Free Size

May 7, 2009 at 10:51 am  •  Posted in Artikel Semasa, Isu Wanita by  •  3 Comments

SYIDA LIZTA AMIRUL IHSAN is incensed that most Malaysian retailers cater only to the average-sized woman.

ONE of the values propagated in the 1Malaysia concept mooted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently is acceptance. It is “embracing something positively,” he said on the 1Malaysia website.

Acceptance is also the key to building self-esteem. You accept who you are and you enjoy being in your skin instead of wanting to be someone else. It can also be defined as celebrating diversity, understanding that each individual is different, in not only opinion but also in shape and size.

I was in Singapore and loved the Gap store there because I think it brings out the value of the American label — a basics brand for everyone — and accepts that not all women are created equal in size.

There, the sizes for women’s pants range from a skinny zero to a plump 16 and for shirts and blouses, from XS to XL. Compare this to Malaysia where the sizes stop at 12 for pants (and for some styles, eight) and L for shirts.
Question: If distributor FJ Benjamin can bring in larger sizes to Singapore, what’s stopping them from doing the same here? Here, there seems to be a clear segregation in what women wear. Put simply, the brand you wear depends on the size of your body.

Thin to medium-built women would fit into almost everything. But if you’re a big girl, then you’d have to go to a different bunch of labels which, quite frankly, don’t give you that much choice and can look rather matronly.

Very few clothing labels carry a wider spectrum of sizes. I can think of Dorothy Perkins, Island Shop, Principles, Liz Claiborne, Debenhams, Marks and Spencer and Malaysian-grown BritishIndia — the list is, sadly, very short.

I wear a size 16 and I don’t like it that the retail fashion brands are segregating women. Just because She is large, does it mean that She should be denied the same style that Her M-size friend wears?

Never mind that high-end designer labels are only skewed towards the tall and thin. They may have an image to guard, plus, their clothes are so expensive few women can afford them. But we are talking about mid-range brands that are supposed to be made for the masses. But in Malaysia, they are not really meant for everyone, are they?

In Europe, brands like Mango (or MNG), Zara and H&M cater to both small and large women. When I was in Europe five years ago, I was shocked to find a Mango winter coat in a size 20 because here, Mango is strictly for those wearing size 12 and below.

I think the online Gap boutique ( is the perfect example of accepting women of all shapes and sizes. Not only is the size range wide, there are cuttings for the tall and petite.

But I suppose, at any rate, Malaysia is better than Bangkok. I was at Siam Square recently (where loads of Thai designers have set up shop) when I saw colourful cardigans at RM15 each. I jumped for joy.

But here’s the catch — they are all in “free” size, and that actually means the size of a thin adolescent that’s as curvy as a wooden plank. To repeat HBO’s Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera, real women have curves.

Someone should banish the free size altogether because unless it’s a bag, it is just impossible. Even our left and right foot are not of the same size, so how can women be pigeonholed into one mould?

And it’s just sad to know that the next time I need my Gap fix, I have to travel to the Lion City when I should be able to get it at Mid Valley.

By : Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan

Source : NST, 27 April 2009


  1. hush / June 5, 2009 at 2:06 am /

    very true indeed–> the article

    malaysian market for clothes is so awful. Why can they just look at the people and make clothes that are just nice for Asian small frame to large body type?

    A lot of “free size” may as well wont fit the very small size person, it is same for the extra large size person. I am a very skinny, super duper size 00 person, who find it rather difficult to find clothes for work (now that im working)

    And, it amaze me why international brands (like stated in the article) do provide wide range of size. Why? I need someone who are from the fashion industry, recognize this problem and take action immediately!

    But I found some brands that would fit, for my working attire such as The Executive, The South China Sea, and Petite. Also it is easier for someone like me to buy from certain brands.

    Also, in my younger days, I always get college t-shirt (the one that u must buy and wear in for orientation) much much bigger for me even though the label is S and quite a few times I get XXL shirts because they dont have anymore S size shirt. WHat the F**k! They have to be more alert with the size. What an awful day to be wearing XXL shirt when u are only small and S size person. I look funny and ridiculous. I do not feel good during any orientation, and the confidence drop down, and yes it is very true, when u dressed well enough, u get ur confidence.

    Anyone with the same situation?

  2. Nad / June 5, 2009 at 11:06 pm /

    i agree, dressing well helps wth how we present ourselves and also our confidence level. and it’s true that a lot of brands still do not provide a wider range of sizes for different body types. but i do think that things are slowly changing, and the fashion industry is starting to recognize that there is a lot of untapped market they have yet to explore. so here’s to hoping that more brands will provide a wider range of sizes for their clothes!

  3. Sharifah / June 9, 2009 at 4:33 am /

    i completely agree with all of you..
    untuk orang yang berbadan agak besar dan tinggi macam sy memang susah sgat nak dapat baju yang feminin..
    setiap kali pergi kat bahagian baju yang feminin, sy akan dikecewakan dengan saiz pilihan baju, dilabelkan saiz XL, tapi baju yang dijual, jika dilihat dari pandangan mata sy hanya sesuai dipakai untuk kanak2 yang berbadan besar, bukan untuk orang dewasa.. kasut pun mcam tu jugak, bagi saya yg berkaki besar, memang susah untuk mendapatkan kasut yang cantik dan dalam masa yang same selesa untuk dipakai, yang mana boleh dipakai, tentu saja design nya sudah outdated atau mengakibatkan seseorang remaja nampak sebaya ibu mereka….bila lah industri fesyen di Malaysia nak sedar bahawa bukan semua orang perempuan tu badannya kecil molek, de yang tinggi dan besar…

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