Hannah Betts is all worried over triple zero sizes appearing in the shops:
Chillingly, a US size 000 measures up to a UK size 0, five sizes smaller than a UK size 10, itself on the smallish side in a culture in which the average British woman is a size 16, and the public’s ideal physique a size 12 (according to YouGov). A US size zero measures 25 inches around the waist; a triple zero, a meagre 23 inches.
It can be difficult to visualise the bodies behind such unvital statistics. My eight-year-old nephew, so lean that he can fit into his baby pyjamas, has a waist of 23.5 inches; his lithe nine-year-old sister, measures 24 inches. The girths of these adult women are smaller, despite their being significantly taller, in a way that seems hardly possible. The average triple zero poster girl stands at 5ft 7in. To be so narrow-framed at this scale is to be emaciated.
A petite therapist friend puts matters into perspective. “I am the smallest person in the world and my childlike waist is about 28 inches,” she says. “I have bought UK size 6 clothes from Topshop’s petite range, which is horrifyingly too small, making me wonder if they require ribs to be removed, or whether it is actual children who wear them. I am truly shocked.”
Hmm. Perhaps a little perspective?
In fact, the average waist measurement of the four Monroe dresses was a mere 22 inches, according to Lisa Urban, the Hollywood consultant who dressed the mannequins and took measurements for me. Even Monroe’s bust was a modest 34 inches.
That’s not an anecdote. That’s data.
The other actresses’ costumes provided further context. “It’s like half a person,” marveled a visitor at the sight of Claudette Colbert’s gold-lame “Cleopatra” gown (waist 18 inches). “That waist is the size of my thigh,” said a tall, slim man, looking at Carole Lombard’s dress from “No Man of Her Own” (a slight exaggeration — it was 21 inches). Approaching Katharine Hepburn’s “Mary of Scotland” costumes, a plump woman declared with a mixture of envy and disgust, “Another skinny one.”
The pattern she noticed was real. At my request, Urban took waist measurements on garments worn by 16 different stars, from Mary Pickford in 1929 (20 inches) to Barbra Streisand in 1969 (24 inches). The thickest waist she found was Mae West’s 26 inches in “Myra Breckinridge,” when the actress was 77 years old.