DIY Technical Design Section 3: Size Charts and Grading
Each and every brand has an ideal body type in mind while they are developing their apparel or accessory product. Having a standard for your brand allows you to create a consistent fit. Determine what your ideal customer body type is and your ease over body for your garment.
Ideal customer body type = The specific body type for your brand, such as athletic, curvy, juniors etc.
Ex: You are creating athletic wear for men with large, muscular thighs. Your size chart will need to reflect the extra width of the thigh in your garments.
Ease over body = The amount of space between the garment and the body, such as fitted, relaxed, body con, etc.
Ex: You are creating relaxed hoodies for skateboarders. Keep this in mind while developing the garment, as your garment measures will be exaggerated in comparison to your size chart.
A size chart is a document that reflects the measurements for your size range within your brand. Typically, your public size chart is characterized by 4 main measurements, bust, waist, hip, and height. However, depending on the type of garment you are developing, you may have other measurements that are important, like inseam for bottoms. Your internal size chart will have more specific measurements to compare your garment fit to.
In the fashion industry, there is no specific size standard. While it is important to pay attention to the size trends within your specific garment category, the way in which you decide to present your sizing is completely up to you. Creating your own method of sizing can be a good way to build a community of loyal customers for your brand. Instead of comparing your size to what it “should be,” customers will take the time to be educated about your sizing and specifically what size they best fit in to. Lululemon is a great example of this.
HOW TO BUILD A SIZE CHART FOR YOUR BRAND
To build your size chart, you will first need to do some research on your competitors. Pay close attention to those brands which have good feedback about their fit and sizing. Keep in mind your ideal customer body type and how that plays a role in the development of your sizing guide.
Start by compiling a list of measurements from the companies who are your competitors, have good feedback about their sizing, and who’s ideal customer body type aligns with yours. Take that list and average out each measurement (bust, waist, hip, etc.). You now have a good industry average to start from.
Make any small adjustments to better align these averages to your ideal customer and fit. If you’d like to dig a little deeper, you can analyze several fit model bodies that fit within your brand body type (athletic, curvy, juniors, etc.) or take a look at industry fit forms from companies like Alvanon or The Shop Company.
Your size chart can live as a simple table. You can build your table using your company branding or other creative details in programs like Word, Excel, or Illustrator. Here’s an example of what it might look like:
Grading is the difference in measurements between sizes in your size range. In most cases you will have a standard grade, such as 1” between sizes. This standard grade will be reflected in your public size chart. Your public size chart is simplified so that your customers can easily determine what size category they fall into.
In reality, your grade is much more complicated than that. For one point of measure, your grade could be different for every single size. Depending on the garment, it may be different between styles too. However, the more consistent your grading is between styles, the more consistent your fit will be. The grade must be adjusted for specific styles and fabric.
Grading for petite, plus, or other unique size categories gets even more complicated, because the human body does not grow consistently. For example, a smaller waist size does not mean a shorter height and a larger waist size does not mean a taller height. So, the grade must be adjusted to account for where the curves of the body are.
DEVELOP A GRADING METHOD
In order to create a consistent grading method, you’ll have to do some research. ASTM International, along with other companies, provide extensive research on fit and body measurements, releasing an updated report every year. As you can imagine, the trends for fit and size evolve over time. By doing some research using guides like this or conducting your own research with fit models, you’ll begin to see trends among your ideal customer body type. From this information you can start to make educated decisions about how to size your goods.
As you work through development and sales, pay attention to the feedback you get from your customers. Your size chart can change and evolve over time! So, listen to what your customers are saying and adjust as necessary.
Developing a grade among your points of measure, as laid out in my tech pack tutorial, can make this process much simpler. Most of your garments will grade consistently, especially if you are working with the same type of fabric and styles. Or you can create templates for each type of fabric/style you work with. From there, you can adjust slightly between styles. For example, you could have a grade template for men’s knits and a separate template for men’s outwear, to account for the different fabric types and styles.
GOOD TO KNOW
FIT FORM vs. FIT MODEL
As you can imagine, it’s nearly impossible to find a model that will exactly match your size chart. Size charts are developed based on an ideal, in order to encompass a myriad of shapes and sizes. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s highly unlikely that you will ever find an actual person with the exact measurements from your size chart. The human body is unique and asymmetrical, making it difficult to approve fit adjustments on a live model.
Instead, it is better to fit garments on a form that exactly reflects the measurements from your size chart. Meaning that, unless you are able to procure a custom made fit form, developing your size chart from a standard fit form can be a great alternative.
Note that when you move on to the fitting stage of development, you should use the fit form as your comparison. Only use a live model in instances where you need to check the mobility of a garment.
Just as we learned in ITTF that sketch blocks can save you a lot of time to develop flats, creating pattern blocks can achieve the same effect for your physical samples. By creating a block pattern specific to your size chart, you can easily adjust and compare patterns for your garments in development. Similarly, you can make educated decisions about complex styles by comparing the block to the new pattern.
We won’t get into the specifics about blocks during this series, but it is on my calendar for a future series (*hint hint*). There are companies who specialize in helping you create your own custom fit forms, size charts, and blocks for garment development. So, keep that in mind as your company and brand grows.
SKIP THE DIY
If you want to skip all the research and save some time, I have standard size charts with grades available in the shop! They include 17 standard measures graded across 5 sizes. Take a look: