From the time when women only wore dresses, they, whether by themselves, or had them specifically tailored, had their dresses made and altered to their body’s exact measurements. This dress would be fit exactly to their body proportions, helping them escape the struggle with body positivity that exists today.
Now, I understand the unrealistic nature of having that system today with time and convenience as factors. Furthermore, many people simply cannot afford to have each item of their clothing made. And so, we turn to the ready-made clothes market.
Obviously, not every shirt or shalwar or pair of jeans that you try on will sit on your body the way you want it to. But that’s simply because not every person who is a size 8, 10, 12 , 14 will have the exact same body structure.
Let me further emphasize this:
Woman one: Size 10. Petite shoulders, thicker thighs.
Woman two: Also size 10. Broad shoulders, thigh gap.
In conclusion, a shirt that is structured to stay put on the shoulders of woman one, may feel a little tight for woman two.
(Woman two, if you like the tight on the shoulders shirt, GO FOR IT.)
The point I’m trying to get across is this: when we shop for clothes, it can take a lot of trial and error to find clothes that you feel flatter you, even if they’re all in the same size. Sometimes, we have to try on a range of sizes before finding the perfect size for you. And sometimes, we never even find that piece of clothing in a size that we feel looks good on us. So what happens when there isn’t any concept of the ‘clothes fit’, or ‘body proportions’ in your clothes market? And what has this issue done to affect women in Pakistan’s ability to look, feel good, and love themselves through their dressing?
In Pakistan, society has brainwashed us into believing that the thinner you are, the more attractive you are. The moment someone gains an ounce of weight, they will receive comments both behind and to their faces. This can work the opposite way as well, when you lose some weight, people comment on it as well. Now, if you want to lose weight in a healthy, good for you way because you think it’ll make you feel more comfortable in your body, go for it. You do you.
There doesn’t need to be a goal in every woman’s mind to lose 20 pounds so that she can be married. Some women are not interested in losing weight. Leave. Them. Alone.
So, where does inclusivity of fashion come into this issue of the body image stigma, that is rampant in Pakistan?
Imagine walking into a store and seeing a mannequin wearing a pair of jeans you really want to buy. Imagine being a size XL but the last size for jeans is a large. What would you do? You could leave it, and if there was any self-doubt in you, you may wish in that moment that you were a smaller size. Or, you could buy the jeans, but always wish they fit better on you. The same item of clothing that initially brought you so much excitement now becomes a cause of your self-doubt.
The way we choose to dress is an extension of our expression. Our body type should not limit our ability to do that. Loving ourselves should not be a choice we can only make when we fit into the image society has created for women. If you’re a plus-sized woman in Pakistan, it can be extremely difficult to find clothes that compliment your body type. This is not to say there are not fashion labels and brands in Pakistan that are not targeting the elephant in the room that has been very cleverly concealed by society’s veil.
These initiatives are teaching us that body image, body love, and self-care begin with adoring your body’s current state while actively pursuing health and wellness goals.
No matter what size you are, you can wear beautiful clothes.
It is incredibly worrying to live as a young woman in Pakistan and know that is you aren’t of a ‘preferred’ weight or body type; you won’t have the same facilities available to you as girls with a ‘normal’ body type will have.
The truth is we really need to evaluate the sort of message that is being cultivated for our youth. The argument I am making is not to disagree with those who need to eat healthier or exercise more for their personal health reasons or for their personal choice. My argument is that the fashion industry cannot be a catalyst for increased body-shaming and decreased size inclusivity.
A person’s weight is not in any way a measure of their intelligence, ability, or personality. A constant implementation of these suffocating standards will only make our younger generations more judgmental and prone to believing there is an ideal beauty standard that they need to fit into. The very vital message of self-love and body positivity will be completely lost for the future. How will young girls realize their self worth if such a huge part of their culture undermines them?
This is why Pakistan’s fashion industry needs to collectively lead the movement towards body positivity. For most of us, the clothes we wear are the first connection we make to our bodies. The fashion industry needs to recognize their responsibility in creating beautiful clothes for women of all shapes and sizes. This could be the ignition for the change of mindsets, the end of society’s unrealistic standards, and most importantly, a journey of self-love and acceptance for all women to embark upon.