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Conquering The Sizing Nightmare!
Shopping for clothes should be enjoyable for everyone, regardless of size!
Within the clothing industry I guess there’s hardly a subject so hotly debated as the one of garment “fit”. It’s probably an issue that affects women more than men and most would have a tale to tell about jeans that were too tight, a top that was too big, or, “a lovely dress that I would have bought but the sleeves were too long”.
Perhaps for the smaller types it isn’t such a big deal, but the issue often becomes amplified from size 16 and upwards. At best this is annoying for these women; but more often it’s humiliating and even depressing. Retail therapy turns into retail nightmare as one garment after another is unsuitable.
To understand why this happens, you need to understand the process that’s all too frequently used when manufacturers and fashion houses develop garments and collections. Let’s take you behind the scenes to see how a retail garment design studio works and their modus operandi.
- The first step in creating a new garment or fashion piece is the designer’s concept itself. Once completed, an actual prototype sample of the garment is made based on the concept created.
A brief overview of the steps in garment sizing before manufacture
- The prototype garment is then tried on by a ‘fit model.’ A fit model is not the type of tall, elegant person you’ll see on the catwalk. These do not represent the average body type (sadly!) It is someone deemed to fit the standard measurements for a particular size (usually size 6.) The prototype garment will be adjusted in trial and made to fit the fit model perfectly, the advantages of using a human over a mannequin being that humans can advise of any uncomfortable areas and show how the garment flows in movement, mannequins don’t talk or walk!
- Once happy with the initial sample and satisfied it works when worn, garment technologists will then base their pattern block from this standard size 6…and this is where the process begins to fall down!
Traditional paper pattern pieces. Sizing grades are shown as lines at the edge of the patterns and dotted lines show where darts should be placed.
- Patterns are then ‘graded;’ meaning that from the one size 6 pattern, all other sizes in the range are created. Methodology to achieve grading varies, but usually software will mathematically calculate the extra allowance needed with each size increase. This works well for sizes close to the fit sample, but what’s all too often overlooked is the fact that the allowance needed between sizes increases proportionally with the size increase. For example, there should be a bigger jump in bust measurement between an 18 and a 20 than between a 6 and an 8. The fit sample doesn’t take into account the irregularities of the human body.
You’re probably beginning to wonder why this hasn’t been resolved!
Manufacturers and fashion houses often lack the expertise in garment engineering to rectify this challenge and it would also be a huge project for a brand to restructure their entire process, not to mention the confusion that would erupt at consumer level when the familiar sizing changes! It would also require a huge investment in time and money. However, with data showing that the average American woman is now size 16 – 18, brands are overlooking a large sector of the market, especially as women in this size range tend to be very loyal once they have found a brand they like.
Getting the fit right when it comes to uniform is even more important than in the fashion industry; not only are staff expected to wear the uniform day in day out, but they also represent a company’s brand and therefore required to look smart. Simply grading-up sizes from a fit model doesn’t work and therefore a more technical approach is required.
An experienced garment technologist will cleverly adjust the length of specific seams and the positioning of darts. This individual approach not only dispels the myth that to get a bigger garment you just add in more cloth; it also creates a garment that provides the wearer with comfort and fit.
We are very aware of the psychological benefits of well-fitting clothing and believe in an approach where, regardless of size, all wearers are cared for and dressed to impress and enhance our customer’s brands. We work on the principle that if your staff are happy, they will make your customers happy too
A garment being fitted on a fit model