On March 5 Uniqlo added a new, larger size to its children’s clothing in China.
Previously, the largest size on offer was for kids up to 120cm tall. But now, in a select group of cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, some T-shirts are available in a 160cm size.
Chinese children are getting taller, perhaps? No, in fact Uniqlo was responding to a new trend in which women are taking changing-room selfies of themselves in the Japanese brand’s children’s T-shirts to prove how slim they are.
The craze is said to have contributed to congestion and spoilage at Uniqlo stores. But signs at outlets were soon advertising the bigger T-shirts, saying: “In response to customer demand, the store has made the product bigger… Please try it on”.
The fad was starting to fade as the larger sizes came out, however, following criticism that it was promoting an unhealthy body image. Sina called the selfie trend “extreme” and “morbid”. Challenging others to show how thin they are on social media is “almost pathological,” it admonished.
Many netizens agreed, describing the participants as “giant babies” for trying on, and often ruining, clothes that they had no intention of buying. “When did the fitting rooms become production studios? Last time I was in H&M, they were full of people taking selfies too. People who want to try and buy were forced to wait for ages,” complained another.
As Week in China readers may recall, this isn’t the first “slimness” challenge to spread like wildfire on Chinese social media.
Six years ago women encouraged each other to prove their collarbones were sunken enough to balance a stack of coins or an egg.
The following year there was another new trend: the ‘A4 challenge’, where women posted images of themselves holding pieces of A4 paper to demonstrate that their waists were narrow enough to be hidden behind it.
Another more recent example – as promoted by actress Yang Mi – was to try to copy extreme poses from Manga cartoons that replicate the cartoon character’s impossibly slim waists.
Last year one of China’s leading supermarket chains RT-Mart was also criticised for a size chart that described petite women as ‘beautiful’ and larger women as ‘rotten bad’.
“There’s nothing wrong with being thin, white and young. It’s just this shouldn’t be set as a beauty standard,” the China Youth Daily lectured.
Others have bemoaned the general craze for tighter, ill-fitting clothes that often expose the midriff – often called the ‘BM style’ after the Italian brand Brandy Melville, which produces clothes in small sizes claiming that “one size fits all” (see WiC498).
It wasn’t so many decades ago that brands like Zara couldn’t sell bikinis in China because women felt it was unhealthy and even a bit immoral to expose your belly button.
But one post doing the rounds on Chinese social media is now claiming that to be a true Brandy Melville girl you can’t weigh more than 33kg at a height of 150cm.
According to government data, the average woman in China is 156cm tall and weighs 57kg.
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