EDITOR'S NOTE: THE WAIF IS OVER

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A friend of mine went to a wake one evening recently. After years on a roller coaster of despair and hope, treatment and relapse, battle and resignation, a young woman he knew had finally lost her agonizing struggle with eating disorders.

This is a sobering thought to reflect on: At least 1 out of every 100 women between the ages of 10 and 20 is starving herself. “There do not seem to be reliable figures for younger children and older adults,� according to an organization called Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. “But such cases are not common.�

ANRED, affiliated with the National Eating Disorders Association, notes that half of teen girls are on or think they need to be on diets. The average woman is 5'4" tall, weighs 145 lbs. with a dress size of 11 to 14, has a 36-37" bust, is about 29" around the waist and close to 40" around the hips. ANRED compares these measurements with Barbie and the average mannequin. A mannequin, for instance, averages 6', and is a size 6, with a 34" bust, a 23" waist and 34" at the hips.

Our cover story, “Fitting-room Blues,� focuses on one of the apparel industry's key challenges over the next decade, and the straight business story centers on the dollars companies whose collective revenues are upward of $170 billion are leaving on the table as a result of an unhappy customer base of “misfits.�

It's dismaying that clothing retailers and manufacturers should have let this issue evolve so far without responding to consumers. The fact that people spend less of their precious dollars on clothes than they did years ago is not simply a phenomenon of casual Fridays, but a disconnect on the most fundamental level.

In her analysis, Senior Editor Rebecca Gardyn reports that apparel companies are finally waking up to reality. The populace is physically bigger, culturally more diverse, psychologically more accommodating of people of substance and quickly running out of patience with the 1940s standards on which many companies still base their size and fit design. Normally, companies try to stay ahead of trends like these, but the apparel industry is only now grudgingly giving in to the need to change, to adapt, to grow as people grow.

But living large is not necessarily healthier. Obesity is one of the nation's health crises, although little noted. Hopefully, though, there'll be a happier medium, ending the days when a mannequin's emaciated dimensions are the body image to die for.

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