Overly-Petite Clothing Sparks Beauty Standard Debate

Women in China have noticed that their clothing is becoming smaller and smaller, sparking discussions around beauty standards and body image

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Hayley Zhao
2:23 AM HKT, Wed June 21, 2023 1 mins read

A-list Chinese actress Zhang Xinyu didn’t necessarily expect to stir up such a heated debate when she shared her recent shopping experience on social media platform Weibo.

“I really like the clothes from a certain brand, but I can't even fit into their large size,” the actress posted on May 13.

“No, it’s not children’s clothing lol. I won't mention the brand, but I really feel that they are being too strict about body size. If you weigh over 50 kg, you can’t wear their clothes.”

Chinese actress

Chinese actress Zhang Xinyu. Image via Weibo

The statement resonated with women online, who chimed in saying that if a major celebrity with a strict diet and a personal trainer can't even fit into Large-sized clothes, maybe the current standards of size and beauty need some rethinking. A related hashtag quickly racked up over 87 million views.

In recent years, a noticeable trend has emerged in the fashion industry, particularly in women’s clothing, where sizes are shrinking at unprecedented rates. Leading clothing brands, including popular names like Uniqlo, Gap, and Nike have begun introducing a considerable number of extra-petite women’s clothing items.

These brands, previously known for their “comfortable and loose” styles, are now aligning with the prevailing fashion trend of petite sizing. This change reflects the increasing popularity of brands specializing in petite women’s clothing, such as Brandy Melville, the viral American brand famous for selling only one size of garments. The brand has gained significant traction with the help of influencers and celebrities endorsing their products.

Brandy Melville

Famous Chinese actress Yang Mi is often spotted shopping at the viral Brandy Melville Store. Image via Weibo

The shift towards smaller sizes has excited one branch of fashion enthusiasts, who take pride in being able to fit into these tiny garments. On social media platforms like Xiaohongshu, countless users and bloggers have become fervent supporters of the petite fashion trend, showcasing their attractive figures in small-sized clothing and enjoying the "hot girl (辣妹)" style that others seek to emulate.

However, there are also fierce critics of the trend, who argue that it perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards and body image anxieties among women. Many Xiaohongshu users, in particular, have expressed concerns that the promotion of petite fashion is exclusionary and leaves those who do not conform to smaller sizes feeling inadequate or abnormal, especially when it comes to teenage girls who are still in their formative years.

chinese influencer

Chinese influencer showcasing their “hot girl” outfits on social media platforms. Image via Xiaohongshu

Just a couple weeks ago, a new documentary told the story of a 15-year-old girl in China who passed away after suffering from anorexia. According to the documentary, the patient started dieting after a boy she liked fell for a skinnier girl. Extreme dieting slowly evolved to the point that she couldn't keep any food down.

The shocking story is just one factor causing people to reflect on societal expectations when it comes to women's bodies. The emphasis on being slim, young, and pale has long plagued women, particularly in East Asian societies, and a recent report on China’s cosmetics industry shows that interest in skin-whitening products is still on the rise.

For now, the shrinking size of women's clothing in China doesn't look ready to slow down.

Cover image via Depositphotos

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