When you google the term ‘inbetweenie’ and click on images you’ll find yourself bombarded with pictures of inbetweenie belly buttons – which I recently found out is a belly button that has both the characters of an innie (a belly button which goes in) and an outie (you get the picture), a sort of hybrid if you like. The Hollywood A-lister Anna Farris even sports one. So why is this relevant I hear you ask. The term ‘inbetweenie’ doesn’t just refer to mutant hybrid belly buttons but also a new kind of model on the rise. An ‘inbetweenie’ model is someone who is neither considered straight size (typically a UK size 4-8) nor plus size (typically a UK size 16 and above). For a long time now the fashion industry has seemingly only been aware of the existence of exclusively straight and plus size models. Anything in between these sizes (a UK size 10, 12 and 14) has been viewed as a sort of no man’s land. This would lead any human being with an ounce of common sense to believe that as inbetweenie sizes aren’t shown in the media they simply don’t exist. Let me be the one to assure you that this ludicrous, albeit logical, theory is not true.

n 2014 Calvin Klein made history by launching a campaign featuring Myla Dalbesio, a model who is approximately a UK size 14. Speaking to the Today show in America, Dalbesio described herself as an “inbetweenie”. She said, “We’re not skinny enough to be straight-size, like these [US] size zero and size two girls, and we’re not big enough to be plus-size.” Calvin Klein’s effort to showcase a model of a more normal and relatable size came as a result of the public’s increasingly loud calls to see more “normal” women in advertising. A 2012 study by Cambridge University revealed that women are more likely to buy clothes worn by models closer to their age, size and race. Calvin Klein, a brand well known for its luxury and sexual allure, gave Dalbesio’s figure and the concept of normalising body image in the media the publicity that the movement needed to gain momentum. However, despite Dalbesio’s picture being featured alongside straight-size models in the campaign and the brand not labelling her as any different, many took to social media to express their shock and disbelief at Dalbesio’s size. They were surprised that the luxury fashion brand, known for featuring models such as Kate Moss, who was largely responsible for popularising the ‘heroin chic’ look, used a model who didn’t conform to the usual constrictive straight-size that the brand has become known for. Critics therefore labelled her as plus-size. Many also chimed in with their disappointment that Dalbesio be labelled plus sizeas she was only a UK size 14 (with the average British woman thought to fall between a size 14 and 16) and thus the damaging message that labelling an average sized women plus-size gives.

Speaking to Elle in 2014, the model and bulimia survivor said, “I love that after working in the fashion industry for nine years, I have finally found my place, right in the middle.” She added, “I love that the conversation on the internet has exploded and brought greater awareness concerning the normalisation of body image and how important this is.” But the question has to be asked – if Dalbesio’s Calvin Klein debut was 4 years ago, why is the term inbetweenie still relatively unheard of (in the modelling world this is, as it’s frequently used to describe belly buttons)?

As far back as 2012 inbetweenie models were being featured in mainstream fashion. Ralph Lauren worked with the Australian model Robyn Lawley, a UK size 12, dubbed the “queen of the inbetweenies” by the blog Style Has No Size. However again not everyone was as eager to embrace the term and Lawley’s size as the norm. Huffpostdescribed the model as “going where no plus-size stunner has ever gone before: Ralph Lauren.” If the past is anything to go by it would indicate that everytime fashion brands have attempted to discretely introduce inbetweenie models into high end fashion both the fashion press and consumers have stunted their rise by labelling them plus-size. This would explain why despite the term first being introduced in fashion circles years ago it remains a mystery to the majority of consumers, being understood only in the context of belly buttons. It is as if we as a society are unable to accept a women’s place in the media unless she fits into one of two confining categories: straight or plus size. This certainly says something about the damaging effects of placing restrictive labels on women.

Actress Lili Reinhart spoke about her struggles with body issues in a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar. Reinhart praised Marilyn Monroe’s figure and spoke about how it had inspired her. This seemingly harmless display of admiration towards the Hollywood icon caused many social media users to comment how she had no right to liken herself to Monroe or even have a right to speak out about body issues as she was neither very skinny or plus size. The Riverdale actress clapped back at her critics in a series of tweets, letting them know that people of any shape and size can suffer from body dysmorphia and might take inspiration from those who embrace their bodies. Hoping to educate her millions of social media followers, Reinhart said, “Insecurity exists outside the limits of a certain dress size”. She added, “Telling someone they don’t deserve to feel insecure because their body is ‘fine’ or ‘just like’ whomever is wrong. That’s part of the problem. That’s part of body shaming.”

While the representation and acceptance of plus-size models has made grave improvements they, like inbetweenies, are largely excluded from high fashion and in particular the runway. Many fashion brands carry separate plus-size lines fuelling the strong separation between straight and plus sizes and putting pressure on inbetweenie models to fit into one category. Straight size models are all around us fuelling the idea that people are unwilling to accept plus size and inbetweenie models in mainstream/high fashion as they don’t take them seriously. A big part of this lack of acceptance is to do with fashion’s past and traditional western ideas of beauty and what it means to be thin. The Oral Keilly exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in London focused on recreating styles from the past. Keilly was inspired by 60s and 70s prints and brought them back to life in the present. However the designer still used exclusively straight size models, similar to the 60s and 70s. Keilly had added a modern twist to styles inspired by that time however hadn’t truly brought them into the modern era as there was no showcase of diversity in terms of size in the models she used.

One of the most sort after models of the moment is Barbara Palvin. The Hungarian beauty has been on the modelling scene for sometime. Allegedly fired from Victoria’s Secret in 2012 for being too fat, she has since spoken out on social media about her struggle to conform to the modelling industry’s strict criteria and undergoing a journey of body acceptance. On one Instagram post she wrote “This is me. It took me a while to understand what people meant by “listen to your body” – it’s not always easy feeling good in our own skin and it takes time, trust me I’m still learning. Over the past year I’ve discovered so much about my body, how it can change and evolve. One thing is for sure – only you know what’s best for you.” The 25-year old is largely accepted in modelling circles as an inbetweenie. This year she has made her big modelling comeback being featured in several shows and campaigns including once again walking the Victoria’s Secret runway and even being chosen for the Chanel Cruise 2019 show despite high fashion featuring almost exclusively straight-size models. Palvin can be seen as he poster girl for the inbetweenie model movement, leading the way for models of all shapes and sizes to be accepted on runways around the world, inclusivity shouldn’t start and end with her alone. In an interview with Vogue.com, when asked about the need for including greater diversity, like other brands such as Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty, CMO of L Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, Ed Razek, said, “ We invented the plus-size model show in what was our sister division, Lane Bryant. Lane Bryant still sells plus-size lingerie, but it sells a specific range.” There lies the problem. It seems incomprehensible to Razek that Plus-size, straight-size, inbetweenie-size or any size could be showcased and celebrated in the same show. Instead the L Brands company has built barriers between these different sizes, making plus-size women feel like outcasts represented by a sister division that I’ve never even heard of! Women of the trans community were excluded completely. When asked if he thought trans-women should be included in the show Razek said, “No. No, I don’t think we should. Because the show is a fantasy.” Victoria’s Secret’s refusal to be truly diverse in their representation of women and their subsequent denial of this could possibly explain their falling sales.

In the last few seasons we have seen a very nostalgic vibe with styles reminiscent of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s but maybe it’s time to include more body types when showcasing the fashion of decades past in the present day. It leads to the question – if designers don’t show more diversity this time around then what progress has the industry made? Fashion is at the forefront of our times. Models of the moment act as the poster figures of today but with such a lack of diversity, especially when it comes to the runway shows of top designers, models and the fashion industry are unable to truly portray an authentic and relevant image of our society. Fashion is a key aspect of how we will be remembered therefore it has a duty to portray the changes and progress that we have made. Fashion reflects the changes of society in the same way that society responds to fashion’s changes, in the sense that when fashion becomes more inclusive, by showcasing a diverse range of body types, it encourages society to also be more inclusive and accepting. A lack of diversity within the modelling industry consolidates dangerous perceptions that have become societal norms, namely the notion that skinny is always better and any other body type is not beautiful. A dangerous ripple effect has been created. Fashion is an industry that relies almost entirely on visuals. Whilst this can have damaging effects, such as the over sexualisation of women and the normalisation of unhealthy body types, it can also be used to showcase diversity in terms of body type, race and ethnicity on a large and far-reaching scale in a way that no other industry can. Fashion is a powerful platform, it’s time we start using it to propel development within our society.

We ought to embrace the inbetweenie label. While the straight and plus-size labels have in the past restricted models in regards to the brands they can work with and how they are perceived, the inbetweenie label doesn’t carry the same restrictive confinements. What the term inbetweenie really means is acceptance of all shapes in the industry – big, small, innie belly button, outie and anything in between.

The rise of the inbetweenie