The fashion space within TikTok is an ever-expanding and diverse corner of social media. The online community has become a supportive space for style enthusiasts of all kinds, ranging from creators who post sincere try-on clothing hauls to the fashion geniuses who share life-changing outfit hacks. As for Denise Mercedes — an influencer and curve model with over 3 million TikTok followers — she’s carved out an inclusive space on the app’s fashion side that’s bringing body-positive content to the forefront. Created alongside her best friend and photographer Maria Castellanos, Mercedes’ #StyleNotSize TikTok series helps her followers realize that, regardless of their body type or size, no fashion trend or outfit should ever be off-limits.
Mercedes ranges from a size 12 to 16 and Castellanos is typically a size two or four. Together, the two best friends try on the same outfits in their respective sizes, film the results, and then upload the videos to TikTok with the hashtag, “#StyleNotSize.” Their looks range from body-con dresses meant for a night out to casual, everyday looks of jeans and a crop top. Regardless of what outfits the two wear, every video from the series echoes the same sentiment: the number found on your clothing tag should never dictate how you dress or what you wear. Because, as Mercedes writes under the #StyleNotSize page on TikTok: style isn’t about size, it’s about the attitude.
The garments the two wear on camera are typically either purchased by the duo or sent to them by a brand as a PR gift. Mercedes and Castellanos’ videos take great care to share their honest feedback on the sizing, cut, and feel of the garments —both positive and critical. In a video posted on March 25, Castellanos joked that a black mini dress from ASOS “looks good only if we stand like a mannequin.” Mercedes concurred that the revealing dress just wasn’t for them: “If we bend over, we will get arrested!”
When it comes to online shopping, Mercedes offers some sage advice to consider before you press checkout. “Always make sure a brand offers an expansive sizing range and make sure the fabric of the garment has a good stretch so it fits comfortably,” she says to TZR. The 29-year-old reliably turns to ASOS, H&M, and Fabletics. But, throughout all their shopping, the friends have discovered one style in particular that fits them both to a T, and Mercedes recommends it for all body types: “Our favorite is high-waisted mom jeans from American Eagle. They are size inclusive and the jeans fit like a glove.”
In addition to dishing out some online shopping tips in a chat with TZR, the fashion creator also describes her influencing origins and explains how the #StyleNotSize TikTok series came to be. “Ever since I was young, I loved being in front of the camera! I don’t know why, but I liked expressing myself, whether I was being cute, goofy, or serious,” shares the TikToker. “I tried getting into size modeling back in 2016, but I was too short since the requirement was 5’9 and I’m only 5’3.” Mercedes goes on to reveal how the rejection inspired her social media journey. The influencer soon came to realize that TikTok was an ideal outlet for self-expression, and would enable her to cultivate a space on the internet that celebrated all body types.
Like a lot of the content shared on social media, Mercedes’ #StyleNotSize series (the hashtag currently has over 284 million views) initially began as a way to have fun with her friend online and share their love for fashion. Mercedes says the idea for the series came from an Instagram photo of her and Castellanos wearing the same bikini. “At first Maria was a little shy to do so, but I told her it would be cool to showcase the same bikini on two different bodies,” says the model. “She loved the idea, so we did it, and the feedback on Instagram was amazing!”
Mercedes’ Instagram comments section was soon flooded with overwhelming messages of support. One comment on the 2019 post read, “You are both so beautiful! It would be boring if we all could fit into ‘one size fits all.’” Sincere and appreciative messages like these were what ultimately influenced the friends to explore the concept further on TikTok.
The duo embarked on their size-inclusive TikTok endeavor in January 2020. Soon afterward, they realized their series was no longer just a casual pastime between two besties. The #StyleNotSize concept resonated with millions of users. Take one of their videos from February 2020, for example. The two women showed off matching Zara outfits — with last year’s TikTok anthem, Doja Cat’s “Say So,” playing in the background, of course — and the TikTok clip was the first from the series that became viral. It now boasts over 5.9 million likes, and Mercedes cites it as one of the key videos that helped cement her and Castellanos as regulars on TikTok’s For You Page.
Mercedes and Castellanos’ #StyleNotSize series consistently brings in hundreds of thousands of views, and many other TikTok users now upload their own fashion content under the hashtag as well. For Mercedes, this vast and welcoming community made up of women of all ages and sizes has become the defining aspect of her body-inclusive journey. To partake in the inclusive and positive group yourself, follow along at @denisemmercedes, and be sure to keep an eye out for all the videos with the hashtag.
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