January 27, 2015

Creating sizing systems

This is a continuation of my review of Sizing in Clothing. The previous blog entries are History of Sizing, and the Book Review.

By Downtowngal (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
What does it take to create a sizing system? We often taken for granted a size chart on a retail website or print catalog. And when something doesn't fit, it's easy to blame the size system used by the manufacturer. And we've all been there. Shopping for blue jeans or a swimsuit causes a lot of anxiety and stress as we go through more than one size to find something that fits. A. Petrova discussed all of the variables that go into making those size charts that help you select the right size in the article Creating Sizing Systems found in the Sizing in Clothing book.

So what does it take? The first big step is to measure a population and then to divide that population into various body shapes such as Misses, Petites, Tall, Plus, etc. Each category is defined by certain control dimensions such as height, weight, waist, chest, hips, or whatever is considered the key dimensions. Usually there are 3-4 key body measurements. These kind of measurement studies are expensive and are usually undertaken by government, universities, and trade organizations.

Next, each category is subdivided into sizes contained within a size range. Each category is labelled a size designation. It could be Small-Medium-Large, or numbers such as 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. These size labels are meaningless until associated with a set of body measurements. (We could get into a discussion of vanity sizing here but it really doesn't matter what you call a size. It's the underlying body measurements that are key). In the US, we are accustomed to knowing what size to start with when shopping without knowing our body measurements. In the EU, there are similar difficulties though there has been some push to adopt the centilong system. This system identifies a size by height with some corresponding girth measurements. Not all European manufacturers have done this and some are as inconsistent in application as their American counterparts.

A. Petrova continues the article with some ideas on how to develop size systems or charts based on garment styles versus just body measurements. The biggest disadvantage to this idea is that the customer would need to know several size scales when shopping, making shopping a complicated experience. The advantage is that fit could be fine tuned, maybe.

So who is to blame when clothes don't fit? Is it the size chart? Maybe, maybe not. There are so many variables that it is hard to select just one reason. The fit model used in pattern development may match the size chart, but not be representative of the consumer. In other words there could be a mismatch between expectations and reality between the manufacturer and the customer. Grade rules may not match or equal actual body grades - which is a discussion for another article. Perhaps the size chart information was incomplete, lacked sufficient instruction, or had a typo. Poor construction or poor fabric quality play a factor. When analyzing sales information and returns, all of these things have to be considered.

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