Does Size Matter?

Champion for Curvy Women, Yusimy Chovell De Armas

Dateline: El Born, Barcelona, Spain

By Chiogor Constance Ikokwu

I danced around this topic for a while, trying to make up my mind on how to present the essay without pissing off a bunch of people. In the contemporary world, size is a subject of sheer torture, thanks to fashion houses that frequently shove stick-thin girls in our faces.

To them, this is the standard of beauty that we should aspire to, not minding the damage done to the psyche of millions of women who may never attain these unrealistic figures. Pray, how does a woman maintain the figure of a boy from childhood through puberty to adulthood? Simply insane!!! Body changes are inevitable. It’s part of the biological process.

It all started in the trendy neighborhood of El Born in Barcelona. This neighborhood is appealing because of renowned landmarks such as the Picasso Museum, a gothic style Church, medieval streets and many cafes and bars. The occasion was a coffee meeting with Yusimy Chovell De Armas, who I was told organizes some fantastic events. I wanted to hear it all, especially when I learnt that Yusimy had Spanish and Cuban roots. Put that down to my fascination with Cuba.

At 1.79 meters, Yusimy is quite tall compared to the average Spanish woman. The woman carries herself with unquestionable confidence. She has no apology for her curvaceous physique, which is proudly on display as she struts the streets like she runs the world. This reminds me of Beyonce’s song “bootylicious.” Bey saved curvy women from worldwide shaming by using the Hollywood platform to celebrate her body. Are we all surprised to be witnessing the plastic surgery craze? I mean, people shopping for boobs and butt like they’re picking apples and oranges from the supermarket? That is more complicated, though.

Yusimy tells me that she manages the “Miss Curvys” project in Barcelona. It’s an undertaking that aims to change perceptions by embracing the different sizes and shapes of the womenfolk. She narrates how frustrating it is for big women to find clothes in Spain. The largest size that most clothing stores stock is 42. After that, you’re consigned to online shopping or select stores. Few companies cater to big women or what is derisively referred to as “las gordas” – the fat ones.

Big women used to be regarded as healthy and fertile until fashion houses arrived with their outlandish definition of beauty, says Yusimy. She also believes this is partly a problem because homosexuals that run the fashion industry prefer to see just the attires rather than the body of a woman. Consequently, the clothes are hanging on what seems like a stick. This might sound controversial but she may have a point.

According to her, there’s a big movement today. Women want to have a voice as well as choices. As a result, some fashion houses have begun to stock sizes 42-70. “Normal girls here (in Spain) are not skinny. So this is important,” she says.

Yusimy is correct. From my experience so far, curvy women are abundant here. It does not seem that people are overly conscious of weight, which is a good thing. In some parts of the Western world, there’s an obsession with size. Anything beyond 36 is already considered big or seen contemptuously as fat.

In Nigeria, we grew up knowing our mothers and grandmothers as curvy and there was no stigma attached to it. The same applies to most of Africa. People were not judgmental about a woman’s weight although things may have changed a little. Also, the slight from clothing stores was not an issue because people generally wore and still wear what bourgeoisies proudly and haughtily regard as couture. Couture clothing is beyond the means of the average European because it does make a dent on one’s bank balance. In Africa on the contrary, everyone wears couture.

Clothes are more often than not made to a specific measurement and requirements. The system begins with going to the market to choose a fabric. Thereafter, you try to draw on a piece of paper or pick a design from a fashion magazine; go to the tailor down the road to have your measurement taken; and pick up your clothes later, sewn to size.

Tailoring is a big industry given that people are always making new attires for events. Clothes are made for burial ceremonies, weddings, naming ceremonies, birthdays, graduation, etc. Have you ever seen a Nigerian “asoebi”  for weddings? If not, you need to put that google search engine to use. You’ll have a visual feast, I promise.

Couture clothing in Africa accommodates a large spectrum of people from the cheap to the expensive. As you would imagine, there are fantastic dressmakers and others that we refer to as “cut and join” amateurs.

In conclusion, Yusimy says it’s important to love your body. “If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anybody. I used to be skinny but now I am size 46. I understand the two sides. I am happy with my size and I am perfect,” she notes.

I think people should be left alone. As long as one’s weight is not bordering on the obese, which could be a health risk, own it and rock it.

Once in Nigeria, a man told me that I was “looking well,” which is a code for “you put on some weight.” I looked at this man and wondered why someone that looked six months pregnant had the gut to open his mouth. By the time I was done rolling my eyes and hissing him off, he died, went to hell and returned to earth.

A word of advice to men – do not offer unsolicited opinion or comment about a woman’s weight. It will land you in hot water. So this week’s question is, does size matter?


Have a great week guys. Enjoy!

Yusimy with her squad at one of the “Miss Curvys” event 

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  1. Curvey is lovely, pot-bellied men not so! In the knowledge that we become curvier as we age, in Nigeria clothes were traditionally tailored with a large seam so they could be let out as we expanded!!(Nigerian cotton is of such high quality that it can last a lifetime)

  2. “Curvy” for me is too general. Is there a pattern of female curves that is universally preferred by both sexes? I’ll dance on coals and suggest yes there is….one where the waist is smaller than above or below giving more or less a more hour-glass look. Was it not in wealthy western Victorian circles the absolute thing to wear tight whale- bone corsets to minimise the waist. Undoubtedly this was in large part caused by male domination (women were not allowed the vote in the uk). But isn’t there also the dream within all of us never to grow old and with that comes the desire for youthful bodies. Clothes, whether made-to-measure or mass market are chosen by women to maximise their assets and diminish what they consider their weaknesses. Has a trim waistline ever been seen as a problem to be covered up by black clothing like “large” hips and/or thighs for instance. I suggest the opposite is the case.
    The heart of the curvy issue is to be content within oneself what ever form ones body takes and not be at the mercy of others opinions. Self-acceptance helps one to make wiser choices like diet, exercise, attitude to others etc so that one is not driven by ones shape but can be within lifes limits the master of it in most cases. Comments welcome…

    1. Ian, it’s easier said than done, in terms of being at the mercy of other people’s opinion. A lot of people struggle with media depictions of what is entirely unrealistic. Nevertheless, it’s a wise choice – self-acceptance solves most of these problems.

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