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Admittedly, I have never been the curviest person. But contrary to my friends’ and co-workers’ beliefs I haven’t seen a size XS since I was a freshman in college. But even then I’m not sure if my size was result of my fast metabolism or retailers tricking me into thinking I was a size I really wasn’t.

If for some reason you aren’t familiar with the term, “vanity-sizing” refers to the practice of naming a garment a size that doesn’t exactly match the item’s true cut so that women feel better about making that purchase (and more likely to buy more of it or continue shopping at that same retailer). For example, labeling something a “small” that is actually a “medium”. The practice is popular in areas where sizes aren’t standardized, and The United States is famous for it. is reporting that J. Crew has now taken vanity-sizing to a ridiculous new level by now introducing the size “000”. The size is for women who simply can’t fit an XXS because of their 30.5” bust and 23” waist. Think waspy figures like Keira Knightley or burlesque performer Dita Von Teese who has been squeezing into a corset for years to keep her 22” waist. The retailer has received harsh criticism for forcing women to scrutinize the minute differences of their figures and experience unnecessary “size shame”.

The problem with vanity-sizing for me is that it plays a complete mind game with exactly what size a woman is, which can be extremely frustrating for those trying to lose or gain weight if not just for vanity reasons, but for health reasons. It seems that the heavier the average woman becomes over time, the more the practice of vanity-sizing occurs. According to the 2003 SizeUSA study, the average woman is about 5’4″ and 150 pounds, which is 20 pounds heavier than 40 years ago. Jim Lovejoy, the industry director for the SizeUSA survey recently revealed to Newsweek:

“According to standard size measurements, that average 155 pound woman should be wearing a size 16, but thanks to vanity-sizing, she’s probably buying a size 10 or 12.”

“Most companies aren’t using the standard ASTM [American Society for Testing and Materials] sizes any more. Sizes have been creeping up a half inch at a time so that women can fit into smaller sizes and feel good about it.”

J. Crew insists the new size has nothing to do with vanity and that the smaller size comes from demands from Asia where women typically tend to be smaller:

“We are simply addressing the demand coming from Asia for smaller sizes than what we had carried.”

“Our sizes typically run big and the Asia market tends to run small.”

I think we should all just buy whatever makes us feel and look good and save the numbers for the register.

Do you shop at J. Crew? Do you think vanity-sizing is dangerous for women’s health and self-esteem?

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