For this college senior, fashion has become an avenue for self-discovery, self-confidence, and self-expression.
In a world where girls are constantly told to look and feel a certain way, it’s no surprise that we often have trouble figuring out ourselves, our bodies, and our style. Fashion has long since accompanied people as a way to not just clothe us, but to showcase our personalities and creativity. But the industry hasn’t made it easy for us to be comfortable in the bodies we have and to find our own style.
Twenty-year-old student and creator Gia Feliciano enjoys doing frequent “fit checks” on social media. Her brightly-colored tops, easy, permanent smile, outgoing personality, and fun budol hauls also make for entertaining and relatable videos on TikTok and Instagram. However, her style journey didn’t come easy—it was fraught with confusion, self-acceptance, and leaps of faith.
Photo courtesy of Gia Feliciano/Instagram
EMBRACING YOUR BODY
One of Gia’s most popular TikToks is captioned with “pov: you embrace being midsize” and “achievement unlocked: not afraid of crop tops anymore 😌💜.” The video, which currently has 1.1 million views, contrasts her past style with the present, from covering up with loose oversized shirts to experimenting with bright colors, skirts, and flattering cropped tops.
@_giafeliciano achievement unlocked: not afraid of crop tops anymore 😌💜 #croptop #midsize #midsizefashion #midsizegal #outfitideas ♬ sonido original – yo
To be mid-size means you fit somewhere in between the smaller, straight sizes and the bigger, plus sizes. Mid-sized body types often have trouble finding what flatters their body while keeping them comfortable, because most brands offer something too small or too big on certain parts of their body.
“It was so freeing to discover what midsize was,” Gia reveals. “…[E]verything finally made sense and I felt like I found my place.” She realized that she didn’t really fit into the usual offered sizes of clothing (small ”straight sizes”) nor into the plus-sized ones either. These kinds of labels and ideals pushed by the fashion industry imbue certain perspectives into the mainstream consciousness—that a woman is “normal” and “ideal” if she fits into the teeny tiny sizes brands offer.
The mid-size terminology is an emergent way for many young women to be able to identify their body and the clothes that would suit them. And when Gia found clarity regarding her size, she was able to move forward with her style journey to where she is now.
@_giafeliciano addicted to color and croptops #croptop #midsize #midsizefashion ♬ original sound – Sara ✨
“I haven’t always been this confident,” Gia shares. Growing up with warped notions of what is considered “big,” as well as with strict parents and strict high school dress codes, Gia only felt safe and comfortable in baggy T-shirts and jeans for a long time. During the pandemic, she started to work out, gaining a bit of confidence along the way. However, she acknowledged that adopting a lifestyle solely to lose weight had its pros and cons.
“When I stopped dieting—unhealthily, if I may add—and starting gaining a bit of weight back, I still wanted to keep that confidence,” she admits. “And for the most part I did, thankfully.” She often still struggles with her body image, but she continually strives to remind herself that she is beautiful, no matter her size, and that her body was not a determining factor of her worth.
Photo courtesy of Gia Feliciano/Instagram
She shares a tip: “A little trick I like to do is look in the mirror and talk to myself to hype myself up. It’s a bit silly, I know but I mean if it works, it works right?”
Her friends also helped a lot in growing her confidence. They reassured, encouraged, and hyped her up all the time. “I remember sending my best friend a picture of myself in a bikini for the first time and she was so excited to see me wear it, which helped so much with my confidence.”
Surrounding yourself with good people is a tried-and-true confidence-booster. As her closet shifted and changed, as she started to feel more confident and not just safe in her clothing decisions, her relationship with her body improved tenfold. “It was really nice to finally feel really good about the clothes that i was wearing and, in a way, I finally felt like myself.”
For Gia, feeling like herself means being able to express the two things central to her style: color and confidence. It’s rare to see her in neutral colors or the baggy t-shirts of her youth, as she’s embraced vibrant hues and cropped, form-fitting tops. Just as clothes helped her grow her confidence, she wants her style to reflect that confidence and her artistic, bubbly personality.
@_giafeliciano finished it after ball bc i forgot but yay hehe #transition ♬ Anna er best – Anna Nikoline⭐️
“I’d like to think I’m a fun person to be around, and I want my style to show it.” Colorful fabrics and patterns adorn her social media feed in a display of bold confidence and creative decisions in putting pieces together to form a cohesive outfit.
Her social media has since become a way to document her outfits so she could look back at them and chronicle her evolution not just as a fashion-lover but also as a person.
“I like rewatching them because I genuinely love what I wear and I am proud of how far I’ve come since a few short years ago.” Social media allowed her to express herself to other people and share the work she’s done in choosing pieces and curating outfits. And that act of sharing and posting has allowed her to connect with a wider audience. Since she never really grew up exposed to people on social media with a similar body type, she wanted to be someone her younger self needed.
“I’d also like to believe that I have a more positive relationship with the world, or at least the world that I connect with through my social media, because I’ve seen a lot of people resonating with my TikTok, which genuinely makes me so happy to see.”
A great thing about Gia’s fashion is that it’s not inaccessible. It’s everyday-chic, casual and expressive, simple but with a lot of personality. Her style has resonated with a lot of people, especially those sharing the same body type. It took some work, though, and she shares some advice to people who are in a similar boat as she was some time ago.
@_giafeliciano a lil fit check moment <33 #midsize #midsizefashion #midsizegal #outfitideas #fitcheck #outfitoftheday #thisisthefit ♬ Boy's a Liar Pt. 2 – PinkPantheress & Ice Spice
1. “Being able to wear something you’re not quite sure [about] yet in the comfort of your own home is a good way to feel out what you would want to wear and what your style is.” Given that her style journey started gaining traction in the pandemic, the safety of her own home allowed her to experiment and figure out some things before she expressed herself to the world.
2. “Ask your friends.” If a friend is truly honest with you, that’s a great friend. “Best case: they love it, and worst case: they’ll help you build an outfit that’s probably a bit more you.”
3. Experiment. Play around with pieces you have. “You don’t need new pieces to change up your style,” she says. “Because it’s entirely possible to work with what you have, and possibly add pieces as you explore and find your style.”
@_giafeliciano fun fits but more fun memories #fitcheck #midsize #midsizefashion #midsizegal #thisisthefit ♬ Foolish One (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault) – Taylor Swift
However, at the end of the day, all Gia wants is for people to be brave enough to try out things they want to wear because she believes that “fashion is an outward expression of who we are as people.”
“You do you and what feels right for you in terms of fashion, and there will be at least one person out there cheering you on.”
Hint: It’s her.