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Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

As if the double-zero wasn't tiny enough, clothing companies have stooped to new lows with the launch of a new vanity size: 000.

For days, retail giant J. Crew has been blasted for introducing clothing designed to fit the Incredible Shrinking Woman.

Lynn Grefe, president of the U.S. National Eating Disorders Association, warned that the company's new triple-zero sizing "will only triple the practice of unhealthy dieting in a society obsessed with skinny."

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In an interview with the New York Daily News, celebrity chef Rachael Ray called J. Crew's new 000 size "the most silly, asinine thing I've ever heard."

Nevertheless, J. Crew has only followed the lead of companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch in enabling the "scarily skinny" look of celebrities such as Kate Bosworth and Nicole Richie, British fashion magazine Grazia pointed out.

In Hollywood, size triple zero is now "the No. 1 goal," it said.

Size triple-zero would fit someone with a 23-inch waist, according to Abercrombie & Fitch's sizing chart.

For adult women, however, "it is incredibly rare to have that waist size naturally," said Jackie Grandy, outreach and education co-ordinator for the Toronto-based National Eating Disorder Information Centre, in a phone interview.

Sizes in the zeros send the wrong psychological message, she added. For women vulnerable to a life-threatening preoccupation with weight loss and body size, "zero is an absence," she said, and "a way of disappearing."

J. Crew has defended its triple-zero. In an interview with Today.com, a J. Crew spokeswoman said the introduction of 000 clothing is simply the company's response to increased demand in Asia for smaller sizes.

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But Grandy said it was easy to poke holes in that defence. "When you look at the majority of the models in J. Crew ads, they're not Asian," she said.

Companies such as J. Crew could reduce the risk of triggering disordered eating by readjusting their dress sizes, starting at 0 or 2, instead of dipping into the double- and triple-zeros, Grandy said: "It would be better for them to size up than to size down."

With any luck, that would prevent a dip into the quadruple-zeros down the road.

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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