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Proudly pursuing fashion to flatter the fuller figure

Reporters: Grace Cheung, Sherry Tsui, Brian Wong

Editor: Natalie Tsoi

Hong Kong may be acclaimed as a hub for international fashion brands. But the glamorous showcases of luxury boutiques and coveted clothing created by top-notch designers hide an inconvenient truth: here, fashion is for the thin.

Wearing a white top and a pair of black Gallus short trousers, Bertha Chan exudes style. To put together her fashion-forward looks, Chan buys her clothes online from overseas labels to satisfy her taste. She does so not because she could not find styles she likes locally, but simply because of her size.

Chan writes a fashion blog Curvasian to share her findings and comments on new fashion designs. “Because I’m Asian, and I’m curvy,” she says.

Fashion for the fuller figure is often referred to as ‘plus-size fashion’. “Plus-size fashion is to differentiate the sizes from what we call straight size, which is from US size 0-12,” says Chan. “Especially high fashion, they stop at size 12 and they don’t go up anymore because some fashion designers tend to think that it’s actually ruining their brand image.”

Boudoir photographer Agnes Chan also finds it difficult to buy larger sized, fashionable clothes. She meets Varsity dressed in a body-clinging leopard print dress which is unavailable through ordinary channels. Despite the trouble of sourcing clothes to her taste, she refuses to adopt the conservative approach. “Is it a must for fat people to wear loose, multi-layered clothes, covering the tummy or legs with a jacket even at over 20°C?”

“It is normal to be slim in Hong Kong, but having more muscles would be abnormal,” she adds.

In a town where it seems everyone is aspiring to be thin, fashion designers tend to create clothes for slim figures. Local designer Esther Lui says this is inevitable as designers tend to choose slimmer models for what they believe to be a better visual effect. “People appear fatter through the lens, no matter how slim you are,” says Lui, “for designers, they would of course choose a slimmer model so as to balance the resulting visuals.”

Pacino Wan, lecturer of the Department of Fashion and Image Design, Hong Kong Design Institute, says Asians are more likely to pursue slim figures, as they are inherently smaller in body size. However, he thinks larger-sized people should also express themselves through fashion. “Sometimes I hear from stylists that larger-sized people should avoid wearing bright and floral clothes,” Wan says, “but I would encourage them to try out different clothes. If not, how could you wear fashionable clothes?”

“Fashion boosts self-confidence. It also gives you vitality for the whole day.”

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