opinion| Shein, Cider and NastyGal put normal body shapes aside in favor of Barbie-style proportions

Online fast fashion retailers like Shein, Cider, and NastyGal have sprung up like polyester weeds over the past five years, much to the delight of savvy Gen Z and millennial shoppers.

They’ve replaced inner-city retailers in much the same way that apps have supplanted table service — but not necessarily for the better.

Despite Chinese fashion giant Shein’s opaque production ethic, it remains the go-to place for dresses, shoes and clothing.

You can pick up an outfit for £20 or lingerie for just £2.

NastyGal, the more upscale fast fashion brand, often has deals of up to 40 percent off.

Some items of clothing fit perfectly, while others appear to be tailored to an “ideal” height that apparently only exists on Instagram. Let’s put it this way, it’s not a body shape you often see at the beach or by the pool.

YouTubers and TikTok stars are showing off their fast fashion “hauls” online, opening up hundreds of packages to eager audiences.

A silk wrap top that would cost around £50 in Monsoon can be snagged at Cider or Shein for £12.99. It won’t be real silk, but satin-esque will do for lunch with friends.

The fast fashion boom comes as incomes are lower, rents are higher, and quantity is more important than quality.

It’s appealing to those who want to look good for less or keep up with the latest trends.

With an ever-rotating display of ruched waists and Kardashian curves plastered all over social media, young women are attempting to emulate the sleek, classic styles once reserved for pricier brands — and fast fashion has dutifully responded.

Yet despite TikTok’s appeal, these garments “trail” the smack of Shakespeare’s gilded butterflies.

A size “L” on Shein, which is meant to be a UK 12/14, can be as small as a UK size 8.

Fast Fashion Sizes Can Be Popular and Impact Self-Esteem (56017865)

NastyGal 12 jeans are oversized with a waist fit for an eight year old.

As a UK 10/12 I had to shop more than once in the ‘Plus and Curve’ range to find a size 14 or 16 for my frame.

Cider’s largest size outside of their “Curve” section was advertised as a UK 12, but needed a corset that fit my waist (and even then it didn’t).

Measurements are much more reliable when shopping at stores like New Look or River Island. M&S has sophisticated and trusted sizes that you can order online with confidence.

Fast Fashion Sizes Can Be Popular and Impact Self-Esteem (56017858)
Fast Fashion Sizes Can Be Popular and Impact Self-Esteem (56017858)

Normal and average body shapes are now treated as sub-areas of sizing, in an industry where unrealistic waist sizes are favored and modeled.

Models often have a low waist, large bust and curvaceous hips – complete with washboard abs. Not to mention the lingerie models who seem to have lost their crotch standing in tiny V-shaped thongs. A friend once said to me through tears, “These clothes are making me obese and I need to lose weight.”

Fast Fashion Sizes Can Be Popular and Impact Self-Esteem (56017861)
Fast Fashion Sizes Can Be Popular and Impact Self-Esteem (56017861)

In 2020, EastEnders star Jacqueline Jossa slammed Zara for her “offensive” height after she couldn’t fit into a “big” size 12 shorts. In a society where body positivity is celebrated, fast fashion should reflect that – rather than contradict the feelings with which they sell their products.

And of course all these cheap items that are discarded in the end have to end up somewhere – and pollute the environment.



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