Sorry, My Body Doesn’t Match up to Your Sizing Chart

When clothing became an industry and sizing a standard, garments that were once built on last century’s pattern forms standardised for mass production are now giving way to those that recognise that each body is a unique body shape and cannot be formed to one magic number. Will standard sizing be replaced by on-demand manufacturing? Texfash.com probes.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • The history of the modern fashion system—as from the times when others started making clothes for you without having even seen you once—is possibly as much the history of wrong sizing.
  • A universal sizing standard can never solve the issue of physical diversity.
  • It's impossible to try to get all the different body shapes and size around the world to fit perfectly into a small number of sizes.
Sizing solution providers cannot be answers in themselves, for they cannot afford to perpetuate another set of exclusionist standards about body types or sizes. Solutions need to come out of the box, or maybe the screen in case of these fashtech companies.
Size Mismatch Sizing solution providers cannot be answers in themselves, for they cannot afford to perpetuate another set of exclusionist standards about body types or sizes. Solutions need to come out of the box, or maybe the screen in case of these fashtech companies. Vecteezy

There used to be a quote which used to do the rounds some time ago that went like this: it's not that the world has suddenly become a bad place; it's just that communication is now better. Not an exact analogy, but the recent debates about sizing could make one believe that it is the global fashion industry which has conjured up this sizing problem only in recent times.

But the history of the modern fashion system—as from the times when others started making clothes for you without having even seen you once—is possibly as much the history of wrong sizing. What has definitely changed in the last few years is the amount of research that has gone into digging out the anomalies and contradictions in the existing sizing systems.

Besides the meticulously-researched data about sizing systems and their inherent pitfalls—especially about transposing them from the West to other cultures and geographies and perpetrating an exclusionist mindset—what has also ensued in the last few years are the plethora of solutions that have materialised.

So: enter, sizing solution providers. The sizing solutions of yesteryears would be sketches that only a handful or eclectic few would be privy to. But now, when you see your body being scanned in 3D, you are dead convinced that the sizing system is and has always been a mess. And you would want a size tailor-made for you. But then, that’s what tailors were meant to be around for. Till clothing became an industry and sizing a standard.

Yet, sizing solution providers cannot be answers in themselves, for they cannot afford to perpetuate another set of exclusionist standards about body types or sizes. Solutions need to come out of the box, or maybe the screen in case of these fashtech companies.

Eric Best, Co-Founder and CEO of Seattle-headquartered SoundCommere, has experienced sizing "inflation" as a consumer first-hand where "suddenly a 32-waist jeans fit instead of my tried-and-true 34s. Brands want to cater to a shopper's emotional and psychological needs. So, if it feels better to give customers a '32', let's redefine the standard! Of course, this creates confusion and, worse, punishes brand loyalists who already know what fits and what doesn't. We've seen a backlash against this in the apparel space as brands return to predictable 'true sizing' measures."

There needs to be an acknowledgment that all people are different from one another. Nikita Dobrynin, Founder and CEO of Kiev-based AstraFit, argues, "All people are very different in terms of body shapes and sizes. There is a much broader spectrum of 'sizes' than any standard can possibly handle. For example, a standard that would cover sizes of women's dresses would need to have more than 200 sizes and it would still be not that accurate."

The problem will remain. Sebastian Schulze, Founder and CEO of Fit Analytics, contends: "The truth is that sizing and fit are as complex and diverse as the human body itself—there will always be variations to sizing and I don’t really think a universal sizing standard will ever solve the issue of physical diversity. With garments, we’re not just talking about physical measurements—five people with the same waist and shoulder measurements wear the same pants or shirt completely differently based on the cut of the garment and the shape of their body. Making sizing more general won’t solve that issue."

Nevertheless, awareness for sure is up, as Billy Pardo, Chief Product & Operations Officer of Tel Aviv-based MySize, points out, "Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed the rise of awareness and progress of fashion brands towards inclusivity in sizing and accommodating different body shapes. Garments that were once built on last century’s pattern forms standardised for mass production are now giving way to those that recognise that each body is a unique body shape and cannot be formed to one magic number.”

And, the backlash that Best mentions is also true. And it is often reflected in returns. Or that of people switching over to other brands that offer a wider range in the same garment unit. The backlash can also be seen in terms of geographies. Last year, India launched a research project that would study body types across India and come up with a sizing standard that would be Indian to the core. But then, it would still be a sizing system, except that soon Indian customers may not have to look at Western US/UK sizing charts before buying a fashion item, be it clothes or footwear even.

So, how can things work?

Bold Metrics Co-Founder and COO Morgan Linton agrees that people have been asking this for a long time, "and I think we are finally getting to a point in history where technology is getting closer to making this possible. That being said, I think technology is allowing us to skip over the complexities of creating a global sizing standard—instead, standard sizing is going to be replaced by on-demand manufacturing."

Linton gives the example of one of his clients. "DXM is powering on-demand manufacturing at scale. With pioneers like DXM we are getting closer to what I think will become the new normal — clothes made when a customer places an order, and specifically for their body shape and size. The reality is, it's impossible to try to get all the different body shapes and size around the world to fit perfectly into a small number of sizes. Not only will on-demand allow for consumers to get better fitting clothes, it also eliminates inventory and waste leading to a much more sustainable future."

Best doesn't think it will be easy, though: "Until we have easy access to three dimensional modelling —say via smartphone cameras or inexpensive appliances—it feels like traditional sizing measures are still the best means of getting what I want."

The use of virtual fitting room technologies is only the first step to solving this problem, believes Dobrynin. "The next one, and I think that this is where the market is heading, would be a search and recommendation service. This kind of service would let consumers forget about sizing problems as they would be able to shop only for clothing that would fit them perfectly."

That's similar to how Nicole Levitt, Vice-President of Marketing at Israeli company Sizer Technologies, sees it: "Our belief is that there will no longer be a need for size charts—instead shoppers will order 'my size'. Once companies use digital body measuring—shoppers will simply choose the item they like and no longer have to worry about choosing their size. Size charts will become obsolete. We like to make a comparison to WAZE which made ordinary street maps/road atlas obsolete. This is what digital technologies ill do to size charts."

Pardo believes there is a way of reshaping the fashion industry by breaking down real consumers' data and reassembling again. "A new different format that can be built from the ground up and not dictated by fashion houses' conception of the human form. The new path will consist of a global sizing standard with an agile outlook of how we perceive body shapes throughout different countries/continents, and regions. Forming new clusters and groups based on real physical data."

Schulze's take is similar, and yet different. He outlines: "The solution to this problem is enabling more personalisation in fashion and really matching shoppers to garments that fit them at the point of sale, so they really know they are getting things that fit and that they love. If garments don’t fit and brands are seeing a trend in certain items that are consistently returned, brands can use this information to adjust their garment specs to reduce the problematic fit areas."

For starters, it seems brands and retailers—especially those from the US and UK/EU—will need to start offering wider size ranges and—yes—not dump their sizing charts on others.

 
 
  • Dated posted May 4, 2022
  • Last modified May 4, 2022