J. Crew’s new 000? Don’t let size make you feel like a 0

07/11/2014 4:07 PM

07/11/2014 4:41 PM

People hate my pants. Wait, let me explain.

I’m one zero away from the 000 size that’s dominating body-image conversations this week, thanks to J. Crew’s new size chart. This is not something that excites me.

For years I have celebrated all body types. In columns I’ve defended Lena Dunham, plus-size models and celebrity weight gains. I’ve called out the fashion industry for pushing Photoshopped, rail-thin models in our faces.

But the truth about me: I am naturally skinny. But I come from a family of curvy women. My mama asks me year after year, “When are you going to put some meat on those bones?” Well, Mama, this is me.

I do not pretend to understand what it is like to be a woman who wears anything over a size 12 in a weight-crazed America. But I do know what it’s like to be scandalized for being too skinny — to be accused of being unhealthy, crazy or a Barbie wannabe.

Thursday, on CNN’s “Crossfire Reloaded,” S.E. Cupp deemed J. Crew’s new 000 size the “outrage of the day,” saying it sends a terrible message to young girls who believe thin is in. Her co-host, Paul Begala, said, “Guys want real women. They don’t want a 000. They want a real woman.”

On Salon.com, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote: “If you’re a tall fourth-grader, I imagine this will come in handy for you as well. It’s safe to say the majority of females who’ve gotten their periods won’t, however, be squeezing into the new size.”

On Pinterest, I once saw a very sad mantra for thinspiration. “Reason 157” to diet: “To look down and see a size 0 on your clothing tag.”

My stomach turned. Not just because it breaks my heart that girls feel they need to starve and purge to fit a pair of pants, but because that size is mine.

Memories of being called “Olive Oyl,” “Twiggy” and “anorexic” come to mind. I remind myself that this is how I was born, get over yourself and love how you look. I keep it moving.

But this irate 000 debate is a bit much. J. Crew says its new size caters to the Asian market. (It’s not available online or in stores yet.) I wonder if it’s also a bit of vanity sizing, cutting the clothes bigger so customers can wear smaller sizes — it makes some people feel better about the numbers assigned to their jeans. I worked at J. Crew in college and wore a size 0. Thirteen years later, I am 10 pounds heavier but wear a 00. Same with Gap, Express and Abercrombie, too. I don’t understand.

What I do understand is this: I am a real woman. I eat plenty. My genes just don’t allow my jeans to grow much bigger than this. And that’s OK. Body type should not dictate beauty.

I look at ESPN the Magazine’s new body issue and there is Prince Fielder, naked. Husky build, thick thighs, slight gut. He’s celebrated as sexy — rightfully so.

“Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you can’t be an athlete,” the Texas Rangers first baseman says. “And just because you work out doesn’t mean you’re going to have a 12-pack.”

Will women ever reach this level of acceptance? Will we learn to break through the physical shells we are born into?

“We begin and end our day before a magnifying mirror, scrutinizing our flaws, blind to our beauty,” Allure editor Linda Wells writes in the July issue, devoted to body image.

Allure’s cover girl this month, “Orange Is the New Black” star and Emmy nominee Taylor Schilling, has already learned to be free of the physical pressure. We should do the same.

“I don’t feel bound by my face or my body,” Schilling says. “I don’t feel like that’s the biggest gift I have to offer the world. I feel like there are more parts of me to offer than that.”

We are not our waistlines. We are women. Real women.

Jeneé Osterheldt’s column runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To reach her, call 816-234-4380 or email josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. You also can follow her at Twitter.com/jeneeinkc.

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