As Americans grow ever larger, clothing stores like J. Crew are offering ever smaller sizes—and the retailer insists it's due to actual demand. Just not from Americans. In response to the controversy that ensued this week after the chain started offering size 000, a spokesperson explained to Today, "We are simply addressing the demand coming from Asia for smaller sizes than what we had carried." The company isn't the first to cater to this petite population—Nicole Miller introduced a size 0 for a 25½-inch waist 15 years ago due to demand from Asian customers in California, reports Time—but it's worth noting that only those with a 23-inch waist will fit into a J. Crew 000.
Something called "vanity sizing" may also be at play—meaning sizing goes down even while the average woman is growing larger. Today, the average American woman is 5'4" and 155 pounds, which is 20 pounds heavier than in the 1970s, so she should be in a size 16—but vanity sizing puts her in a 10 or 12 instead, Newsweek explained a few years ago when "subzero" sizing first started popping up. Fashion blog Racked notes that J. Crew's new '000' is the equivalent of a size 32 in Italy, 1 in Japan, and 0 in Australia. As far as J. Crew is concerned, it's an XXXS, i.e., smaller than an XS (size 0) or an XXS (size 00). (Forget "vanity sizing"—have you heard of "slimming underwear"? If so, maybe think twice before buying a pair...)