Tinker Tailor – clothing size standards get a makeover


In days gone by, we went to a dressmaker. These days, we talk about things like “size zero” and wonder if we are getting slimmer because we can now squeeze into an 8. Ever wondered how clothing sizes are calculated and why they vary? A standard for measuring the body in order to calculate clothing size and shape profiles has just been updated to ensure that everything fits just right.

Clothing sizes have been constantly changing in proportions and dimensions since “ready-to-wear” clothing with standardized sizes appeared in the mid-19th century and, today, sizes across brands and countries continue to vary based on different assumed body shape profiles.

In order to define that size, manufacturers need to know how to measure which body part to ensure the proportions are correct. The ISO 8559 series of standards helps them do just that, defining “how and where to measure the body”, and it has just been revised.

The ISO 8559 series of standards provides guidelines for clothing manufacturers to develop size and shape profiles based on different populations in order to create all kinds of clothing and mannequins. They have recently been updated to reflect changes in the dynamic clothing sector and eliminate trade barriers by harmonizing size marking and the terms of reference worldwide.

The standards were created and revised by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 133, Clothing sizing systems – size designation, size measurement methods and digital fittings, whose secretariat is held by SABS, ISO’s member for South Africa.

Reena Pandarum, Chair of ISO/TC 133, said the ISO 8559 series is aimed at increasing customer satisfaction and reducing returns of items as a result of a poor fit. “They will also help to reduce barriers to international trade by providing a universal set of size markings and terms of reference. This will help to simplify information on garment labels for shoppers as, currently, body dimensions are listed on garment sizing labels that do not relate to the body measurements.”



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