Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Vanity Sizing Run Amok: How Size Zero Clothes Came To Be

Photo: <a href="http://www.ebay.com/itm/Abercrombie-by-Hollister-Women-destroyed-jeans-short-size-00-new-with-tag-/261341689771">Ebay</a>
Photo: Ebay

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

You think size 000 is crazy? It turns out that the whole concept of size 0 is a relatively new phenomenon. The Hollywood Reporter says that 15 years ago, size 2 and size 0 didn't even exist in American clothing and designer Nicole Miller is responsible for inventing them. "One year, our sales manager wanted to size the clothes bigger and we started calling the size 8s a 6," Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. "Then the result of that was losing the smaller customer, so we had to add the zero. We also occasionally made some 00s."

In Europe, the smallest size of clothing used to be 38, but now there's 36 and 34. Merle Ginsberg writes in the The Hollywood Reporter: "A model on a shoot for a major magazine was recently called "a monster" by the photographer -- because she wore a 38. She is 17 years old."

Size shaming extends to stores too, Ginsberg writes: "It's a long-standing rumor that Fred Segal Melrose carries no size above a 6. One fashion insider went in looking for a Chloe blouse in an 8 and got the kind of looks reserved for a shoplifter."

As frustrating as vanity sizing makes it to find clothes that fit from brand to brand and designer to designer, it's happening because people like it. "Some years ago, designers and brands figured out that the smaller the size that fits, the more likely a shopper is to buy it. That's when the numbers started going down. It is strategic. There were guidelines, but not now. And what's odd about it is, people are getting bigger. A size 14 is now an 8, [resulting in such sizes as] a double or triple zero. I mean, how useful is that for people," says University of British Columbia marketing and behavioral science professor JoAndrea Hoegg.

Until the industry standardizes sizes, Saks Fifth Avenue's senior fashion director Colleen Sherin has some tips for finding the right size: "Know your brands. The French and the British are pretty true to size. Italians run a size smaller. Americans run true to size or a little more generous. In different parts of the world, body types are different: Italian skirts and pants are where one might need to size up."
· When a Size 0 Isn't Really 0: The Psychology Behind Designers' Big Secret [Hollywood Reporter]
· J.Crew Now Comes in Size 000. Yeah. Three Zeros. [Racked]
· Vanity Sizing: Compare These 25 Retailers at Your Local Mall [Racked]