The two have set in motion a global movement with the message that your size doesn't have to dictate your style choices.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 29, 2022. It has since been updated.
Friends Denise Mercedes and Maria Castellanos were simply hanging out when the inspiration for their "Style Not Size" series hit them. The close friends, who also work together, decided to dress up in similar outfits to see how it would look on each of them. "2 different body types, same style. You can dress cute regardless of whatever shape or size you are," Mercedes wrote, posting the video on TikTok. "We were playing around, we did it mainly for fun," the 28-year-old told TODAY Style. "We didn't think it was going to get this much recognition."
Encouraged by the positive response to their first video, the friends took their efforts to the next level. The pair sourced the exact same outfits — in size 14 for Mercedes and two for Castellanos — and shared their equally fabulous looks on TikTok once again. Since being posted in February, the video of the two women sporting matching crop tops with jeans and a Zara T-shirt dress has gained about 35 million views. By then, fashion bloggers had set in motion a global movement spreading the message that your size doesn't have to dictate your style choices.
Dozens of other friends with different body types have joined the #StyleNotSize movement, sharing their matching looks online, essentially toppling all myths about what cuts, colors, and patterns look good on whom. "I see girls commenting (on social media), 'I wish I looked like you,'" Mercedes said of the mindset that needs to be changed. "Everyone is on social media 24/7 right now, and it can brainwash you into feeling bad about your body." For her and Castellanos, the almost entirely positive responses to their fashion series have been the most rewarding part of their work.
"For us, it was trying to get rid of negativity... Everything on social media is, 'This is how you’re supposed to look.'... We’re giving you a hand and telling you to be yourself," said 26-year-old Castellanos. The pair revealed that the comments on their videos and posts, most of which are from teenage girls, have been particularly striking. "I have girls telling me I’m helping them feel more confident," said Mercedes. "I wish when I was younger that I had someone to look up to. Back when I was 16 in 2008, it was always just a struggle to be skinny. I’m glad things are changing now."
Castellanos hopes their #StyleNotSize project will convince existing fashion companies to re-evaluate and reimagine how they determine their size selections. "It's been tricky to find brands that sell sizes zero to 20," she said. "We hope they can see there are a lot of different shapes and sizes and provide them clothing, as well." Despite sourcing their outfits from a few select retailers, Mercedes and Castellanos have learned a lot about dressing a range of body types. The pair explained that solid colors work better than patterns and that American Eagle's denim fits both of them the best.
However, the most valuable takeaway from the series has been the realization that feeling comfortable in whatever you're wearing is key to looking good in any outfit. Speaking of their future plans, Mercedes revealed that they hope to start a clothing collection that isn't organized around size while also continuing to spread their body positivity message. Especially for "the younger generation," said Castellanos. "I would love to see women just be themselves. I want them to be like ‘Oh my God, I wore this crop top, and I look good.' I want to feel like nobody cares anymore."