My American Size Doesn’t Fit My Asian Clothes

I went out with my mom one night to the Asian plaza a little ways down from our house. I needed some dress pants for an occasion that was coming up. My mom said she knew of this particular Vietnamese store where she had shopped for pants.

The lady in the store was an acquaintance of my mom's. She handed me a pair of size small pants. My mom held the pants up to me, shook her head in disappointment, and asked for a larger size. We all finally settled on a Size XL: extra-large.

I felt so humiliated. Here I was with my mom, in this Vietnamese store, and she's explaining to me in Vietnamese something that roughly translates to, "Honey, you got too much junk in the trunk."

Vietnamese stores are like huge department stores condensed into one little room. They sell clothing, shoes, perfume, lotions, toys, calendars, undergarments -- the list goes on and on. The clothes are meant for juniors, in terms of fashion sense as well as size. They are brightly colored and meant to be very chic -- which they are, depending on who's wearing them.

I knew I'd gained a little weight, but this situation at the store was horrible. As I remember, I used to be a medium in Vietnamese sizes. I still am in American sizes. At 21, I'm 5'7" and weigh 130 pounds. These proportions are considered average for an American woman. But by Vietnamese fashion standards, my current dimensions are definitely not "medium."

This made me think that I simply am not Asian enough. American beauty standards may be harsh, but at least there is room for the plus-sized woman in American fashion. With 130 pounds being considered "extra-large," there is no room at all for the plus-sized woman in these Vietnamese stores.

That's me: the extra-large Asian. As a Vietnamese woman, I feel I am not Asian enough to shop in Vietnamese stores. Your question might be, "Why not shop at another store? Wouldn't it be easier?" I could, but why should I have to stop shopping at stores that carry my culture's fashions?

At first, I could not figure out what it was about wearing a size extra-large from the Vietnamese store bothered me so much. After all, the pants fit me the same as the Size 8's I gladly purchase at American stores. Then it came to me. "Small" means you are cute and adorable. Small means you are beautiful. Small means you are Asian.

My own standards have been somewhat distorted by hanging around my friends from the Vietnamese association at my school, with their model-like proportions. Everyone is so thin, and many are practicing careers as fashion models in the community by doing Vietnamese pageants. I consider myself healthy, but I will never be as thin as they are.

At the Vietnamese store, I was left thinking, "What am I going to do? I need pants!" I do not want to go on a diet. I do not want to join a gym. We average Asian American female folks ought to be able to shop at clothing stores that reflect our cultures without having to wear the "XL" tag -- if we can find clothes that fit us at all.

In the end, there was nothing else to do. I bought those pants. I was humiliated and enraged. My mom shouting "Her butt's too big!" didn't help. After we left, I told my cousin what had happened. She comforted me by saying, "Don't be ashamed. Booty is a beautiful thing."


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