In recent years, the push to create inclusive clothing lines have revolutionised the high street. But as I, and many other women, have come to find, inclusivity for mid-size clothing is almost non-existent. In fact, many mid-size models are used to model plus-size clothing – both erasing the need for our own range of clothing, whilst diminishing the importance of plus-size representation in fashion.
Mid-size clothing typically covers sizes 12–18 (although sizes 10–16 can also be considered mid-size too, depending on the individual). With the average size of a woman in the UK being size 16, the concept of mid-sizeness exists to, in theory, represent the average woman; neither super-slim nor super-curvy. However, the reality is that many women find themselves feeling ‘size stranded’ by brands who don’t accommodate the often-overlooked cusp sizes.
It’s a myth to think that, whilst a standard line may well carry, say, a size 12, their clothing is made to accommodate an actual mid-size shape. I know this oh-too-well from the many hours spent trying to squeeze my body to no avail into backless dresses and super skinny jeans! Brands will simply increase the amount of fabric they use on their standard designs with no thought into accommodating the diversity of bigger bodies.
On the other hand, many high street plus-size ranges are frumpy and unfashionable (although certainly not all – hi ASOS Curve and Plus-Size!), and in too many cases plus-size clothing designs feel like an afterthought, or a box a brand must tick to remain in consumers ‘good books’. They also typically start at a size 14, which leads to many mid-size women ruling them out before they even consider them.
So if standard sizing isn’t right, and plus-size isn’t right either, where does this leave mid-size women like me? It’s a tough one. From my own personal experience, shopping as a mid-size woman has been a hard and traumatic feat – although, granted, I still have some options where plus-size women do not. Having spent most of my life a firm size 4 or 6 until I went to university and had problems with my health, I had no idea how to dress a mid-size body that was flattering. As such, like many women, I went down the easiest route – covering up in big, baggy jumpers. It’s only been until very recently that I’ve started pushing my boundaries and buying clothes that, only a year ago, would’ve sent me running a mile in the opposite direction.
A major influence in my style change has admittedly been TikTok and Instagram. Hold on before you click away! Social media, for all its faults, has actually been a brilliant tool in finding people who look like me and are learning how to style my body in a way that is still fashionable. Finding women with the same soft tummy, jiggly arms and thick thighs, and seeing how they exude confidence and beauty gave me the courage to try styles I would never have dreamed of. They, although perhaps not always the most secure in their shape, showed me that there was more to life than hiding. That I could wear halter-neck tops (gasp!), bodycon dresses (still working on this), and short skirts (now a staple in my wardrobe), without feeling shame.
If any of you reading this have, like me, spent so much time trying to cover your curvy bodies, fitting neither body and clothing standards, and have cried in fitting rooms because of sizing struggles, hear this: some fast-fashion brands just won’t cater to us and that’s ok. There are plenty that will, and it’s about pushing yourself to try them. There is more to life than cowering at a number on a label, thinking just because you’re in the double-digits that clothing items are off-limits to you. They aren’t. Be kind to yourself, and just bloody wear them