Jacqueline C. Yau Flying Carpet Articles

King Kong in Shanghai

I am five-foot, 4-inches and 125 pounds. I have a long, slim face, wide shoulders, long arms and legs, short-waist, skinny ankles, average-sized breasts, and a medium-sized butt. Iím about a size 8. Iím not your garden variety, extremely slim and petite Asian-American woman. O.K., hardly noteworthy in the United States but in ChinaÖI might as well be King Kong. I am HUGE. I am a deviant. Iím an alien squared because I actually resemble someone who belongs to the same race living in China but Iím shaped very differently. I find nothing fits me except for the occasional XXL.

I need a dress and Iím in China for another three months. I only brought functional wear, thinking that no one cares about fashion here. Silly me. I missed Chinaís fast forward into consumerism in the four years since my last visit. I also surprise myself. I discover I want to look more feminine while I am in China. My good friend, Shirley, takes me to downtown Shanghai, to dressmaker row, to a cheongsam dressmaker she knows. The dresses stun the senses in copper, iridescent blue, bright green, searing red, sumptuous eggplant—all luxuriant silk fabrics shot with gold threads and Asian patterns. I try to squeeze into a ready-made dress. Nope. Here in China, Iím a lush and voluptuous woman.

The dressmaker, a small fireball of a woman, charges over from the other side of the shop and takes over my dress selection, clucking and emitting a slew of Shanghainese and Mandarin phrases. She doesnít quite believe that I canít fit into any of the off-the-rack dresses. I look smaller than I am and taller than I am. My body is an optical illusion. People constantly misjudge my shape, size, weight, and age. She tries to stuff and zip me into a custom dress they are making for an Italian woman half my size. I think that Italian women and Chinese women must come from the same genetic stock judging from this dress—tiny people stock.

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Added on February 01, 2003

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