Why Indian women must stay away from Chinese A-4 body size

Neena Haridas
Neena HaridasMar 24, 2016 | 17:26

Why Indian women must stay away from Chinese A-4 body size

The Chinese have done it again. They really are unputdownable. They have entered the global body shape dialogue with what is being called the A-4 size. Out size zero. Sorry, Kareena.

The concept is: To be an "ideal" A-4 size (yes, the paper that you put in your printer), your waist should measure 21cm. So now Chinese girls and a few boys are breaking the internet with selfies of them holding an A-4 paper across their torso to prove that they are a not single millimetre beyond 8.3 inch.

Body issues and the challenges of being too fat or thin have been discussed to death in vain. So I am not going to dignify another ridiculous fad with a critique. If you wish to prove your stupidity, go ahead.

In any case, since we have a compulsion to ape any "trend" that goes viral, in all likelihood, women aged anything from 15-55 are probably holding a sheet of white paper, a mobile camera and clicking away selfies for their Instagram profiles even as I write this.

While this too shall fade or faint, there is an interesting fact I recently heard while shopping for clothes. Indian women prefer to buy one size too small for them. So if their size is "large", they tend to go for "medium", and their favourite is size "small", even if they have to be squeezed into them.

The favourite villains when it comes to any discussion on body issue are, of course, the fashion magazines, which according to the non-fashion media, feed the masses with the "need" to be thin by showing them images of thin models.

The sari, salwar or churidaar-kameez, flared skirt (lehenga), are all size-proof. 

The fashion designers are not spared either. They are accused of not designing for the real woman; high-street brands are berated for ignoring large-sized women and so on and so forth... Ergo, regular women like you and me are forced to starve and go on what is called the 18-hour workout schedule. Blah!

It got me thinking, are Indian women over-obsessed with size? Are we working overtime conspiring to change our shapes to turn M into S, or L into S?

More importantly, do we really understand international standards for size?

The fact is, we have never had to understand sizes.

Indian fashion has always been tolerant of the varying shapes and sizes of the human body. The staples we grew up on - the sari, salwar or churidaar-kameez, flared skirt (lehenga), are all size-proof.

The sari is basically six yards of fabric. Women of all sizes, shapes, heights and weights (across socio-economic strata) fit into that one standard size. When was the last time you had to complain about the sari being too tight for you? The skirt (petticoat) that goes under the six yards comes with a nada (drawstring) or elastic band, again easily adjustable to your girth.

The sari blouse, of course, is always custom-fitted by the local tailor (or designer, if you will) and never picked off the racks.

Likewise, churidaars and salwars; but for minor variations, they are practically free-size. Most of us are adept at wearing our mom's or sister's churidaars and salwars without any major alterations. ­The extra length, if any, is always adjusted as extra chooris around the ankle, while the nada takes care of any waistline issues.

Now that we have discovered the comfort and glamour of Western silhouettes, size matters. The one-size-fits-all favourites have been replaced with body-hugging gowns, dresses, trousers, suits, jackets, pencil skirts and then some.

Unlike a sari, which hides those unsightly love handles or a dupatta that tones down a chest too ample, an Herve Leger bandage dress will put you out there on display: curves, tyres and all. An ill-fitting pair of trousers will, no doubt, make a spectacle of your big ass.

A lehenga would never do that to you.

Western silhouettes are about tailoring and fit. You get what you wear. There are no cheat codes to pin and tuck. Which is probably why, most of us, have sizing dilemma, especially while ordering online. We are now having to judge ourselves every time we enter a Zara or a Dior store. And figuring out our size online is a nightmare with all their complicated charts.

What's worse is that each silhouette has its own little quirk. So, you may be size M in shirts, but chances are you will be an L in a skirt. Surely, you did not add extra lard at the hips overnight!

The size business gets even more complicated if you are a globe-trotting shopper. A size "small" in the United States is "extra small" in France, which in turn, is a "medium" in Brazil. Here is a sampler: if you are size eight in UK, you are 36 in France, but 38 in Italy and 4 in the US. Phew! Now, do the math. Tough, right?

There is no need to fumble, flounder and go into depression every time a shop assistant tells us to opt for a larger size. There are no fashionable sizes. And not all clothes fit all. Unless, of course, we are talking about the sari.

Yes, even if you have fallen for the idiotic A-4 size clique.

Last updated: March 24, 2016 | 17:44
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