Picture this. It’s your wedding and you want to wear a lehenga by a famous designer whose work you have been eyeing for years. Every soon-to-be bride has a mood-board when it comes to how she wants her wedding day to be. She has a vision of how she wants her lehenga to be and even the designer whose creations she wants to wear. After all, clothes form a big part of any Indian wedding. You like something and you want it for your day but lo and behold you are told that the lehenga isn’t available in your size because the brand only caters to sample-sized women.
Now here’s the thing. This isn’t fiction but a reality for a lot of women in this country. Designer brands cater to only a certain body shape and size. This is absolutely wild because every woman has a different body that cannot be boxed into “sample” sizes. The idea that women need to be a certain size to fit into a lehenga she wants for the wedding feeds into the unhealthy and unsustainable narrative that brides need to undertake diet plans before their wedding to look a certain way.
Back in 2021, Tanaya Narendran (popularly known by her Instagram name – Dr Cuterus) shared how she was body-shamed at a Tarun Tahiliani store that she had visited to get her wedding lehenga. She posted about it on her Instagram. The brand issued a statement which sounded more like a Notes App apology where they skirted around the issue and refused to take ownership. Tanaya, then, took to her Instagram stories and shared how she had informed about her size to the brand before she even visited the store. She added that the way the salesperson made her feel about her body, the way he was disinterested in showing her around, and the way they mentioned how something was not available in her “size” spoke volumes. Women who do not fit into the sample size are made to feel a certain way for literally no fault of their own. They are made to feel that the problem lies in them for being a certain way when the truth is that far from that.
Earlier to that, Falguni Peacock had also made a regressive statement. The designer was asked to share what she feels plus-sized brides should wear. She said, “I won’t blatantly tell her to lose weight, but you have enough time and you can work on yourself. It is pretty easy to lose a couple of inches if you want to…Long blouses, more flared lehengas and not fitted because fitted won’t really work when you’re a little big. No deep necks for them, maybe more higher.” Her statement indicates that women need to be a certain size to wear what they like at their wedding. Her statement did not go down well with the internet. Later, the designer apologized for her comment. But what she wanted to state rang loud and clear.
Popular fashion page, Diet Sabya shared a series of stories where they talked about the infamous “fat tax”. For the unversed, fat tax is when you have to pay more for a piece of clothing. For example, the same T-shirt will cost more for plus sizes than it would for the smaller size. The series revealed how even those brands that promote size inclusivity also charge fat taxes. They charge more for customizations and in many cases, larger-sized clothing is not even eligible for exchange or return. When big designer brands have policies like this, it feels like they are punishing women for not fitting into the size that is shown in their catalogue.
A distant friend of mine who got married last year revealed how she started looking for wedding lehengas almost eight months before her marriage. She wanted it to be perfect and that is why she set out on the hunt much earlier. She went into multiple stores only for the brands to tell her how they didn’t have the lehenga in her size. They agreed to customise it for her but they were charging a bomb. She got disappointed and she chose to go with a saree. But then again, these stores did not have a blouse in her size. It took her local masterji to make the perfect blouse for her without breaking the bank. She said, “While I loved my wedding saree, I always wanted to wear a lehenga. But the number of times brands turned me down because of my size really got to me and I did not have it in me to look for more.”
When you are a bride and you get to hear people and even designers breathing down your neck asking you to lose weight before your marriage, it starts getting to you. It feels like you have been reduced to your body on a day that is supposed to celebrate you. Brides inadvertently have a lot of pressure that is mounted on them. Pushing them to the point where they feel that they need to look a certain way to be perceived as beautiful is something that needs to change.
Another acquaintance of mine who got married during the pandemic faced a similar issue. She said, “My size depends on the brands, sometimes I can fit into an M or a L or an XL. I travelled from Jamshedpur to Kolkata to find that perfect lehenga. But designers told me that they do not have a lehenga in my size.” Luckily, she found a lehenga that she liked in a store that was tucked away in the dingy lanes of Burrabazar. She notes, “Designers did not have my size but that small store did and they even customised it to fit me at a reasonable price.”
So the problem doesn’t lie in the fact that clothes aren’t available for women who do not fit the sample size. The problem lies in how designer brands do not want to cater to multiple sizes. On some levels, we do understand that it is not financially viable for them to make ‘n’ number of pieces of one design. It is also understandable that creating multiple pieces of the same design when the fashion cycle changes like the tides is also not the best idea for a brand to sustain itself in the longer run. The problem lies in brands charging enormous amounts for customisation, even for “standard” sizes, which makes women feel bad about their bodies. This is even worse for brands which showcase how size-inclusive they are. In reality, inclusivity is reserved only for press releases and Instagram carousels.
For brides, wearing a designer piece at their wedding is an aspirational goal. They want to feel royal on their day and rightly so. But when brands refuse to cater to women who do not fit the runway size, women who have always looked up to these designers feel guilty for even having this dream.
Any industry that caters to women thrives on making women feel insecure about the most minute of things. Perhaps it is time to change that. Perhaps the time is here when designers become truly size-inclusive and make every woman feel beautiful in their own skin.