when they sat down? Did they have two chins? Did their thighs touch?

At uni, I decided enough was enough. I’d long admired plus-size influencers like Megan Jayne Crabbe, Natalie Drue Hage and Tess Holliday and decided to follow in their footsteps by making my own “body positivity” Instagram account. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/CLATRUwnCBG/ 

I’d post pictures of myself in bikinis and shorts, cellulite and stomach pouch on full display, accompanied by captions where I’d try to embrace the flaws I’d always hated. 

Initially, the account provided me with confidence and contentment. The encouragement I was getting from strangers translated to the way I carried my body, improving my relationship with food and exercise.

But soon I began to receive comments along the lines of “there’s nothing actually wrong with you” – well-meaning words from which I inferred “you shouldn’t be here”. 

On my feed, I’d see more and more critical captions pointed at skinnier girls – “if you’re a size 14 or less, body positivity isn’t for you.” “If you only have rolls when you sit down, you don’t need bopo.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXqEm6vlCTl/

The message was clear – I wasn’t welcome. My posts fizzled out and I locked the account.

At first, I felt upset. Frustration twinged: this so-called “positive” community was actually anything but.

I thought: “Does it really matter what size I am, if I’ve always felt miserable about myself?”

Now that I’ve reflected on the patient explanations of plus-size writers, I understand that it does. The movement was designed for and created by people with visibly marginalised – fat, queer, black, disabled – bodies. Thin people who are already considered the norm are diluting, whitewashing and infiltrating the community until the original message is lost. As Melissa Fabello writes, “thin people contribute to [an oppressive] system when they demand inclusion. Marginalized people are entitled to spaces where they can discuss their experience without catering to hurt feelings.”

As plus-size writer Sophie Butcher points out, the beauty industry’s penchant for airbrushing and diet-promoting means that whether you’re a size 8 or 18, you’ve probably felt insecure over the way your body looks. “But,” she writes, “there’s a difference between your own personal journey to self love, and the movement that is body positivity… don’t post a picture of you and your thin body in underwear, and claim it as a stand against the thin ideal, and a win for body positivity. Because all you’re doing is alienating those in bigger bodies who the bopo movement is actually for.”

“Midsizers don’t face the same discrimination as plus-size people – brands don’t refuse to stock our size or claim our bodies are impossible to design for; doctors don’t dismiss our ailments as a symptom of weight gain; we’re not less likely to be employed because of the way we look.”

Now I understood it was wrong for privileged people like me – white, young, able-bodied, midsized – to infiltrate body positivity hashtags, sidelining bodies which are already marginalised in wider society.

But I still yearned for a community of like-minded and similar-looking people. I still wanted the serotonin rush I got from bopo’s candid snaps and honest captions.

This was where #midsize swooped in.

As soon as I stumbled upon Olivia Grace’s midsize fashion account @livv.gracee I was hooked, and soon my feed was flooded with midsize bloggers like @charlotteemilyprice, @swaggaismything, @phoebee_evanss, @nicoleocran and @styledby.chloe. No longer did I have to make imaginative leaps to picture how an influencer’s pretty outfit would look on my own body – I was seeing it right in front of me. My ancient insecurities felt a lot more silly.

It’s reminded me that I can wear all the things I’d normally scroll past and dismiss as “not meant for me” –  crop tops, white jeans, tight skirts. It’s given me the confidence to tuck sweatshirts into jeans, tie knots in the hem of t-shirts. With videos instructing me on how to take Pinterest outfits and “make them midsize”, I no longer feel like my takes on popular outfits are “lesser” than the original.

The fashion industry’s lack of diversity makes midsize representation more important than ever. Numerous high street retailers class size 12 as a “large”, and the bodies in “plus-sized” media campaigns are often actually midsized, skewing our perception of what “average” really looks like. The midsize hashtag provides a much-needed dose of realism in and amongst the airbrushed ads.

I’ll continue to follow plus-size models and influencers for inspiration, and be thankful for their activism that has paved the way and sparked slow yet meaningful change in the industry. But if I do decide to resurrect my old self-love account, it’s the #midsize community I’ll be joining.

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1 Comment

  1. Jen
    April 6, 2021 / 3:14 pm

    I’ve just discovered the mid size hashtags on insta and tik tok and finally feel like my body is represented. I’m petite in height but not thin but not plus size and I don’t see many bodies like mine on social media otherwise. Its really helped me with ditching diet culture and learning to accept my body.

    Thanks for writing about plus size communities and the space they need to have their voices heard too. That is a really key takeaway for me, and one worth highlighting. I recognise I have privaledge as a mid size person.

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