J. Crew Introduces a Size Smaller Than XXS

3 minute read

You know how it is when you’re in a dressing room and even the smallest size available is still too baggy? What, that’s never happened to you? Well, just in case you know someone who is too small for a XXS or ’00,’ J. Crew has introduced a new ‘000’ size for women with a 30.5″ bust and a mere 23″ waist. What does someone with a waist that small look like? Probably a little like Keira Knightly who is famous for her waspy middle. Or burlesque star Dita von Teese who says she’s been wearing a corset for decades to keep her 22-inch waist as she ages.

However, the retailer has received some criticism for introducing the triple zero or ‘XXXS’ size. “J.Crew’s vanity sizing has reached a whole new level of crazy,” wrote the fashion blog Racked. “What’s next, negative numbers?” But is a triple zero really that much smaller than a regular ‘0’? After all, a ’00’ or a ‘0’ can range from a 22′ to a 25′ inch waist depending on the brand. And the fashion industry has long been accused of vanity sizing, a downwards trend in size numbers in recent decades despite the average woman becoming heavier over the same time period. 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.

“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,” Jim Lovejoy, the industry director for the SizeUSA survey, told Newsweek. “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.”

But J. Crew insists that the new ‘000’ size has nothing to do with vanity. “We are simply addressing the demand coming from Asia for smaller sizes than what we had carried,” a J. Crew spokesperson told Today. “Our sizes typically run big and the Asia market tends to run small.” And it’s true that all that vanity sizing has left the truly small out in the cold and not just in Asia. Nicole Miller introduced a size 0 (25½-inch waist) about 15 years ago because the company had a strong presence in California there was lots of demand from their Asian customers for something smaller.

In the meantime, we’ve all gotten used to the idea of a size zero—and thanks to vanity sizing more of us can fit into one. Even the double zero doesn’t look as strange as it used to. So who knows, maybe sizes will keep creeping into the negative side of the number line and we’ll all be some kind of zero.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com