Stories I Tell My Patients

101 Myths, Metaphors, Fables & Tall Tales for Eating Disorders Recovery

by Arnold Andersen, MD and Leigh Cohn, M.A.T.

The Three Tailors

recovery tool, body image, thinness

Once upon a time there was a very proud lady in the kingdom of Antilipidemia. She received a coveted invitation to the king’s ball and decided to command the most flattering dress in the kingdom for the grand event. There were three exceedingly talented tailors in the kingdom, who knew of the king‘s ball and the proud lady’s desire to have the most flattering dress. They met and wagered amongst themselves which one of them would be chosen to make the ball gown. She invited the three tailors to a meeting at her castle and demanded that the dress should make her look like the most elegant woman in the kingdom. She was shown fabrics from around the world and selected a silver silk cloth from China, with gold threads woven into the fabric, highlighted with the thistle flower insignia of the kingdom. Her measurements were taken by a discreet seamstress and given to each tailor. The three tailors worked in secret until the day when the proud lady would choose one of their creations.

 On the day before the ball, the three tailors returned to her castle. Each tailor showed her his ball gown and explained why she should choose his work. The first tailor, named L-Mart, grandly spread out the floor-length gown with empire waist and scooped neckline, cut on the bias, adding that his dress, size 10, was made most economically and would cost only 100 gold florins. The second tailor, named Kacys, excitedly exclaimed that his floor-length gown with empire waist and scooped neckline, cut on the bias, was size 8 and, because of the great care with which the fabric was sewn, would cost 200 florins. The third tailor, named Treeman-Larcus, was confident that his grand chef d’oeuvre, a floor-length gown with empire waist and scooped neckline, cut on the bias, would be chosen. It was, after all, a size 2 and, without further explanation, added it would cost 1,000 gold florins.

The proud lady adjusted her looking glass, peered closely at each ball gown and, after deliberation, stated without hesitation that the Treeman-Larcus dress was clearly superior. At the ball, the proud lady confidently danced away the night, holding her head high, knowing that her ball gown was certainly the most flattering in the kingdom. In the meantime, the three tailors met at a local tavern to commiserate and to celebrate the results of their contest. L-Mart and Kacys knew what they had to do to win the next contest, while the third tailor decided that size 2 was probably too high a number for the proud lady’s next gown.


Too many women believe that the size of an article of clothing determines its worth. A dress in a store, patronized mostly by businesswomen may be marked size 6, will cost twice as much as a similarly fitting, identically cut dress from a budget store marked size 8. It is very strange indeed how a size 8 on First Avenue becomes a size 6 on Lexington Avenue and a size 4 on Madison Avenue. It might be dangerous to keep on walking to Fifth Avenue. You might get into negative numbers and disappear completely!