Capitol Hill Style: Discuss: J.Crew’s Downward Spiral Lands on Triple-Zero

Friday, June 27, 2014 by Belle

Discuss: J.Crew’s Downward Spiral Lands on Triple-Zero

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In 2002, I purchased my first J.Crew dress–a coral sheath.  I wore it until it fell apart.  It was my first expression of love for the classically styled brand that embodied the simple elegance of a world filled with Martha’s Vineyard vacations and post-work cocktails with men who looked like Cary Grant.

Then, things changed.

My ardent love for J.Crew did not go out in a blaze of glory like the Bon Jovi song commands.  Instead, it slowly suffocated due to rapidly decreasing quality, prices adjusted to be discount-solvent, odd brand collaborations, and the overindulgence of Jenna Lyons’ cult of personality.  Sadly, J.Crew long-ago stopped producing the quality basics that were once the brand’s signature.  Remember when the quality of the cashmere didn’t suck and the pencil skirts had waistbands wider than a No. 2 Ticonderoga? Misty, water-colored memories…

But the biggest culprit in my dwindling affection for the J.Crew brand is their sizing policy.

For those not familiar with the concept, vanity sizing is when brands increase the measurements of their clothing without changing their size guide so that eights become sixes, sixes become fours, etc..  It’s a process that even Cosmopolitan magazine, the publisher of The Best Sexual Position For His Zodiac Sign, described as “out of whack with reality.”

When I bought that first dress twelve years ago, I was 117lbs and purchased a size six to keep my 35″ hips comfortably contained.  At 135lbs with a 38″ hip, their size chart says I should require a six–but that guide is a chronicle of lies.  Last week, I ordered a dress from their summer collection in a size two.  It’s roomy in the waist, and the bust needs to be taken in over an inch.

How can a woman gain nearly twenty-pounds and be two dress sizes smaller?  It defies logic.

Vanity sizing is based on the misguided notion that you need to lie to women in order to sell clothing.  It promulgates the damaging concept that self-worth is directly proportional to clothing-tag size.  And negatively effects girls’ feelings about their bodies before they’re mature enough to know that they’re defined by more than a number assigned to them by a clothing company.

Now, J.Crew has jumped the shark on a rocketship and launched a size 000/XXXS.  Defenders argue that this is a great thing for petite women, but J.Crew already has a petites line that offers a size 00.

If you need to create clothes with smaller measurements in the name of inclusivity, as the brand’s spin-doctors will suggest, wouldn’t the logical thing be to expand the sizes upward, making the measurements for 000 the new 0, and offering a size 24?

Has Mickey Drexler decided that being honest about selling clothing in larger sizes would kill the “J.Crew mystique” that’s made him millions?  Will the fashion “it girls” who sing Jenna Lyons’ praises turn up their perfectly powdered noses at a brand that offers a size 24?  Why else would the company fight reality by inventing numbers and adding more x’s to their size chart than an adult film franchise?  J.Crew’s In Good Company, now sponsored by Jenna Jameson…

Do they really think that a woman will refuse to purchase the size that looks best on her body because the tag number insults her fragile ego?  Aren’t women made of stronger stuff than that?

Perhaps, instead of monkeying with the size guide, the powers-that-be at J.Crew should be asking themselves why almost no one gets excited about their clothing until they offer it 40%-off already sale prices?  Maybe while they’re at it, they can figure out why the Super 120s pencil skirt I bought in 2008 still looks new, but the one that I bought last November looks like I rescued it from the bottom of the discount bin at the Goodwill.

I want to live in a world where a dress is labeled by its size, and a woman isn’t.  Where we recognize that buying a flattering item of clothing is about finding the subjective, brand-driven size that flatters your body best, not squeezing into the one with the smallest-number-possible on the tag.  Instead, I live in a society where womens’ measurements are posted on their Wikipedia pages and anyone whose body doesn’t fall into single-digit size is made to feel deficient.

I won’t support J.Crew’s decision to expand their sizing downward because it feeds into the notion that clothing size is a scarlet letter.  The practical and reasonable thing to do would be to create a measurement’s guide that isn’t abhorrently dishonest, accepting that the brand now sells size 24 clothing.  Because contrary to what the Vogue-obsessed fashionistas who hashtag-thinspo on their Pinterest pages might say, there is nothing wrong with wearing or selling size 24 clothing.

So go ahead J.Crew, subscribe to the Triple Trac Razor theory of marketing and sell your clothing in size 000.  At the rate your tag sizes are shrinking, I can keep eating donuts and tacos with reckless abandon and be wearing size XXXS by the end of this decade.

***

If you love this post–or just agree that vanity sizing is a symptom of a retail-world gone mad–Facebook it, Tweet it or share it.  Who knows?  Maybe if enough of us say, “Hey, I’d like an honest size guide that doesn’t defy the laws of mathematics, and rely on the notion that I’m emotionally unequipped handle a number on a tag,” someone will listen.  And, Mickey Drexler, if you’re reading this, however you were making the cashmere sweaters in 2004 is how you need to go back to making them. xoxo, Belle

133 comments :

  • Tierney @ The Preppy Leopard

    My beef with J.Crew isn’t even (totally) size related. It’s mostly that they’ve abandoned their classic, preppy ways that translated into my buying a sweater that would last me years to these cheap, thin, trendy, neon/sequin thingies that get holes after the second wear.

    I worked at J.Crew in college (mumble-like six years ago-mumble) right as it started to grow more mainstream, and almost every paycheck was blown on gorgeous sweaters and dresses that I still wear today.

    Now? I browse through the 30/40/50% off clearance rack and find exactly zero items among all the odd prints and weird colors.

    We have enough SOTRENDYOMG stores in the world. I just want the old J.Crew back.

    • N

      Yes! I forgot to mention, not only bad quality, but ugly! And the reason we are all so worked up about it is because we miss the old one.

      • Stephanie

        Yep. Mismatched hipster nerd. I’m not sure why they think that’s good for work. Or anything, really.

    • Gary K

      Stumbled on this while surfing for answers as to why I’ve noticed the quality decline. I’m a guy, and I, too, once loved J. Crew. And the reason I have slowly fallen out of love over the past two to three years is the very thing you mention, Tierney: J. Crew is no longer even remotely classic or preppy or Ivy League. I could tell things were headed that way when they abandoned their great Officers Chinos for men. Everything in their men’s line has gotten skinnier, sillier, and pricier. They’re now a fashion line, not a classic line. It is a bit sad, and now, for better or worse, I’m buying more Polo Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, OConnells, Orvis, and a few other more traditional men’s clothing outfitters. Seems as I’ve grown up, J. Crew has become childish.

  • N

    You go, Belle! Right on re: sizing and pathetic quality. Not even pathetic quality for price, just plain old pathetic quality.

  • Julia

    When I clicked on the article about Jenna Lyons I was dismayed to see what she was wearing in the last photo. I know you don’t do ‘what not to wear’ but if you did you could start with that picture!

    The clothes in that article are UGLY!

  • Dallas

    I wish JCrew just had an honest-to-God plus line. I would buy all of the things. But I am a size 24 and I can often find things that fit there…. labeled XL. I’m not…. an xl. At all.

    • RR

      Ditto on wishing they just had a plus line. Pickings are so slim, I’d jump on any new options. I’m a 22 and had no idea, however, that some of the XL stuff might fit me. Now I’m intrigued.

      • Dallas

        RR, go for the cotton stuff, or sweaters that you don’t need to button. I have a fantastic XL navy and white striped blazer with gold buttons that looks great draped open and I get mega compliments on. It’s not a ton of stuff, and if trying things on and them not fitting upsets you, I would avoid it, but if you’re willing to give it a shot, some things CAN work. But I do wish they just offered a plus line.

        • RR

          I will definitely try. But, yes, I do wish they offered a plus line. I used to buy lots from Talbots, but their quality and sizing lately is such a mess that I’m lost in finding quality work wear that doesn’t cost a fortune (e.g., Lafayette 148 is great, but so expensive that I can’t do a wardrobe of it).

          Thanks!

  • Amen

    I completely agree, and often look to companies like Anthropologie that carry European brands so I can know that I’m ordering the correct size without having to try on the “size small of the year”. It does not stroke my ego to know I’ve gone from wearing a size 4 to a size 0 or 2 depending. It does make for a more frustrated shopping experience, especially online. I think it is just another way that we as Americans have such skewed views on reality, and we should stop the insanity. The number does not define you, but it would be nice to not become the incredible shrinking (size) woman.

  • TDS

    While the sizing is an issue, the reason I stopped shopping at JCrew was the decline in quality, especially in relation to the price.

    • Jess

      The quality issue is a HUGE one for J. Crew. Every dress, skirt, and pair of pants was made of top quality fabric and fully lined – ensuring that not only would the fabric retain its exterior finish but also its shape. I made the mistake recently of purchasing pants that aren’t lined… after a few hours at the office my bum had a saggy look that made me simultaneously angry and disappointed.

      Bring back the signatures of the original brand and the customers that made you great will flock back. Unless your new strategy is that of Bic pens – use it once and throw it away.

  • Sofie M.

    Thanks for this. I’ve been frustrated with J. Crew’s sizing as well, but didn’t make the connection to avoidance of carrying plus sizes.

  • JMW

    Thank you for writing what everyone is thinking. I wear a size 6 in most stores, however, I purchased a skirt from JCrew that was WAY too big, so big that I had to size down to a 0. It made me wonder what size 0 girls can wear from J.Crew. I miss the JCrew days of yore

    • bella

      they can’t wear anything (size 00 often doesn’t fit me at jcrew and i wear a 2/4 in most other [non-vanity sized] brands)

      • txpacer

        Often, we are left either spending a good sum of money on alterations or paying for more expensive designer brands that actually fit (the bonus here is that often these garments are made of quality fabrics and last longer, but the downside is that sometimes the clothing can be a little too trendy).

  • Alice @ What I Really Wear

    hear hear. I hate vanity sizing. I feel like whenever I put on a size 2 dress that the company is laughing at me and saying “you should be a two but really you’re a six but let’s just call you a two since you can’t handle it”. Ugh. Also, I agree on the quality issue. I’m not paying such high prices for crap, I’ll just go to Forever 21.

  • Rebecca

    ,,,My philosophy, hit them where it hurts the most. Their pockets.
    Don’t purchase anything. I refuse to patronize J.Crew for these very reasons.
    This is old news for me.,,,

    • Belle

      I’ve been shopping there a LOT less, and based on the comments on previous posts, I don’t think I’m the only one. That dress I bought last week is the first non-shoe item that I’ve ordered and kept in months.

  • Sam

    I’ve noticed the sizing trend across brands. I weigh about the same I did in high school (10+ years ago) and somehow I am two sizes smaller now. It doesn’t offend me but it certainly doesn’t make any sense.

    I bought a pair of JCrew pants years ago that literally changed their shape when I washed them and haven’t bought their pants since. I’ll buy dresses/tops but only on sale in their factory store. Their prices have become astronomical.

  • Lynn

    Amen. I am (was) a size 0, but every time I order something I find myself sizing down and down and down. WTF. I want consistency in quality and ‘quantity.’ I own and love this Emmaleigh dress and I want to order it all the colors but can’t figure out what size I am now.

  • sara

    J Crew has just always been too expensive for me, even at their discounts. But now that they decide to placate women with their false versions of sizing reality, I’m not buying in. Bye bye.

  • Tara

    I used to love J. Crew for many of the reasons you outline in the post. I could find well-made, classically designed pieces that fit my budget and lasted forever! Not only have I been put off by the mad-crazy sizing they’ve engaged in and their decline in quality, but over the past few years, their prices have skyrocketed, making them unaffordable for me, even though I now make more money!

  • Laura F.

    This is the truth, and Mickey Drexler needs to hear it. Did you send this to the company? You should, even if you’re not one of those “five figures in sales” VIPs.

  • B

    This is no way takes away from the message of your argument, which I believe is spot on, but I find it a little distasteful that you include affiliate links while simultaneously blasting them. I know you had a whole post (or a link to a post) about affiliate links last week, but it just feels wrong to say: “this company practice is awful, the quality is awful, don’t participate in this trend . . . but if you *do* participate, make sure I get my cut of it.” I’ve noticed you use affiliate links in a similar manner when you are linking to a questionable or silly item. If the idea is that you, as a person who vets and recommends an item should get a percentage as sort of a “finder’s fee,” then using them in this article is antithetical to that idea.

    • Belle

      Did I miss one? I thought I took them all out. Sorry, I’ll have another look. I’m just so used to using the widget to generate links that I didn’t think of it til my last draft. But you’re totally right.

    • Belle

      Apologies for that, I thought I got them last night before I called it quits, but I didn’t. They’re out now.

    • B

      Ahhh. It makes sense that you use a program that automatically inserts them!

      Thanks for the quick response. In my head, its a distinction with a difference, and because of your quick and honest response, I’ll definitely use all your “positive” affiliate links if I’m interested in an item.

      On topic, there are some items at J. Crew that I adore and some things that I think can’t be beat elsewhere (shoes, suiting at that price point), but I hate that quality has gone way down that its hard to trust anything.

  • Anne

    Great post! I’ve been shopping at J.Crew since high school (circa 1998), and the sweaters that I bought then still look great, whereas the newer J.Crew sweaters that I’ve regrettably purchased barely last longer than a year. The sizing, the quality and the styling (not to mention the ridiculous price increases) have gone so downhill that they no longer have me as a customer. Sad.

  • Jen

    In May I bought a navy lace dress from J. Crew Factory on the 40% off the sale price rack, and it’s a size 00! My husband could not believe it when I brought it home. I have two kids, and while I have stayed thin and fit at 38, I have haven’t worn a 0 since I was in 7th grade and shopping at 5-7-9! I have always loved J. Crew, and I have a few dresses from 2004 that I can still wear today, although they are sized higher and fit tighter than this recent 00 purchase. The sizing is way out of control; I recently had to send back an entire online shipment because the same pieces I had bought last spring were now too big. I have no idea what to expect there anymore, and the predictable nature of their clothing is what used to keep me coming back!

    Thank you for this post. I really don’t want to ban J. Crew, and since you are in a position to incite change, I hope they are reading. I would rather see these problems fixed than to just walk away.

  • Betsy Transatlantically

    Thanks for writing this – I’m glad someone did! I went into a JCrew the other week (because I can’t let go of the dream that maybe, just maybe, I’ll find something from 2004 in the racks) and browsed the sale dresses. (As you point out, they’re all I can afford and, anyway, the sale price is all the quality is worth these days.) I’m usually a 12/14, a definite 14 if a dress is cut slim through the hips, and I was told that they don’t carry 14s in store anymore. I ended up buying a sheath dress in a 12 – 40% off the sale price, thank you – and it fit perfectly, which is ABSURD given my measurements. The whole experience felt so condescending.

    You’re right – we should stop shopping there until it gets better.

  • KRF

    Thank you for taking the time to develop this spot-on post today. I agree with you Belle and with other comments who responded. I am petite (just about 5 feet tall) and what is so challenging for me is that the lengths of J Crew pants, skirts, shirts, and dresses that still require massive tailoring. I recognize that tailoring adds to a polished fit but with J Crew prices it makes almost prohibitive for me to tailor because I am basically reconstructing the entire garment. I wish J Crew and other brands would address petite sizing correctly because there are those of us out there who require petites because we have shorter arms and legs but we may not be a size OO00 in the waist or bust. I wish there were more options to pick and choose sizing, especially in the length. For example, Lands End allows you to select the inseam size and maintains a good return policy. Also, why are petites, Tall, XXL, and Size 16 sizing on the J Crew Web site organized as “special sizes”?

    • Addie

      Agreed. I tried on a sweater at the Gap that Belle featured in one of her posts but thanks to my super long torso it showed my stomach if I raised my arms even slightly. So I ordered a tall size online which fixed the length issue but the sleeves were waaay too long. And don’t even get me started on The Limited’s petite skirts.

    • Liz

      I, too, wonder why as a plus size I’m so ‘special’ in the eyes of so many online retailers. Why can’t I just sort by size under the regular “women’s clothing” header? Considering how many women in this country are a size 12-14 (whatever that means, given vanity sizing), to divide those of us into “special sizes” is kind of silly. That’s why I like Land’s End’s site. When I’m looking at a dress, there are different tabs on the same page for “misses,” “plus” and “petite” so I don’t have to go on a scavenger hunt for “huh, wonder if this is in the plus section too…”

  • Lauren

    I agree with everything you wrote! Yesterday I was wearing one of my beloved J.Crew merino Tippi sweaters that I’ve had for MAYBE six months and realized there was a hole in it. Really, J.Crew?! This is why I don’t buy anything full price from them. I bought a pair of their toothpick jeans last summer for $15 on super duper clearance and now they’re my “junky laying around the house jeans”. I don’t know who would have paid over $100 for them. I do have a few pieces that I do still love and stock up on – on sale – such as their linen shirt and chino shorts ($20 on sale, and with the little wear they get, they last me years). I just can’t quit J.Crew completely!

  • Katie

    While I do shop at J.Crew when there are sales, I am more of a loyal J.Crew Factory shopper because of the affordable prices and constant discounts. For years I bought a size 2, and I was always confident when ordering online that the item would fit perfectly once it arrived. Now I’m stuck in a size limbo because the size 2 is too baggy! I never even thought that it could be the result of vanity sizing. This issue is beyond frustrating and I am very happy that you are drawing some attention to this issue.

  • amanda

    Couldn’t agree with this more! Thanks for writing! I get on a soap box often about their sizing and pricing issues and appreciate you taking it to the masses!

  • Heather

    Totally agree with all of this! Used to live JCrew, now it’s nothing like the good old days. And while we are at it, let’s talk about the even more ridiculous sizing at The Limited and NY and Co. I’m 170lbs with 34 F bra size, and the last time I bought shirts at NY and Co, I had to get an XS and it was still baggy! (I thought this might be a tag typo, but no, I bought 4 different style shirts all in XS) There is no way on earth an F cup should fit into an XS!

  • C

    The sizing or the decline in quality… I can’t decide which is more disappointing. But it’s not just JCrew. Many retailers have subscribed to this fast fashion, quantity over quality concept. The idea that it doesn’t matter if something is worn out by the end of the season because clothing is disposable and you can just toss it and get a new one. Clothing used to be an investment, but because it comes so cheap now, it’s hard for people to justify repairing tears and tailoring.

  • Amy

    I’m not sure this is all vanity sizing, I think a good deal of it is simply sloppy, slouchy, unstructured designs,, which is what JCrew seems to be favoring right now.

  • MK

    I hope they hear you not just on vanity sizing, but on outrageous pricing and what is too often low quality!

  • tazdevil

    Let’s not forget that the “disposable fashion” trend among retailer leaves our wallets lighter and fattens the retailers wallet, as we start needing to replace clothing every year, or even every season!

  • Meg

    I agree with this post entirely, and I’d also like to point out what the JCrew company has done to Madewell – Madewell used to be a very affordable boutique-y store with interesting clothes that featured vintage/European styled clothing. Since JCrew acquired it, it appears to be all enormous sack dresses and and boring shirts for prices I don’t even pay at Saks. I haven’t bought something from there in years, and my JCrew purchases have gone from decking out half my wardrobe in 2006 to maybe one or two pieces a season.

  • Gabriela

    In 2007, I purchased a gorgeous, size 2 J.Crew silk dress in the iconic “library print” on sale for $99. It’s been one of my favorite wardrobe items since then, and while I recently had to have it altered into a full a-line skirt (damn you, boobs), I know I’ll keep it forever.

    Meanwhile, the last dress I purchased at J.Crew was a size 0 (despite having gained 20 pounds since that 2007 size 2), on sale for $160 and began fraying at the seams by the end of the season.

    Whereas I used to buy about 50% of my clothing at there, the only things currently hanging in my closet are from 2009 or older. J.Crew and Jenna Lyons have lost me as a customer- hopefully they do take note of blog posts such as these and bring back the old crew!

  • SLG

    Thanks for this post, Belle. I could not agree more. I used to practically outfit my entire work wardrobe, and a lot of my weekend wardrobe, from J. Crew. I have J. Crew skirts and sweaters that are 5-10 years old and still going strong.

    Now I have a gift card there and I don’t even know what to use it on. Their sweaters shrink at the drycleaners, the pencil skirts stretch out across the butt, things that used to be lined aren’t anymore, and the list goes on. They’ve started labeling even their 100% cotton pieces as “dry clean only” — what’s with that? And don’t even get me started on the vanity sizing. J. Crew is not worth the money anymore. I really hope they can turn the brand around.

  • Carmen

    This vanity sizing is driving me crazy- and it’s not just J.Crew! Gap’s 00 pants are still loose on me- I’m small, but not THAT small. I asked the sales rep what I could do if I need to go down a size and he said I could always try the kid’s section. :(
    Now I end up doing most of my shopping online since I can find smaller sizes there, and thank goodness for H&M still maintaining their sizes charts.
    I agree with others here- I’d rather shop at J. Crew Factory than the regular store now. The quality is about the same and it’s so much cheaper.

  • Reag35

    Thank you for this post!! I hope they (and others) hear us on this one…

  • Gabby

    So much hate for vanity sizing. I frequently order clothing from British brands and I order a size UK10. I’m ok with that! I’m a 32G in the bust! Of course I’m not a 6! Except that I am in Calvin Klein dresses, but an 8 in Jessica Simpson dresses (which I actually love despite myself). While some brands will always cut a little narrower or wider in certain areas so it’s always good to try on, I just wish I could look at a number, WHATEVER NUMBER THAT MIGHT BE, and click “buy” without having to try to dig up reviews/guesstimate.

  • shessomelicious

    Agree completely. The J Crew catalogue was pretty much porn for me in high school (ugh, early 90s), but living in Canada in never ordered anything. Vancouver recently got a J Crew, and my excitement soured pretty quickly when I went in. Cheap, disposable fashion at outrageous prices for the quality. Sales people that looked at me like I was an alien who deigned to taint their environment with my size 14/16 ass. And on the size thing, women who fall into the ‘plus’ category have such a hard time finding stylish, quality clothing (who must the upper sizes be bedazzled, why?), especially work appropriate … it’s a market that’s so underserved. ASOS and Modcloth don’t seem to have tarnished their appeal by including us dread fatties; it would be nice to see actual brick and mortar retailers get on board too.

    • Liz

      Seriously, why is my quest for jeans always such a letdown because 95% of them have bedazzled back pockets to better highlight my butt?! I just want a pair of dark wash, straight leg (or maybe with a slight flare) jeans, with no whiskering, no weird wash, no sandblast, no cool beading or sequins on the back or front pockets or *shudder* the lower leg.

      Incidentally, Lee Jeans had a great sale around Christmas and I found a pair that fit the bill for $15 + free shipping.

      But seriously, being plus sized doesn’t mean my love for glitter is also plus sized.

  • MB

    I completely agree with your anti-vanity sizing stance. I’m 5’8″ and 150lbs. Sure, wearing a smaller size makes me feel better sometimes (I’m only human) but I also know that, even when I’m at my thinnest, I’m not “small” by any standard!

    I also find that tops are way more vanity sized than bottoms. I have J.Crew tops that are a size 2 and pants that are a size 8. I’m pear shaped, but not THAT pear shaped!

  • Carolyn

    Love this. Beyond the poor quality absurd sizing, you captured the crux of the issue – J. Crew is acknowledging the correlation between self-worth and dress size and promulgating it.

    I emailed J. Crew with a link to this editorial and told them this is the sentiment of their former customers.

  • Valerie

    I used to invest in JCrew items because they would last. Now I only shop at the Factory store, particularly the larger ones at outlet malls, because the quality of those items is exactly the same as the regular JCrew (and I pay $50 for a dress rather than $200). It’s sad, because it used to be one of my go-to stores for classy work clothing.

  • KT

    In 2006 I started working as a sales associate at JCrew. As part of my training, I was told that they only offered sizes XS/S/M/L for women, not XL so none of their female customers felt “extra large” (because that can’t be feminine, duh) and sizes S/M/L/XL for men, so non of their male shoppers felt “extra small” (because that can’t be masculine, duh). I thought it was silly back then…

    At the time I was 5’6″ and 118lbs and I wore a 2 or 4. Today, thanks to some good genes, I am still 5’6″ and 118lbs and wear a size 0 or 00. I recently tried on a 00 top that wasn’t an oversized/baggy style but would have had to been taken in at least 2 inches to remotely fit. This is ridiculous! I am too tall for petites so I am effectively sized out of some of Jcrew’s styles. And ordering online is a total crapshoot – I usually have to order at least 2 sizes since I have no idea what will fit.

    Get it together, Jcrew. This is exhausting! And don’t even get me started on their “quality” these days…

  • Anonymouse

    I’ve found the opposite regarding the quality of their garments. 10 years ago every sweater I bought from them got at least one hole in it within the first 3 months. Now, the sweaters I buy have lasted at least 3-4 years.

    I will say that I miss the basic colors and shapes that were always so classic. It’s the same thing with the Gap. I’m in my 40’s and neon colors look stupid on me, like I’m trying too hard. Where are the grays, blacks, camels, whites, navies, and olive greens?

    While I’m at it, can someone tell me where to find a loose fitting, pocket t-shirt that isn’t see-through and doesn’t require me to wear spanx underneath?

  • BB

    Personally, I don’t care about sizing. I’m confident enough to wear what looks good on me, not squeeze myself into a size that I think I should be. However, my gripe with JCrew is their damn clothes themselves. Who the eff wants to look like Jenna Lyon? Are we all to become clones of JL land?

  • Adrianna

    Bravo!!!

  • Msinclair

    The size of a zero did not change with the shift. While I agree about the negativity of vanity sizing in general, the 000 Liszt range was added to accommodate the opening of the Hong Kong JCrew and the smaller sized consumer there.

  • Legally Blonde

    I am the Dean of Career Services at a law school and now I tell our students not to buy JCrew suits because of the poor quality for the price. I used to save up and buy all of my suits there in the early and mid-2000’s, but I refuse to buy any of their suiting now because I have been so disappointed with the low quality.

    Love the blog, Belle! Thanks for writing this and good luck in law school!!

  • bella

    dude i agree. as a 5’0” petite woman, i think its concerning that the 00 size often doesn’t fit me at JCrew, not because i think i’m too skinny, but because it’s ridiculous that JCrew is vanity sized to the extent that truly small people do not fit into its clothes. And adding a size 000 isn’t a solution, because give it a matter of time before I don’t fit into that either. (For reference, I fit into a size 2 or 4 at places that are not as extremely vanity-sized)

  • K

    Excellent article. Frankly, the company deserves to go out of business with the shenanigans they’ve pulled in the last 7ish years. Hipster chick needs to vanish, and quality, sensible sizes and prices need to return. Until that day happens, JCrew will continue to flounder. And I say this as someone who has 10 Jackie cardigans in my closet.

  • anon

    I’m so disappointed in you Belle that you fell so easily for the “vanity sizing myth.” If you do any amount of basic research, you’ll find that vanity sizing is not really about vanity but about market. As companies price their products cheaper (which companies like JCrew and Ann Taylor do effectively with coupons and huge sales), the target demographic changes. Generally, lower-income individuals in the US are larger, so a medium must now fit a different demographic that reflects the new price. This is the real phenomenon behind “vanity sizing” – that is a is a direct effect from lowering price. Note that JCrew has also added sizes like a 00 to keep their original customers sized into the line so its not like you are being “sized out” of JCrew, or at least, the vast majority of people aren’t. In fact, more people can both afford and fit into JCrew clothes than at any other point in time.

    I am just so sick of every blogger going on about how hard it is to find clothes in a 6 or whatever because of evil “vanity sizing.” Its like, pay more for your clothes or buy cheap clothes that appeal to a different market than you and stop perpetuating the fat bashing (Oh Noes! The evil size 16’s can now shop at JCrew!)

    • Belle

      It’s not about making different sizes, it’s about creating a size guide that has size 4 listed as having a 27″ waist and when it’s delivered, it has a 29″ waist as a norm. Add as many sizes as you need, go up to 305 for all I care, but don’t provide me with a mathematical table that is supposed to expertly guide my decisions and then lie your ass off about what the measurements for that size really are.

      And I buy clothes that cost all over the price spectrum, from upper level Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss to Forever 21, and I have found that outside of the UK brands, the most honest sizing (as in consistent with the size guide) is at H&M and Zara.

      So I don’t care about remeasuring a medium. If you want to add 2″ or 4″ to your medium to incorporate more people, do it. But don’t lie to me about it and tell me that a medium has a 29″ waist when I have a tape measurer that says your size chart is a lie.

  • Sara

    J Crew was a staple for me in college (circa 2006), but then I lost touch with the brand for a long time. When I tried to come back a few years ago to see what they had to offer, I was appalled at their selection. It’s all fugly, hipster-ish crap that I wouldn’t even wear to the grocery store, let alone to work.

    I just cruised over to their site, and noticed some some disconcerting things. In addition to the still-ugly styles, their petite sizes only go up to a 12, while their regular sizes go up to a 16. WTF? Like there aren’t petite women in the larger sizes? And on top of this disgrace, I happened to look on their lists on the side, and under “special sizes” was a category for size 16. So in addition so petite and tall size, size 16 is now so out of the norm that it’s labeled a special size?

    I’ve noticed other brands have changed their concepts and quality for the worse as well. J Jill is now frumpy, shapeless stuff for boomers, and GAP is low-quality, ugly stuff for teens.

    It’s so disappointing when once-liked brands spiral down. Unfortunately, I’m not finding many new brands to choose from.

  • KJL

    The vanity sizing is awful, but the thing that really drives me crazy is the inconsistency in the sizing. I remember the days when no matter what you ordered, a small fit like a small fit like a small. Now I just guess wildly when I order, which is rare, unless I happen to have been near a store to check the piece out in person. Seems like a really odd strategy for a company that still depends on catalog and internet sales. Hopefully they start listening!

  • Lauren

    My biggest beef with J.Crew is the serious decline in quality. Recently I purchased a pair of slacks that were a loose fit. Wore them once before the back seam started unraveling and there was a gaping hole in my rear! Took them back, got them replaced, and the same thing happened to the replacement pair! Ridiculous.

  • Tiffany

    LET’S BURN THIS MOTHER DOWN! Wait, sorry, I just love hating on J.Crew (while still buying some things–deeply discounted, of course!–from J.Crew). My latest beef: last fall I bought three Tippi sweaters in size small (a joke, I know) in three different colors. They were entirely different sizes. I was swimming in the maroon sweater and the white was too tight. Just so bizarre to charge that much for things (I only just graduated to comfortably-buying-J.Crew-sale-things level money, mind you) and have so many quality issues.

  • Jenny

    Belle, I have been thinking about the quality thing a lot lately…not just at JCrew, but everywhere. I realized recently that I have had enough. I’m tired of the scavenger hunt, I’m tired of the pricing games. I am not intrinsically opposed to cheaper brands if it’s surprising quality for the low price (and there are some jewels out there) and I know that a pricier item does not automatically equal quality (JCrew is the poster child of this, as we know, and do NOT get me started on Tory Burch).

    I just turned 40, work in finance, and dammit, I’m at a point where I only want to own well made, beautiful, classic clothing, shoes, and bags. I have also decided I am willing to pay quite a bit more if the quality is there. My latest quest is for a saddle brown leather tote bag to last me the rest of my working career (hell, life). I want Italian or American leather. I want solid brass hardware, not plated anything. I want leather thick enough that the corners don’t wear out after a few months. I want something that doesn’t have a bunch of $hi# all over it, including a logo. Do you know how long it has taken to find a bag like that? Months. For a simple leather tote bag. I have finally found the winner; full-price is $540, and I have a 15% coupon to get it down a little more. Oh, and it’s guaranteed for LIFE.

    I would rather make 2-4 quality purchases for a true wardrobe in a year than 10-20 crappy ones for disposable clothing/shoes/acc. My goal is to kill myself finding a handful of sources for this type of quality and then I close the retail door. I’ll have my brands.

    I know people in school or early in their career likely do not have this option. Not sure what the solution is. It’s a big problem (yes, it really is, it’s not just an upper-middle class pretend “problem” but goes well into issues of skilled artisan labor, the environment, pay, and job-sourcing, as I’m sure all of you know-oh, and investor relations, which is the end driver in all of this), but it’s one that I think is coming to a head.

    I love your blog, it has helped me immensely. You are one of only a few bloggers I will give affiliate links to…you work for it.

    • Belle

      I think many mid-price retailers used the recession as a justification to make poorer quality clothing. I’m not sure they’ll ever go back now that they know we’ll buy it anyway. I’m lucky enough that I can afford to buy more expensive pieces if I limit myself to fewer purchases. If I was just starting out, I’d be stuck. Perhaps there’ll be a sea change and a brand will emerge with consistent quality and sizing worth their mid-price.

      • Sara

        I’m really hoping that’s the case because I’m at the “I’m stuck” point of the process at the moment.

    • SLG

      Jenny, I’m in the same place — I’d much rather buy quality than re-buy stuff every year. (And I’m grateful that I’m finally in a place to be able to occasionally do that.)

      I’m actually on the same hunt as you for a leather work bag. And I can. not. find. one. anywhere. Would you mind sharing where you found yours?

  • Vanessa French

    Great post! I loved it! I have been JCrew fan and shopper since high school (’93) and used to get the catalog before there were stores in every big city. I miss the quality of those clothes and would like them to return. I also would like more real woman sizes like 12-16 items as well — as I am not my old high school figure. I am a big fan of Jenna Lyon’s styling and think it is also great — I just wish JCrew would return or create more classics.

  • Sara

    Your honesty rings true and the word needs to spread. Love the way you write!

  • Meaghan

    I love this, and totally agree!

  • Cynthia W

    Ugh… J. Crew is the worst. I can’t buy anything online because I don’t know what will fit anymore and the quality is so horrible, that I don’t even want it on sale anymore. $50 for a sweater that won’t last the season isn’t a bargain.

    I’ve moved away from them and Banana Republic for this reason and started saving up to buy my dresses from Halo and Antonio Melani – only problem is that I still need somewhere to buy high quality pants and shirts. Sigh.

  • Ayb

    I took the phrases quiz. Missed two – one that my tablet skipped, and one that I would debate. I’m old and grew up at a time when your elders corrected your speech.

    It really grates on my nerves when I hear those types of phrases said incorrectly, but no one wants to be told anything so I bite my tongue. Hey! I just used two phrases. Lol!

  • Lawgirl

    Maybe I’m fat, but the sizes don’t bother me. My body shape has changed as I’ve gotten older (40s) — some parts are wider and more womanly. Weighing 135lbs now is not the same 20 years and 2 kids later… You young’uns may just change your minds in a few years. #IJS

    • Belle

      I think there’s some confusion about my opinion, if you want to add more sizes or change the measurements for a certain size, I won’t stop you. It sucks for the people getting sized out, but that’s up to the brand. The thing that sends me over the edge is that the size chart still reflects what the sizes were 10 years ago. On top of that, the reason they add 000 is because they don’t want to admit that they’re making clothes that could be considered plus size.

  • cate

    I graduated from college in 2000, and in the two years before I went to graduate school I bought a lot of my clothes from J.Crew. The quality was pretty decent back then. In fact, I wore my J.Crew denim jacket twice this week and I still have two of their wool coats. Those are the only pieces in my wardrobe that have lasted 10+ years, which I think says a lot.

    Vanity sizing is an issue for me. As a gal who is <5' tall and <85 lbs, what size am I now?? If they keep with this vanity sizing trend, maybe I am a size that is a negative number? Back in the day, I used to fit PXS. Now, I am PXXS or 00P. And lots of times, I still need alterations!! I weigh 5 lbs more and have wider hips than I did back then! I feel like smaller women are getting edged out with the new sizing. I fit some stuff in the girls' section, but finding work appropriate pants is totally a pain.

    Thanks for this great post, Belle!

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  • kate

    Personally, I’ve been boycotting J.Crew this year. Their sizes are whack (I’m an athletic 5’10” with swimmer shoulders and should never be a size XS), and the No.2 pencil skirt I bought when I was a sophomore in college looks better than the No.2 pencil skirt I bought during law school. (It’s a year old and the wool is already pilling like crazy!) The argyle sweater I bought in 2004 is still beautiful; by contrast, the silk blouse I purchased on a whim last year is practically unraveling, languishing in my “get rid of” pile. Banana Republic is fast becoming the better mid-priced professional retailer, and I think tee and sweater companies like Everlane are also expanding to meet a market demand once met by J.Crew.

  • Becky

    I’ve stopped shopping at Banana Republic for the same reason you’ve quit J Crew. I worked at Banana in my early 20s and blew every paycheck on gorgeous professional clothes. I still have a suit, cardigan sweater and two skirts from that time that all look fantastic. Fast forward 8 years and, not only have their prices increased substantially (to further differentiate themselves from sister store Gap) but the quality has plummeted. I purchased several sweaters there last year and none lasted the season without pilling and stretching. Brightly colored pants faded with wear and wash. It’s so incredibly disappointing. Now, where can I shop?

  • Jiminy Cricket

    Right, because what’s Boko Haram when J Crew is lying to you about gaining 20 pounds? #realissues #ihopeyoufeelgoodaboutyourself

    • Belle

      Yeah, nobody’s saying this is an issue on the level of foreign terrorism. If you don’t want to read about fashion, and want to focus entirely on international issues, then don’t read fashion blogs. But don’t come to a style blog and expect to read about how the developed worlds lust for fossil fuels and minerals funds terror and dictatorships…we don’t do that here. And the reason we don’t is that many of the readers here have jobs where they work on these types of serious issues full-time. They need a break.

      Also, it’s a silly comparison. I doubt you spend every moment of your day/life thinking of nothing but serious issues with global-impact.

  • Jules

    My problem with vanity sizing is not vanity sizing per se, but rather that it is just so inconsistent, even within the same brand. I am a 6/8 s/m in more generous stores and have dresses that fit me in a 12. I am in a place now where the size on the tag does not bother me, but lugging 3 sizes of every skirt/dress/pair of pants does.
    And honestly, I have written J.Crew off entirely. Why bother when I can buy the similar items at Target several weeks later and it is the same quality?

  • Leigh

    “I want to live in a world where a dress is labeled by its size, and a woman isn’t.”

    Can we start a campaign to get this quote on billboards everywhere?

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  • Lisa

    So true! This is why I still rarely order clothing online because I have no idea what the sizing actually is until I try it on in the store. Size guides are completely useless a lot of the time.

  • Ashley

    This is just bizarre. I don’t know that I have a strong feeling regarding the implications of sizing, my complaint is more straightforward – I want to be able to walk into the store, as a consumer, and not have to take 4 different sizes into the changing room with me. Or have to order 4 different sizes online. If you want to promote brand loyalty, you have to be consistent. I also have a larger issue with the amazing decline in quality, particularly with their suits, particularly with their not lining suit pants, whilst still charging the same price they did when the pants were lined. Consistency – both sizing and quality.

  • Interrobanged

    I am just curious – for those of you who work in a business casual or more formal office, where do you shop now that retailers like JCrew, BR, and AT are off the list? I’ve found a lot of great stuff at Nordstrom, but otherwise I am stumped.

    • Belle

      I hit Asos, but that can be a bit of an Easter Egg hunt. I also like Macy’s depending on the brand, really good sales. People have said good things about Talbot’s or Brooks Brothers on sale.

    • SLG

      I’ve had some recent luck at Boden (they tend to feature bright floral prints in their advertising, but if you dig, you can find some nice silhouettes in solid colors too).

      I also gaze longingly at Reiss, especially the outlet/sale section. Worth checking out for more formal workplaces.

      And Angie at YouLookFab.com often has good recommendations for Nordstrom finds. She’s a personal stylist and so often has first-hand experience of the quality of various pieces, body types they look good on, etc.

  • Cynthia

    I give up. I’m losing track of the number of zeros I need to wear. I also wrote about this very issue, I think on the same day you published your post and just today, I posted a picture on Instagram of me in a Banana Republic dress I bought around 2004. That dress was a 0P. I haven’t lost (or gained) any weight in 10 years and I now buy 00P. Some 00Ps are even big. Crazy, no?

    FYI: The J.Crew article is here: http://t.co/LPy4fYggvx

    • Belle

      It is insane. If they want to add more sizes, they should establish a 0 and climb upwards. If they want to expand sizes, do so, but just be honest in your size guide. Stop lying and saying the size 4 has a 27″ waist, when my 29″ waist has inches of room.

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  • Cherylin

    I am with you 100%, though, on the inaccuracy of the sizing guide! As a loyal j.crew customer for over 10 years who has often lamented the lack of small enough sizing to fit me (at j.crew or anywhere else, for that matter), and who has spent thousands of dollars on tailoring of petite 00/XXS pieces, I am thrilled to learn that the company finally responded to consumer demand for smaller sizing. I am nearly 30 years old, 5 feet tall, and an athletic 95ish pounds. It’s frustrating to be periodically sized out as the vanity sizing progresses. As an aside, it’s also frustrating that the introduction of sizing that will actually fit me at a healthy weight is now more “extreme”, and widely portrayed as furthering or catering only to an unhealthy Hollywood ideal. As if a person who wears an XXXS couldn’t possibly be healthy… but vanity sizing is what shifted my j.crew size from XS to P00 to XXXS. Still, I am grateful for sizing that (hopefully!) will fit me, regardless of the number attached. Because before now, I didn’t have the option of finding a piece that fit in ANY size without extensive (and expensive) tailoring.

    • Belle

      Exactly. If they would just be honest about the true measurements of the 4s and 6s, you would not be forced into a 000 and then vilified, like it’s your fault or something.

      If I hadn’t gained 20lbs since college, I’d probably be in your boat. Even now, the XXS is sometimes the size I need, which is ridiculous given my measurements.

    • Jana

      I agree with Cherylin and only came to this website to defend JCrew.

      I am not a JCrew customer. I am not 5 feet tall. I am 4-foot-11. I am taller than my sister and mother. I weigh 93 lbs which is heavy for me.

      When I was in my twenties my waist size was 22.

      • Belle

        I agree that petite deserve clothes in their size, just like plus-size women do, even though the lack of larger sizes gets more attention. My issue, and this has gotten lost in some of the coverage, is that the measurements on the chart are not accurate, regardless of what size you are. So I’m all for adding smaller or larger sizes to meet demand, but you need to honest with consumers about the fit sizes.

        If your 4 has a 27″ waist in the guide, but none of your size 4 tops or dresses have a waist smaller than 29″, that’s a problem. So expand the sizes, but be honest about the new measurements.

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  • Petite

    There is considerable commercial interest in catering the Asian market, where the average sizes really are smaller than American figures. Here, I can wear a Jcrew 0, European 4, but in Hong Kong, I would be a medium.

    To prevent the size 000 tag, it would actually take a lot of time and new measurements to bump up a size, and those ladies who currently take a size 10 would be most unhappy to know that they are 12 or 14.

    As a smaller framed person who is frugal with her shopping, it is discouraging that much of the small sizes in the sales sections of mainstream clothing retailers are often the first to sell out. From this, I would surmise that there are other smaller framed people out there. It’s the bigger sizes that are often left over.

    Though I have a Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Kohls budget, their clothes are much too big. And springing for tailoring for their quality would be wasteful.

    There are natural 16 year old girls and 36 year old ladies with a size 23 waist, all of them menstruating, etc. Just as we SHOULD respect the needs of plus sized girls/women (who definitely deserve more representation and options), doe not mean that the smaller ones should have less clothing options too.

    • Josie

      All of them menstruating??? WTF?

      • Belle

        I think she’s responding to the argument that most of these women are too thin to have monthly cycles. It’s a common argument you hear from people. I’m not sure it’s accurate, though.

  • classact

    I DO NOT & NEVER WILL BUYCLOTHES’MADE IN CHINA ‘ ..
    until people boycott this crap & demand USA made clothing,
    it will never end…

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  • The Lady Olive

    This is nuts. I have subconsciously stopped shopping at J.Crew and now I get it. My pencil skirts fall apart after 2 wears, I am generally a 4/6 but many of my skirts there are size 0! WTF…

  • Blondie, Esq.

    Great post, couldn’t agree more. I used to love shopping at J.Crew because I always wore the same size, so it made online shopping especially easy. Now I have the exact opposite problem: in some styles I’m a 4, and in some styles, an XS is too big. It means I’m always returning things, and without free returns, it takes away the ease of online shopping. I haven’t bought anything from J.Crew since May and that is almost unheard of for me. (But probably better for my wallet). :)

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  • Leila

    A little late to this party but the other thing nobody’s pointed out (at least that I saw) is how poor J. Crew’s accessories have become as well. I bought a Brompton purse there for $358 (stupidly) and it lasted a year before the piping started to wear away and the handles gave out. I didn’t even have that much in there.

    And what IS their style direction these days, anyway? Who wants a blousy sweater? What on Earth is the point of the Tippi sweater? Anyone? ANYONE?

    And why in the HELL are those pencil skirts so damn long? They’ve completely lost touch with their consumers.

    • Belle

      It’s one of those situations where in the beginning of Lyons-years, it was nice to have a little extra style injected into the classic pieces. But seasons go by, and they get further and further from their classic look and the clothes get more expensive and they forget that their customer base is not the Fifth Ave women who buy their items almost as a novelty. When the middle class ladies who loved their clothes start looking elsewhere, there’s a problem.

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  • 2elle

    I normally harp on vanity sizing as well. But apparently Jcrew’s 000/xxxs came back not from the desire to make American women feel smaller, but to accommodate a burgeoning Asian market where the ladies were demanding smaller sizes. It’s not all about us Americans anymore!

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  • Jess

    Thanks for this post, it’s spot on! I’m petite (short, not really thin) so I do value and appreciate that J.Crew is making smaller sizes, but it’s ridiculous. I’ve been sized out of many stores so I do shop in the kid’s department (and even then, I’m not even wearing the largest size – size 12/14 or M/L). I have to do a lot of alterations. Not only do I have to factor in the price of an item, I have to factor in the alterations cost as well…so I don’t shop as much anymore. I’m not stick skinny, I have an athletic, muscular build and yet, it’s a struggle to find decent fitting items that aren’t laughably big.

    Moving up price points to “better quality and more expensive” brands and stores isn’t a cure all. I still have trouble with those places too and some do free basic alterations…the more challenging items, I have to learn to live without. Sometimes, it’s a hit and miss but I have to go vintage to find something off the rack that fits my body. For me, vanity sizing is a blessing and a curse. It makes me purchase less items but since I have to tailor it, everything looks like it’s made for me. So, I’ve learned to live with it but I do wish it was easier to shop. :)

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  • Julie

    I so agree! I was shopping at Jcrew factory last week and nothing in my usual size was fitting and it was so overpriced that I gave up. I was drawn back today because they have a sale going on and I need fall clothes after moving to the East Coast. If these outlets and stores run specials all the time then nothing is worth paying full price for especially when the quality is so low. I am always a size 26 in jeans, and a size 2 dress in brands found at Anthropologie. But I’ve noticed this past month that at Jcrew (and Loft) I am now a 00. I’m still a 26 in jeans at Jcrew (which never fit correctly- too big in waist but not legs) and I am surprisingly a 25 at Loft. And I’m completely sized out at the loft outlet because they don’t offer “00.” I’m not even super skinny, never have been, always athletic build! It’s frustrating for me to be sized out now in some places and I hope it’s not an ongoing trend! I have even noticed some jean brands at Anthro lowering their quality. It would be nice if these stores would at least adjust the price because you know they aren’t paying as much as they once were for these items to be made!

  • Elizabeth

    I completely agree! The quality & sizing is ridiculous. THANK YOU for coming forth & posting this blog! I have called J. Crew and have given them an earful regarding all of the above issues! I have been shopping J. Crew since the late ’80’s! The cashmeres have gone from luxurious, high quality, super soft, and flattering design to FELT! Poor quality! I have several long sleeve cashmere tees in the decade of 2000’s and they dry clean beautifully and look brand new. STILL! The FELT you are passing off on to us is CHEAP! Low grade! SIZING and cut is poorly designed as well! I COULD GO ON & ON WITH NEGATIVITY ABOUT THE CHANGES, QUALITY, SIZING, & PRICING. Jewelry is CHEAP! Every piece I have ever purchased has come apart or has broken. After 1-2 wears! Ridiculous! I’m 5’3″ and 110-115 Lbs. I’m boycotting the line in 2014 and beyond!

  • DW

    Jenna Lyons has destroyed Jcrew, the quality of their clothing continues to go down, their quality is that of H&M and their prices are ridiculous. Jewelry comes apart, tshirts often have a twisted seam, pants run huge, shoes are uncomfortable. I no longer shop with them.

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