By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
A few months ago, perusing boutiques in the Flatiron district, we noticed something really, really strange. Even though we've been at least a size 12 since the sixth grade, even though we've been squeezing into the European 44the top sizesince our very first trip to Loehmann's lo these many years ago, for some reason the items we were trying on14s, or maybe 12swere enormous. So we went out and got the 10s!! Still too big!! And then the eights!! A good fiteven a tiny bit roomy!
We started asking around, and other women told us that in fact this was no isolated incident: American companies now start their sizing with zero and they're cutting far more generously, presumably so that the customer will think, "Oh my God, I'm an eight! I'm an eight!" and buy whatever she's trying on, even though she's the same old size she always was.
To test just how widespread this phenomenon is, we decide to visit a few downtown chains and see what's up. We concentrate on poufy skirts so that our experiment has some consistencyand also because (a) we love poufy skirts and (b) they're everywhere this season. We rule out skirts with drawstrings or elastic waistbandsthat would be cheatingbut still find plenty of candidates at our first stop, French Connection. Into the fitting room we bring a dazzling sequined pink net number (our idea of day wear) and a printed purple beaded cotton dirndl that looks like the bottom half of the national costume of Uzbekistan. Oh, joythe sequined net is plenty ample in size 10, and it seems that if we just sucked it in a wee bit, we could sport the eight. (Interesting notethis skirt, like so many other embellished clothes around this year, comes with a little bag of extra sequins which is either a kindly gesture on the part of the manufacturer or a sad admission that disintegration is but a few wearings away.) The purple cotton brings even more good newsthe eight is delightfully generous. In fact, we're sure we could even fit into the six! Us in a six!
Feeling lighter than airbut of course weighing the same amount we have for yearswe trot down to Zara, where we decide to try on a voluminous beige linen skirt embroidered with enormous flowers and sporting a fringed hemclearly an homage to Dries Van Notenthat comes in small, medium, and large. There must be some reason the small is sliding oncould this be meant to rest on your hips? (Truth be told, whatever its size, the effect of gigantic linen blossoms is none too flattering.) Excited despite ourselves, we slip on a tiered black chiffon in a medium, but it doesn't really slip. It fits, but just. Was the fake Dries an anomaly? Is there a God?
Slightly less buoyant now, we saunter over to H&M, where a similar but more capacious-looking tiered black chiffon (lots of flamenco looks around for fall) fits perfectly in an eight. We're back in business. This one, we suspect, really is meant to be a hip-rider, but so what? An eight is an eight, no matter what the intention of some designer in Stockholm.
We cross the street to our last stop, the comparatively elegant (well, at least compared to H&M) Club Monaco, where we opt for the skirt in the window, an olive-green pleated garment embossed like kimono silk. Though we manage to zip up the eight, our tummy is undeniably sticking out. So what! We're still feeling mighty satisfied with the results of our fact-finding mission when we notice, on our way out, the fabulous, lightly deconstructed dress that no less an arbiter than the September issue of Vogue, which usually doesn't truck with places like Club Monaco, has dubbed "the prettiest dress for fall."
We take the 10 off the rack and proceed to the fitting room, struggle to get the thing over our head, and are horrified to see in the mirror a gargantuan piglet who is clearly, very clearly, not a 10. Maybe not even a 12.
Oh well. No dream lasts forever.