Marie Claire (South Africa) - - BULLETIN - COLUM­NIST SARAH KOOP­MAN

Our lives are dic­tated by num­bers. Those on the scale. On our clothes la­bels. Even our BMI. They seem to be in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to our self­worth and, in­versely pro­por­tion­ally: the lower they are, the greater the per­sonal vic­tory. Now US re­tailer J. Crew plans to help shop­pers on their path to cloth­ing-size self-sat­is­fac­tion. In the lat­est in­stal­ment of ‘van­ity siz­ing’, in which the num­bers on the la­bels drop while the ac­tual gar­ments re­main about the same size, J. Crew has in­tro­duced size 000, be­cause one zero ob­vi­ously did not suf­fice.

We’ve all done it: re­fused to try on a big­ger size than we last fit­ted into. I have dresses I never wear, yet ev­ery now and then, as some bizarre mark of progress, I’ll (try to) slip them on. So imag­ine if the size you last bought was ac­tu­ally one size big­ger with­out you even re­al­is­ing it.This plays into our ob­ses­sion with ap­pear­ing thin and clears the racks of re­tail­ers as a re­sult.

The en­tire sys­tem seems com­pletely ir­ra­tional. How is it pos­si­ble to walk into a store, know­ing you’ve gained a few ki­los, and still be able to fit into the size you were be­fore the gain? (End­less re­turn trips to fit­ting rooms be­come es­sen­tial.) Even if you know it’s bo­gus, the power of that would-be-in­signif­i­cant num­ber re­mains. There’s noth­ing quite like the sat­is­fac­tion of slip­ping on a pair of trousers in a smaller size to find a per­fect fit. That val­i­da­tion isn’t sold sep­a­rately; it’s wo­ven right into that lit­tle num­ber on the la­bel.

The in­creas­ing pres­sure in the race to zero is the voice in your head telling you that there must be hordes of women who fit into th­ese tinier sizes, leav­ing you des­per­ate to be part of their tribe. This il­lu­sion also gives us a strange kin­ship with celebri­ties they ad­mire; a size zero is aspi­ra­tional and the closer or­di­nary women find them­selves to it, the more at­tain­able that Hol­ly­wood ideal be­comes. It feels like an ev­er­los­ing morale game. In an ideal world sizes would be in­signif­i­cant and we’d take home the dresses that look best on us, not the ones that re­quire us to dis­ap­pear as the num­bers nose­dive into sub­zero obliv­ion.

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