Good Life: How We Spend: Trend: Size Matters

Just where — and how — do Philly shoppers (some of the heaviest in the nation) fit into fashion’s shifting scales?

I went shopping recently. And I went, some might say foolishly, with the Thinnest Woman in the World (TWW). She’s from New York, where those people live. In our city, people like to eat. By that, I mean we’re fat. The fattest city in the country, if you listen to one recent national study.


I went shopping recently. And I went, some might say foolishly, with the Thinnest Woman in the World (TWW). She’s from New York, where those people live. In our city, people like to eat. By that, I mean we’re fat. The fattest city in the country, if you listen to one recent national study.

But let’s not. Let’s just have lunch at Tria, then cross the street to Anthropologie, the store that always seems stocked to fit my petite but curvy frame. There’s a reason for that, TWW claimed: Their sizes are HUGE. I am swimming in a 2, she moaned, then drifted off to hunt for a 0. The rest of the trip, for me anyway, was more miss than hit — witness the seasons-past, super-tight size 6 Donna Karan number at Loehmann’s that looked like some hooker in Trenton wanted her dress back. I ended up at Banana Republic and, with a size 2 cropped blazer in hand, noticed another variable in this shifting calculus of mass: the 00. The unsize. The non-size. The double of nothing.

And it all got me thinking: Are we experiencing a round of what the fashion press refers to as vanity sizing? Am I being flattered by a generous 2, while mocked by the new 00? Are merchandisers cutting clothes larger, then making the numbers suit?

“We don’t do that. It ticks people off,” said merchandise manager Katherine Danneberg of Anthropologie, adding that she knows of some mass stores that do. But at her shop, a 4 is a 4, year after year. To make sure, they size their clothes first according to standard specs, then adjust with a fit model, a method that yields more consistency than the model-as-muse approach — especially if your muse is, say, a coke-snorting waif.

But keep in mind, Danneberg cautioned, that in a fashion climate where silhouettes shift fast (skinny jeans for fall, or wide-leg trousers?), the math can get fuzzy. “Take me,” she offered, describing her boyish frame. “When pant rises go up, I need an 8. When pant rises go down, a 6.” She goes with it, she said, and doesn’t start freaking out that she’s suddenly gained weight.

One-moniker manager/buyer Tuesday, at Joan Shepp, made a similar point, after confessing that the avant-garde outpost is indeed “sizing up” — that is, calling in more 12’s and 14’s from designers who deign to cut for larger women. (Got a healthy bottom, a bosom you could stack books on? She recommends something by Ivan Grundahl, from Copenhagen.) To deal with the style and silhouette factors, Joan Shepp relies on variety: skinny pants from Stella, more generous cuts from Dries. Balancing the inventory by country of origin helps, too, since Italian and French lines tend to run small, and the Japanese often make things “very narrow, very restrictive,” just to be jerks. As Tuesday puts it: “When I’m wearing a Yoji outfit and trying to boogie for the train, I have to hike up the skirt.”

And the new 00, as suspiciously small as the starlet who claims that, really, she eats? The response, said Deborah Lloyd, executive VP of design and product development at Banana Republic, has been “amazing.” And no, its addition didn’t shift the other sizes up the scale. It simply addressed a need. ­Apparently, TWWs need clothes, too.

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