The children’s clothing division at Uniqlo in China has acquired an unexpected new client: adult women.
In the latest viral challenge to sweep Chinese social media, women pose for dressing room selfies in Japanese fashion giant T-shirts. The trend has sparked heated debate over whether it promotes body shyness, with experts expressing concern that it strengthens the country’s unhealthy beauty standards.
“This is a dangerous trend, not only in terms of a pursuit of thinness and the pressure it puts on women and girls, but also in terms of the overt sexualization of women,” said Tina Rochelle, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences, said. at the City University of Hong Kong investigating the influence of gender and culture on health. She said the small clothes would probably be stiffer and more shapely on the woman’s body.
On Weibo, a microblogging platform, where the hashtag ‘Adult Trying Uniqlo Kids’ Clothing’ has been viewed 680 million times, criticism is divided between those who object to the unrealistic beauty standards that promote the challenge and those who express the more practical concerns about women. stick out the clothes and make them unsold.
One user calls it “another way of displaying the ‘white, young, thin’ aesthetics”, referring to a phrase commonly used to describe the dominant beauty standard of the country. The person added: “It emphasizes unhealthy bodily shame and must be strongly resisted. “
Another commenter wrote: “Although I’m jealous of the women’s figures, they should buy the clothes after trying them on! The clothes are all stretched, how can kids wear them! ”
Uniqlo did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
The challenge is described as the latest version of ‘BM style’, a type of fashion recently popularized by Italian brand Brandy Melville, which is youthful, comfortable and above all thin (its stores have only one size: extra small).
Since the brand opened its first Chinese store in Shanghai in 2019, it has become an aspiration symbol for young women who desperately want to print in their clothes. An unofficial measurement chart distributed on Weibo showed how many women in different heights would have to weigh to fit – a 5-foot-3 woman had to weigh 95 pounds.
Brandy Melville did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jia Tan, an assistant professor of cultural studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the clothing industry is a prominent driver for what is considered ‘standard’ size. The same sizes are usually smaller in Asia than in the West, she said, and ‘standard’ sizes exclude a significant portion of the population.
“I think we need to first question the tremendous social pressure on women, and why clothing industries can have so much power to standardize how we look there, before pointing the fingers at the adult women showing off in children’s sizes,” said Professor Tan. said in an email.
Similar online challenges have hit Chinese social media before. In 2016, women – and some men – posed with their waists behind a vertical sheet of A4 paper to show that they were ‘paper thin’.
The challenge was so popular that celebrities took part, and Chinese state media discussed it, prompting one feminist campaigner, Zheng Churan, to write in a riposte: “I like my fat waist” on a piece of paper that held horizontally across her waist.
In 2015, for the “belly button challenge”, people reached one arm behind their back and around their waist to touch their stomach – seemingly to brag about how thin they were.
There seems to be a growing awareness of body positivity in China. A few months ago, a store faced a setback to label larger women’s clothing sizes as ‘rotten’, apologizing.
But dr. Rochelle, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong, noted that although there was increasing willingness among women to engage in body shaming and share their experiences online, there were few indicators that society in general was changing.
“It does not seem to have struck here that fat shyness and discussing a woman’s weight in public can have a major impact on a person’s well-being,” she said.