J.Crew has been heavily criticized since announcing the launch of their new women’s size 000, equivalent to an XXXS. A J.Crew spokesperson (as reported on today.com), defended the new size, saying it was launched to meet the demand for smaller sizes in Asia. The need for a triple zero is a direct result of J.Crew’s practice of vanity sizing, although the company is not exactly admitting it (only saying their sizes “run big”).
As the average weight of American adults has steadily increased over the last five decades, retailers have had to offer increasingly larger sizes to match this trend. But instead of just adding larger numbered sizes, J.Crew and other manufacturers have adjusted sizes downward. A size 12 may be labeled as an 8, an 8 becomes a size 4, and so on. With no real standards for clothing sizes, this practice, known as vanity sizing, has easily become the norm.
From petite to plus size, we all deserve to have stylish clothes that fit us well
Perhaps an unintended consequence of this practice is that women who were wearing a size 2 or 4 a decade ago have basically been vanity-sized out of adult clothing options. If the addition of size 000 is really about meeting the demand for smaller sizes, and their sizes already “run big,” why not adjust the sizes upward and add a size 22 or 24? J.Crew’s triple zero addition implies that there is something wrong with larger sizes – a fallacy worth taking a stand against.
Even the term “vanity sizing” is infuriating. It implies that the smaller the number on the tag, the better we feel about ourselves, making it more likely that we will buy. Do clothing manufacturers think we want to be lied to? Do they think we can’t be trusted to buy the clothes that fit us best just because we may not like the size on the tag?
Since the launch of the new size, responses have ranged from blaming J. Crew for giving women eating disorders to contempt for those women who will fit in the new size. Blaming J.Crew for causing eating disorders oversimplifies these complex psychological disorders and is misguided. The harshness directed at women who may benefit from the addition of the new smaller size is downright wrong.
The recent criticism of J.Crew has also brought necessary attention and scrutiny to the practice of vanity sizing. I am not in favor of deceit, particularly for the purpose of monetary gain. Many women I know, including myself, would much prefer consistency in clothing sizes. I would love to walk into a store and know my size without having to try on 10 pairs of pants to figure out what to buy.
Vanity sizing needs to be addressed before negative number clothing sizes begin showing up in stores, but unfortunately the practice is probably not going anywhere any time soon. So what can we do?
Let’s start by not giving clothing companies the power to determine how we feel about ourselves
So many women today are unhappy with their bodies. Do I think that the unrealistic images that are portrayed in magazines and on runways contribute to our discontent? Yes. Do I think that we will all magically feel better about ourselves if that someday changes? No. Any validation that we feel when we see a certain number on the scale or fit into a certain clothing size is fleeting. Our sense of self-worth is much deeper than that. And it is up to us, not the clothing companies or fashion industry, to build and nurture our self esteem and confidence.
I have at least five different sizes of pants hanging in my closet that all currently fit me. Am I a better, more attractive person on the days that I wear my smaller-sized pants? I am not going to let a completely arbitrary number like my clothing size determine my self worth.
Whether we are inclined to direct judgment towards ourselves or others based on body shape and size, it helps to remember that the size you wear says nothing about who you are as a person. Just because a woman fits into a size 000 does not mean she has an eating disorder. And a woman wearing a plus size is not necessarily unhealthy or any other negative stereotype associated with larger sizes.
The triple zero controversy has people riled up, and some of the backlash aimed at J.Crew is warranted. But I prefer to focus my energy on reminding myself how powerful compassion and acceptance towards ourselves and others can be. I pledge to celebrate the things I love about myself and my body, regardless of the number printed on my clothing tags. Who’s with me?