Different clothes, different sizing

SizeUSA’s sizing survey might help designers figure out what is average.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:04 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dressing rooms can be a woman’s worst nightmare when the zipper to those must-have black slacks won’t budge and that new summer dress doesn’t fit quite right.

Now, the SizeUSA national sizing survey results can give clothing designers and manufacturers a better idea of the average human shape, which could help customers when shopping for the perfect fit.

More than 10,000 men and women from 13 cities across the country participated in the project. More than 1,000 people from around Missouri visited MU to be among the first group surveyed.

Each person was scanned using a 3-D body measurement technology created by [TC]2, a technology development and consulting organization for apparel and soft goods. This is the first 3-D shape test ever done.

Karla Simmons, professor of textile and apparel management and SizeUSA site coordinator for MU, has high hopes for a change in the way clothes are made.

“Our ultimate goal is to have a national standard and create a competitive advantage for manufacturers who look at the shape results,” Simmons said.

For years, people in the business have designed clothing for the classic hourglass shape, in which the bust and hip measurements are almost the same and the waistline is closely defined, Simmons said.

The SizeUSA results show that today, the majority of women’s bodies are pear-shaped — bust and waist measurements are the same but hips are much larger than the other two.

“Sixty-four percent of women are pear-shaped, and 30 percent have a straight figure,” Simmons said.

These results help explain the frustration women feel when one size fits at one store but not at another and a visit to the tailor is to be expected. At the Columbia Mall recently, Sue Rodgers took a break from her shopping and voiced her own frustrations.

“There isn’t any consistency of sizing, and the quality for the price isn’t usually what you like,” Rodgers said.

In addition to her suggestion for stores to put better quality mirrors in their dressing rooms, Rodgers had an idea to help customers find the right size.

“It’s impossible for everyone to have the same size standards, but individual companies could place a size chart in the store to give people a clue to what measurements and sizes go together for a particular brand,” Rodgers said.

MU purchased the 3-D scanner for $45,000 to be used for further research and educational purposes in the classroom.

A number of large corporations such as Dillard’s, JCPenney, Sears and Target sponsored the survey and in turn were given the results. For other companies, “full results can be purchased from SizeUSA for $20,000,” Simmons said.

Dillard’s is now calling for help from SizeUSA to analyze the intimidating 134 pages of survey numbers.

“Sizes will be the same, but the fit will be better,” Simmons said of the survey’s use. “We could see this shift early next year.”

In a perfect fashion world, people would consistently wear the same size. Personally, Simmons said she has a hard time finding clothes that work for her size 4 figure.

“I almost always have to buy separate pieces,” she said. “I’m normally a size 4, but pants are always too short and all my dresses have to be tailored.”

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