Saturday, 19 October 2019

A Fat Girl's Guide to China: Buying Clothes

When I first arrived in China, I was a UK size 26 (pushing 28), so I had strong suspicions that I'd struggle to find clothing that would fit. 

I did a little bit of research before I left and found that most people had said that some places, mainly markets, could tailor clothing for you but it would be considerably pricier than the Chinese high street. Not wanting to pay through the nose, I was firmly under the impression that the clothes I brought in my suitcase would be the clothing that I'd have to cope with for the whole year. I brought as many pairs of leggings, sets of underwear, and t-shirts as I could fit in my bag and prayed that it would do me for the year.

I do want to preface this with the fact that I've lost a significant amount of weight since I arrived in Beijing. Not as a flex, but as confirmation that I've definitely found it easier having lost around four and a half stone. I'm not entirely sure what size I'd fit into now in the UK so I can't give you a firm idea of my size, but I think I've dropped at least one, maybe two dress sizes. I can't even give you an idea of size in terms of Chinese clothing because in one store I may be an XL, and another I'll be a 7XL (but I'll go into that shortly).

If you're planning on moving to China as a plus-size person, it's very likely that you'll find it difficult to buy clothing, but it probably won't be as difficult as you think. It's also virtually impossible to be here for a significant amount of time without buying any clothes. You get two different extremes of weather. It's absolutely fucking boiling in the Summer, and absolutely fucking baltic in the Winter, and you just can't pack for both. I haven't experienced a Chinese Winter yet, but I've heard that most Winter clothing you bring just won't cut the mustard. It can get to 43° in the Summer, and to -8° in the Winter, and if you think your £20 Boohoo coat is gonna get you through that, you're fucking wrong.

It's pretty well known that the sizing in H&M is completely and utterly fucked, and it's no better in China. 

H&M stocks a lot of 'Asian Fit' (read: Baggy) clothing in the Women's section, and I find that I can squeeze into these. It's definitely a squeeze in an L or XL, but it would work as a last resort. Generally, H&M seems to stock up at a UK 14/16 in a pretty decent range of clothing and is around the standard price point, if not a tiny bit cheaper than the UK.

Hoodie: H&M (Asian Fit - Men's Section) XL - ¥159

When I shop at H&M, I shop mostly in the Men's section. I now fit fairly comfortably into a Men's XL in t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts. I haven't ventured into buying any pants yet, because I don't wanna get my feelings hurt, but I've noticed they sell a lot of stretchy looking sweatpants. You can expect to pay around ¥40 for a plain regular fit t-shirt, between ¥79 (£9)-¥129 (£15) for a branded t-shirt (NASA, Coca Cola, Friends, that kind of branding), and between ¥159 (£18)-¥249 (£28) for a hoodie.

T-Shirt: H&M (Men's) XL
Skirt: Uniqlo (IT HAS POCKETS) L

Uniqlo is a Japanese brand, that has a few locations in the UK, so you may already be familiar with them.

I do still struggle to find things that fit me in Uniqlo, and I find that their sizing isn't particularly forgiving. My favourite skirt ever (in the photo above) is from Uniqlo and is a Women's Large. It has a stretchy elastic waist, and I wear it quite high on my waist which is probably the only reason it fits. I haven't shopped the men's section of Uniqlo, but much like H&M you can find a lot of branded t-shirts for around the ¥100 mark.

Taobao is a Chinese online shopping platform, and it is fucking incredible. I could write a whole blog post on how much I love Taobao, but I'll save that shit for another time. So here are the basics:
  • A huge range of products
  • Fast shipping
  • Cheap as fuck
Shopping for clothing on Taobao as a plus-size person takes a lot of patience and fairly thick skin. As I've mentioned before, the sizing in China and the attitude towards larger people is pretty fucked so of course, that plays into the availability of clothing. As I frequently browse Taobao until 2am, I've noticed that more and more stores catered towards foreigners and larger bodies are slowly but surely popping up. 

As should be expected, Taobao is mostly in Chinese, but with more stores geared towards foreigners opening, you can search in English and likely find what you're looking for. However, be prepared to search for 'fat people leggings', 'fat women dresses', 'plus-size shoes' (swear to God), and other things along those lines and be prepared to buy a 10XL pair of shorts. 

Dress: Taobao 4XL - ¥56

Silk Street
Silk Street is a bargain hunter's paradise. Selling shoes, luggage, watches, glasses, electronics - anything you can think of, Silk Street probably has it. Again, I could write a whole post about Silk Street (and I probably will) so I'll give you the basics:
  • Knock offs of designer brands
  • Tourist tat
  • Cheap as fuck
  • Batshit insane
I have yet to visit any of the dressmakers there for to get any pieces, but there's a whole floor dedicated to them. There's easily at least 10 different ones. From what I've heard, it's as easy as going in with a photo of what you want and they can likely knock it up for you. Like the rest of Silk Street, they'll almost definitely start with an outrageous price, but you can almost always haggle them down to something within your price range. If you haven't seen anything like this before, I'd highly recommend checking out a couple of Youtube videos on Silk Street

This is really just the beginning of being bold enough to shop for clothing, so I'll keep updating when I find new places that work for me. If you're in China and you know somewhere you think I'd like, hit me up! If you're thinking of coming to China, or you're new and have any questions, also hit me up! 

I'm thinking of making A Fat Girl's Guide to China a whole series. What do you think? What would you want to see?

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