Shopping can be an arduous task. Between the glaring lights and unflattering mirrors in retail stores, to the pain of an online order looking terrible on, finding something that looks and feels good is often a lucky dip. But this experience is only heightened for women who aren't straight-sized: having to deal with fewer brands that cater to them, but also feeling unrepresented by typical models, who often sit between an Australian size 6 - 10.
One app is trying to start a movement to change this, and make shopping a more pleasurable experience all round. Mys Tyler is a fashion community led by contributors who "match" your own body size and shape, to help users get a sense of what an outfit would look like on them. It's a dual-pronged approach helping Australians discover new pieces they like, as well as find inspiration on how to style them.
Since starting in 2020, Mys Tyler now has over 1800 fashion contributors and 300,000 users, with the app being downloaded by a woman across the world every two minutes. But its humble beginnings are rooted in Sydney, after founder Sarah Neill found herself struggling to find something to wear each day.
"I’ve never really been into fashion or enjoyed shopping. But I still need to get dressed every day, and when I like what I’m wearing I feel better about it," she tells Refinery29 Australia. "I don’t have the knack for knowing what pieces to pick up, what to put together or how to style them. So it’s much easier to see an entire outfit on someone. But if they don’t look like me, the outfit will look different. I thought, imagine if I could go to Instagram — put in my height and size, find fashion influencers with my body, whose style I like, then they can do the job of discovery, trying things on and styling, and I can just copy them."
When you join the app, you're presented with a lot of questions about your appearance: your height, dress size, bra and cup size, body shape, hair texture; even your skin undertone. But it's all for good reason — Mys Tyler then presents a number of content creators who match your description who you can follow. Each creator posts outfit pics and where to shop them. Think your Instagram feed but curated to showcase your own reflection — without the hassle of constantly returning purchases that don't suit you.
Unlike the social media we're used to using on a daily basis, Mys Tyler isn't about popularity or follower count, and instead focuses on body relevance — a refreshing difference to algorithms that actively exclude or discriminate against anyone who doesn't fit within a certain mould. When Neill was first getting Mys Tyler off the ground, she says it was really important to make sure the creator base was as diverse as possible, across age, height, size, shape and ethnicity, so as to help users feel safe, welcomed and supported.
"The experience of Mys Tyler is that you find women who look like you, who love fashion, and are confident," she says. "That fuels a culture of inclusion and representation and over time many users who wouldn’t consider themselves as a creator or fashion influencer have decided that they feel safe to share their style to help other women that look like them through out platform.
"When we launched I underestimated the role of representation that we’d play. I had hoped to create a better fashion experience by serving up body-relevant creators and content, but I immediately started receiving emails from women who had never before seen their body type, age, size represented in fashion before."
Last year, Mys Tyler conducted a survey of 1000 women and found that half of respondents didn't feel like clothes met their expectations after seeing them on models, while nearly 90% agreed they feel more confident in their bodies when they like what they're wearing.
Neill shares that Mys Tyler seeks to serve all women, no matter if they are plus-, mid- or straight sized. "We have women that are size 00 and struggle to find clothing — for them the creators their size should be front and centre. If someone is plus-size, then creators that are plus-size should be front and centre," she says. "We’ve learned is that size is just one aspect of representation... As any woman will tell you, there’s lots of variation in bodies your size — torso length, height, curvy or straight."
"We want all women to have more fun with fashion and feel more confident in the outfits they wear, whether that’s rediscovering items in their wardrobe that they already own, or buying new pieces."
It's long been established that the average Australian woman is between size 14 - 16, and a significant proportion of people wear sizes above those. Mys Tyler ambassador and body positivity influencer April Hélène-Horton — also known as The Bodzilla — says that her past experiences of shopping in stores has been unpleasant ("you might even say traumatic"). She tells Refinery29 Australia that she wants it to be the industry practice to have brands cater to bodies of a diverse range, and that when sizes stop after 16 it excludes an entire market of customers.
Hélène-Horton got on board with the app because she liked the idea of helping bringing people who on their fashion journey towards fully expressing and embracing themselves, adding that body representation can help unlock newfound confidence and admiration.
"I have two friends who both wear the same size clothes as me. Neither of them look the same or have the same style — but when we've worked together on a shoot or content, we get to see how each of us can look different yet equally beautiful in something," she says. "It's as simple as 'you can't be what you can't see'. Diving into a style you'd never imagine yourself in will potentially bring you so much joy when you see others doing it."
Mys Tyler now boasts a "Daily Inspo" offshoot, where a prompt encourages users to give a new style or aesthetic a go, and a "Brands For Your Body" generator that presents a list of stores and boutiques that have been tried and tested by the app's fashion contributors. But the app prides itself on being "brand agnostic", with creators choosing what to wear without any sway or interference. To this day, Neill shares that Mys Tyler has now had 42,000 outfits posted and a whopping 5000 brands tagged by its users. The app does work with and spotlight inclusive brands where it can, but lets users take the reins when it comes to discovery and interaction.
"We’ve learned so much about the pain points in fashion through our community, and we have a voice which we’re committed to using, but we have a platform to give creators a voice too," says Neill. "Ultimately, we want all women to have more fun with fashion and feel more confident in the outfits they wear, whether that’s rediscovering items in their wardrobe that they already own, or buying new pieces."