let's admit it. We get excited when we can wear a smaller size, especially when we have gained 10 pounds. The fashion industry gets a kick...









OK ladies — let’s admit it. We get excited when we can wear a smaller size, especially when we have gained 10 pounds.

The fashion industry gets a kick out of appealing to our wish to be thin — changing the size on the label without actually changing the size. We’re on to them.

But how far are designers going to take this vanity sizing? Banana Republic has a size “00.” And designer Nicole Miller is introducing a “Subzero” size for women with 23 ½-inch waists.

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Is that so women like Nicole Richie don’t have to shop in the girls’ department? Because last time we checked, the nation was getting fatter, not thinner.

Nada Manley, a fashion and beauty writer, says designers are padding our egos while secretly expanding our waistlines so we can fit in smaller sizes.

Manley remembers the blond twins from the popular 1980s Sweet Valley High book series who were a perfect size 6. Fast forward to 2006. A size 6 was unacceptable in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” Andy (Anne Hathaway) was told that a 6 is the new size 8.

“A size 6 is a wonderful beautiful size,” says Manley, author of “Secrets of the Beauty Insiders” and a columnist for the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “But it’s not the size a writer would pick today if she wanted to describe someone who had an ideal figure.”

Are we thinner?

Miller’s spokeswoman told Newsweek the subzero is for the naturally petite woman. And a Banana Republic spokeswoman has said women wanted a smaller size.

Considering 0 is the new 6 among celebrities, that might just be the case. A size 0 is probably too big for some bone-thin actresses.

“There are teeny people in the world,” says Sasha Charnin Morrison, Fashion Director for US Weekly. “They have to do massive tailoring to get the waist to fit. Number 2, the length of everything is way too long for a lot of women as well. I think it’s come to a point where a lot of smaller women just can’t simply find their size anywhere.”

But Becky Vieira, creative director for Chip & Pepper, a brand of premium denim, says she hasn’t found that women are demanding smaller sizes. After all, most women are a size 12 or larger. For Chip & Pepper, the hottest sizes are about equivalent to a 4 or 6.

“We don’t find women need something smaller than a 24,” she says. “It’s still the standard 27s and 28s that sell out first. In Japan we offer a 23, but we haven’t had that need anywhere else.”

Or are we so vain?

Alexandra Eliot, an eating disorders specialist, says she remembers when there was no size 0. A small woman wore a size 2. (In fact, there was a debate in 1998 about whether Calista Flockhart was a size 2 or 0.)

Now there is a tremendous vanity and competitiveness about wearing smaller sizes, she says.

“Anorectics are ferociously competitive,” says Eliot, who teaches in the school of social work at Simmons College. “That’s how the whole thing down to 0 got started. The big thing was to fit a 0, so the fashion industry was only too eager to accommodate these people’s wishes.”

But designer Cesar Galindo, whose fashion is size 2 to 20, says some of this is consumer-driven. Women don’t want to own up to the truth about their size, particularly older women who are spending thousands on high-end fashion.

“When a woman is 50, and she’s spending $5,000 on a dress, she doesn’t want to know that she is a size 18,” says Galindo. “She wants her designer to make her an 8.”

Galindo says vanity sizing generates sales. And designers know that.

“A woman will buy a dress that doesn’t fit her,” he says. “A woman will buy it because she is going to get into it one way or another. I know customers that will come in and if it’s a size they don’t think they are they won’t even take it off the rack.”

Is this dangerous?

Most people aren’t going to starve themselves to fit into a 00, says Eliot. (Remember we are getting fatter.)

But she worries about anorexics. There are Web sites where they talk about who is thinnest of them all, she says.

“The people who are sick from eating disorders will try to fit into smaller and smaller sizes,” she says.

Madrid banned super bone-protruding models from its Fashion Week in September for that very reason. There was concern that young girls were developing eating disorders because of the rail-thin images.

Galindo, who sells mostly 8s, 10s and 12s, says he is concerned that women place too much emphasis on a size label. (How many men do you know who buy something that doesn’t fit?) And he is bothered that designers play into their insecurities. He hasn’t changed his sizing, but his 1967 mannequin, a size 10 back then, is now a size 2-4.

“I think going below 0 is going below the ground,” he says. “I don’t think it’s right designers are trying to do that. In 2007, we are all going to be minus zero times 4. When does it end? It’s kind of ridiculous.”

Vieira, though, says vanity sizing is not going to last much longer, because more women are shopping online.

“It’s such a pain when you buy something to send it back,” she says. “It’s really in the best interest of the companies to stay true to size and that’s what we’re doing.”