If you work in the fashion industry, you are very familiar with the sizing problem. The system used for determining sizes has in fact always been rather arbitrary at best – the issue is clearly explained in this article from The Washington Post.
As long as clothes were produced by tailors, the sizing problem never arose, but when production began on an industrial scale the need for standard sizes started to grow.
This was the 1940s, right at the beginning of the ready-to-wear era: In the United States, which at the time was the country at the forefront of industrial clothing production, a special commission was created by the National Bureau of Standards (now National Institute of Standards and Technology). Its task was to periodically measure several thousand women, and statistically process the data collected, to determine the so-called “standard sizes”.
After a decade of work, the commission came up with 27 standard sizes, based on the measurements of the women working in the Army, which were shared with fashion manufacturers. But for some reason, the adoption of these “official” sizes was never made mandatory. And in the ’80s, the dedicated research committee was even abolished.
Today, it is private institutes such as Astm (American Society of Testing and Materials) that collect data on anthropometric measurements of the population, and process them into tables that then become the basis for creating clothing sizes.
But the truth is that everyone is free to do as they please.
In fact, you will no doubt have noticed that sizing can vary greatly from one brand to another.
And a standard size cannot exist for the simple reason that there’s no such thing as a standard body. That’s why brands have begun to structure models according to their target audience and their own internal size charts, but even then there can be discrepancies between different lines on the same brand.
The solution, which should be applied on a large scale, comes from small labels such as Revival London by Rosette Ale, which offers customized garments and free alterations even long after the purchase.
But if that’s not your business model, the only way out is to provide your shoppers with accurate size charts and possibly a size recommender to be added in your product pages.
The starting point is of course deciding which measurements to add to your chart (and we recommend adding as many as possible) and possibly to clearly explain to your shoppers how exactly the measurements have been taken (i.e. in which exact point of the garment).
In this article, we will explain how to measure clothes for your size charts.
Key points to measure
Of course, different types of garments require different measurements. So let’s take a look at how to measure clothes depending on each different garment type.
Pants and Jeans
Waist circumference: measurement taken at the top of the waistband and doubled to get the circumference.
Hips circumference: take the measurement at the point of maximum protrusion of the hip area and double it.
Inseam: measurement taken in the inside of the pant or jeans leg, from the crotch until the end of the pant leg.
Shirts, T-shirts and Jackets
Chest circumference: taken across the largest point in the chest area, and doubled.
Waist circumference: as described in the above section.
Arm length: this is usually a standard length for basic T-shirts, but if you are selling a dress shirt, or a women’s shirt with a non-standard length, you’d be better off being specific and including this measurement in your size chart.
As you can see in the below image, there’s many more measurements that can be added in your chart, and for dress shirts and jackets it makes sense to add at least neck circumference and shoulders width on top of the basic ones.
How to measure clothes
To properly measure clothes, you can use a mannequin or a dress form, or lay the item flat on a hard surface.
The garment should be accurately smoothed out and possibly ironed before taking the measurements.
Ideally you should use a measuring tape, but if you don’t have one at hand you can also take the measurements with a ruler. Make sure to be as precise as possible, as for some measurements you will need to double the flat measurement to get the circumference, and even a half centimeter, when doubled, can make a difference.
Adding your clothes measurements to a size chart.
If you are managing a fashion e-commerce, make sure you provide your shoppers with appropriate size charts with a free sizing solution like Sizefox. By doing so, you will help your shoppers get the right size while increasing sales in your shop and reducing returns.
With its 15-minute integration time and an easy set up, with Sizefox you can create as many size charts as needed for your clothing shop. The tool allows you to also add a size recommender to your product pages, which provides your shoppers with instant size advice reflecting their parameters and matching them with your size chart measurements.
Some tips to optimize your size chart:
- Make sure you always specify if the measurements you are using are body or garment measurements
- If you sell on different markets, always add a unit conversion chart
- Try to add as many measurements as possible, to give your shopper clear indications on how the item will fit.
- Explain to shoppers how to measure clothes they already own, to give them a better idea of the exact dimensions of your garment
- And talking about fit, always specify how the garment is supposed to fit: loose, tight, flowy, etc.
Vanity sizing and clothing measurements
Once upon a time, to increase sales retailers simply put mirrors in the fitting rooms that reflected a slightly slimmer, elongated image.
Since then, the fashion world has found a much more effective way to push women to buy clothing: manufacturers have added inches to the waist and hips, and have at the same time lowered sizes.
At today, a woman who hasn’t lost any weight and has kept the same measurements all the time may find that she is wearing a size one or two times smaller than she was ten years ago.
These are the so-called “vanity sizes”, and they seem to work wonders: when a client slips on a size 2 or 4 and discovers that it fits her like a glove, she is more than happy to buy the item. And yet nothing has changed in her. To get an idea of how much sizing has changed over the years, just remember that Marilyn Monroe wore a US size 12 (UK16), what today would correspond to an XL (but at the time was only an M).
This not only pushes brands in a downward spiral where they are obliged to keep reducing their sizing just to keep up with market expectations (do you remember the times when size “triple zero” was not yet a thing?) but it keeps adding complexity to the sizing issue, generating more and more confusion amongst shoppers.
Luckily the fashion-tech industry is responding swiftly to the challenge and in the last years we have seen a dramatic growth in the application of AI and machine learning to fashion and sizing. Are sizing solutions the only answer to a fragmented sizing system? It might be, at least until the fashion industry standardizes sizing and clothing measurements.
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