Fashion's Imaginary Consumers by Lana Grant

The fashion industry risks creating an inventory-and a set of fit tools-designed for a largely imaginary consumer base. If this sounds unlikely, it’s worth remembering that it is something that has happened before.

Fashion e-commerce is suffering from an unsustainable returns habit that damages profitability, ruins customer loyalty, upsets shoppers, is wasteful and extremely damaging to the environment. The majority of these returns are reported to be due to ‘fit issues’. It’s a no-brainer that the industry needs to find a way to send out clothing that can be relied upon to fit its consumers.

One flank of the battle is for the fashion industry to ensure that the apparel being manufactured is ‘fit’ for purpose. To do so, it’s necessary to understand exactly what clothing sizing and gradings should be produced in order to reflect society and satisfy demand.  This will entail a study of one of the most complex entities in the universe: the human consumer, both body and brain.   Due to the considerable variability of the population, this is going to result in a much broader range of sizing offers than has been produced up to this point.

The battle’s other flank involves tech companies developing the tools that solve the myriad technical issues involved in targeting customers with suitably sized and graded garments, a task made more difficult when involving the more comprehensive range of apparel that will be on offer.  For this to be achieved, it’s necessary not only to match the level of population metrics expertise of their fashion colleagues, but also to acquire their thorough technical knowledge about all garments being retailed-the matrix of measurements, fabric characteristics, relevant construction specs, usage information and designer preferences. 

When it comes to fit, the most challenging sector of fashion ecommerce is plus size womenswear, which is what I will be addressing in this piece.  Here, the rates of return can be swingeing: much higher even than in ‘mainstream’ fashion.

The legacy of plus-size fashion’s sizing (and the root cause of its inflated fit problem) is that the grading has been ‘extrapolated up’ from 'mainstream' sized women, where historically, sizing research tended to originate.  The idea that curve women are simply larger versions of smaller women may be true to a certain extent, but this is far too reductive: these larger consumers have much more exaggerated body shapes than their smaller equivalents, so, where they have been graded on a false premise of conformity, it's all too easy for garments to completely miss the essential fit points.  It would actually be more informative to create a range of diverse cuts based on the physiques of larger women, and shrink these down to their smaller counterparts, who would, in all likelihood, be delighted with the subsequent advances in the fit of their garments. 

Historically, the plus cohort has been underserved by the clothing industry, of which this lack of specific research is an example.   It was long assumed that larger people are not as valuable to fashion commerce as their ‘mainstream’ counterparts, partly as they have traditionally averaged a lower spend, but also because their association with a brand was considered negatively.  Putting it bluntly, many companies did not like the aesthetics associated with larger people. 

With the growth in the proportion of fuller sized individuals in the population, both these considerations are fading away: the younger generation no longer balks at seeing brand ambassadors who vary from the traditional models’ slender body shape, whilst it has come more widely accepted that any shortfall in the spend associated with plus size women is caused primarily by the poorer offer offered to them-which actually represents an opportunity for forward-looking companies.  

Now that these reservations are being removed, in order to develop this sector to its full potential, the industry will need to reduce fashion returns significantly, necessitating a specific and comprehensive study of female bodies -from the smallest to the largest -in the kind of depth that has never been achieved-or attempted- before.

There are two general methods of collecting consumer body metrics: those undertaken by professionals, or consumers self-reporting. Some enquiries have involved experts who have reached out into the population to weigh, measure, scan, take surveys and live test volunteers. In others, subjects have been asked to either measure themselves, fill out surveys-or allow their bodies to be scanned in some way. We already know that far fewer plus size women are willing to participate in such studies, yet we are relying on this work because we will not gain a complete understanding of the customer base without it. Is there a particular group of larger women that is more likely to step forward to provide data? Is this going to have an effect on the quality of the information collected?

When designing anything for larger people (be it tech or clothing), it is advisable to think about people holistically, and consider, not just their physiques, but also their preferences, personalities, emotions, experiences and thinking.  This is particularly relevant to the prickly subject of how to go about finding a realistic plus-size sample of the population to study.  Many larger people (with good reason) are resistant to having their bodies categorised, scanned, analysed, measured or observed. Putting aside the differences brought about by the vagaries of personality types (which varies across all women of every size and body shape), there are particular reasons why the body confidence of certain groups of larger women is more resilient than others.  

A clue can be seen when observing the shapes of larger women who are happy to exhibit themselves, and compare them to the rest of the population (who largely don’t).  ‘Curve’ fashion models are women who make a living out of the fact that they (and society) find their bodies aesthetically pleasing, and these women usually tend to have certain features in common.  They are young, with a balanced physique, tall with smooth lines, and usually have either ‘perfectly proportioned’ or ‘hourglass’ body shapes.  They usually tend to share a European physical type.  These women are not at all representative of the plus size population as a whole.

Larger women come in a range of highly distinct body shapes, the rarest types being the 'perfectly proportioned' and 'hourglass'.  This should come as no surprise to anyone: we don't really expect models to represent an ‘average’ woman.  What may come as a shock to the uninitiated is how resistant most plus size women (who do not share this ‘aspirational’ shape: indeed, they vary from it considerably) are to being accurately measured. When calling on the population to volunteer body metrics, it is necessary to be extremely careful not to end up with a highly self-selected, un-representational sample.

It could be that a survey of plus-size consumers finds that 90% of them have hourglass or well-proportioned body shapes, when in fact, only 10% of the general population shares this profile.  If this happens, the industry will be creating a fashion inventory-and a set of fit tools-for a largely imaginary consumer base. Leaving it in exactly the same highly unsatisfactory situation as it is now, in fact.

There is evidence that, possibly because they vary from the ideal to a more exaggerated degree than their smaller equivalents, those who are not ‘conventionally attractive’ or 'balanced', physically, are far less likely to come forward to be tested by a professional, nor can they be expected to enter correct measurements into any fit system, even in the privacy of their own home.  They may be slow to volunteer to be scanned, and extremely reluctant to want to know their own metrics.  They are likely to be very concerned about privacy, and many of them will not even possess the tools (a tape measure, or a weighing machine) with which to gather their data, choosing to enter invented measurements if pushed to.

This is a situation that may be carried forward into the new generation of e-commerce retail fit tools and scanning devices, causing a diminution of effectiveness, if developers are not careful.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however.  Forewarned is forearmed, and, with anticipation of these issues, strategies can-and will- be put in place to collect an accurate, representative sample of fashion consumers, and the development of effective fit tools.  In order to do this, it is necessary to abandon the wishful thinking, the 'common sense' (that is not backed up by empirical knowledge), the prejudice, myths, or the incorrect extrapolation that has plagued the plus size fashion sector for too long.

Most of all, we should see the end to imaginary plus size standardised female consumers, and replace them with the rich diversity of real women.


Challenge by Lana Grant

A very important and essential part of our job as technical designers is to attend fittings. We can't achieve a perfect fit without fitting the garment on a live model and learning about how it fits and do our job in correcting what's wrong. We go to the fittings, in some companies, every day, or in some, 2-3 times a week. So, we all know what a challenge it is.

The challenge starts with coordinating all the parties who should attend the fittings. I know that, in some companies, up to ten people attend the fitting, starting from the design department to the buyers. To ensure that they all will come on time is nearly impossible. Someone will be late for sure, so we will wait.

Now, while we are waiting, the conversation begins. Unfortunately, with this amount of people, there will be several conversations going on at the same time –which typically continues until the fitting is over. You, as a technical designer should be in charge of what is going on in your fitting – tactfully and strategically. Plan it, control it and lead it. Well, that is an ideal situation: in practice, it is often very hard to do.

First of all, besides you, no one will know that you in charge. The designer will think that she is in charge; the buyer will think that he/she is in charge; therefore, no matter what you think or know, there will be a misunderstanding of roles. And that will lead to tension. Tension during the fitting is an integral part of your business.

To be successful, you need to know how to work with everyone by giving them each time to state their opinion, and thus give a little respect to everyone's opinion. At the same time, you need to do your job and fit the garment.

Why do we often come out from the fittings drained and with lower energy level?  Well, try to deal with all those opinions and work at the same time…that is a challenge!

How do you control a room full of different levels of participants? We would like to hear your opinion on this subject. How are your fittings going? What advice do you have for those who struggle on their fittings? All comments are welcome.

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The importance of working with our vendors overseas. by Lana Grant

We often sent technical designers to visit our vendors in Asia and China. How helpful is it for our technical design business? What do we want to accomplish with these visits and how important are they? The answer is - it is the most helpful business tool we have in producing our goods overseas.

          It is very important to work with the vendors side by side and see for yourself all the obstacles they encounter in the process of working with us.

          Only after meeting the vendors face to face you can really establish a good working relationship and start to understand more about who they are and how they work.

The number one problem in working with overseas is the language barrier. Most of the time the actual technical people, such as pattern makers, do not speak English and have to rely on merchandisers to translate our fit comments for them.  Since the translator isn’t a technician, there’s always the concern that the instructions could be misunderstood. So, there is no guaranty that your fit comment will be received and understood the way you intended.

So, when you are at the vendor’s office and doing the job together it is much easier to explain what the fit or construction problem is.

 Another advantage of going overseas is saving time. The time we spend waiting for those samples to arrive could be cut dramatically when you are actually there. You can bring your own fit model or find one there. In Hong Kong and China they have many modeling agencies that can provide you with fit models.

It will take you an average of two months to fit-approve a line sitting in the office in the U.S. Fit-approve a whole collection in a couple of weeks when you overseas are much faster.

What other advantages you encounter in going on business trips overseas? Please share your experiences and we will be happy to hear some advice you may have on how we can improve our visits and how to better work with our partners at the factories.

Visit www.technicaldesign.org for related technical design profession information.

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Attention! by Lana Grant

Attention all freelance apparel technical designers and consultants, if you would like to be included into our freelance TD directory on our www.technicaldesign.org website, please reach out to us at info@technicaldesign.org. This will help potential employers find and contact you for any freelance assignments directly without involving recruiting agencies. In the near future, we are planning to organize our data by region and city. Don’t miss this opportunity to find your next job.

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Technical designers working with fashion designers. by Lana Grant

What relationship should TD have with fashion designers? Should we listen to what designer say regarding the fit of the garment, or should technical designer tell how the style should fit? This and many other questions come to mind when looking at how we work together with our fashion designers.

Here is our outlook on this topic. The technical designer should give the designer a chance to tell us what the garment intended fit is - and if the Proto sample reflects that. After we are sure that the sample is what the designer envisioned, then we can give our insights on the fit issues this garment has. Everyone has a chance to state their opinion during the fitting. By discussing the garment, we usually come up with a mutual agreement on the garment fit and overall look.

We have to listen to what the designer wants, not the other way around. What we mean is, a technical designer should not dictate what the garment should look like design wise and how it should fit. We are technical designers and don’t design, we make the design happen. Therefore, we should only focus on technical aspects of the garment fit, not the design.

If you have suggestions on the design idea of the sample, you can share this information with the designer, because it might affect the intended fit. For example, if a deep neckline drop will not hold the garment around the shoulders, we should suggest changes which can improve the fit.

Also, having a good relationship with the designers helps to achieve a better product quality. Do not push your design ideas -- usually designers don’t like that anyway. Sometimes, we have to do something that we know in advance will not work for this particular style. This happens when we cannot convince the designer to alter the design and we have to let the designer to try it and see for themselves.

Do not criticize designers, their job is not an easy one, and we should respect and help our designers. We need to work together and come up with the best solution for the style, which will ultimately turn our work into profit for the company.  

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How to learn different category? by Lana Grant

In our career we are often involved with the same category we start with. When recruiters are looking for TD with experience in specific category and you have that experience, you kind of stick with it.

          How do we learn another category? The easiest way would be to start your career in a smaller company, where there is no differentiation between the categories, and you have to do them all. But how to do a category in which you don’t have any experience, which you simply don’t know.

          I’ve seeing questions on the LinkedIn discussions about haw to do sweaters for example. So, LinkedIn would be the one source of the knowledge where you can ask questions and get answers from the fellow group members.

          Another source would be the technical design association.

The reason we created the association is to give technical designers a platform to learn and share knowledge. On our website www.technicaldesign.org Blog page you can ask any question related to the field. There are seminars organized by ATDA that you can attend and improve your skills as well.

          One more source is to learn within your company if it offers different product. For example, if you don’t have any experience in swimwear, you can make this your goal for the year. The way you going to learn is by attending the fittings of your swimwear technical department and learn from them.

          You need to understand that all technical design is based on the same basic process, take the style and transform its fit to salable garment. This is across all categories. See what does not work on the body and make suggestions to the factory how to improve the fit. If you don’t know how sweaters work, you can also ask for help from the factory.

After successfully improving fit of one garment this way, you will know the next time and apply the same techniques for another garment.

Any suggestions on how to break away from the same category?

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How many fittings do we need to approve the fit? by Lana Grant

Fitting after fitting of the same style, how many times should we fit this garment? This is the question we often ask ourselves in our everyday work. What makes one garment fit approved from first fit and some will require 3, 4, or even 5?

Another issue is that too many times we are out of time to achieve perfectly good fit and have to approve the fit “with corrections”. There is no guarantee that those corrections are going to be done. Like there is no guarantee either that the first corrections will be done as advised in our comments. Therefore, we might see the same and additional fit issues in the second fit.

            What we need to know is that our comments will be followed exactly. If we send the corrected pattern, we need to know is the pattern will be used to cut the next sample? I have found it’s not always the case. You’d think we make the vendor’s job easier if we help them with the pattern, but they don’t even use it… not always anyway.

            Why is that? The problem could be that factory does not trust our given directions. It is very important to create the trust so overseas pattern maker will follow our fit comments as it advised. The fit comments should make sense and be clear.

It helps a lot to provide vendor with block patterns which they can use to create a prototype. We also need to advise the factory on how to use our block pattern, what they can change and what should remain as provided block. That called “How to use block pattern Manual”. Not many companies have that.

Often fit comments are done by inexperienced TD’s and they are not entirely correct. We ask for something that could not be physically done. Then we complain that the garment still has the same fit issues. Check with your senior TD or a manager when you not sure about how to proceed, don’t be afraid to ask.

The bottom line is that the production calendar has to be followed and styles need to be approved on time. There should not be more than two fittings before approval and try to step away from “approved with corrections”.

How many fits do you usually have? And how that impact your production cycle?

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Pattern measurements. by Lana Grant

More and more companies require technical designers to have pattern making skills and work with patterns sent by vendors along with the fit samples.

Is it beneficial to do work of the pattern maker oversees? The answer to this question in my opinion is definitely yes, but I can understand if there is disagreement on this subject.

          The argument could be that we are technical designers, not pattern makers. Well, in our job requirements it stated that we should all have pattern making skills because we are talking to a pattern makers therefore we should know the language.

          Why should we correct the pattern our self?  Sometimes, the corrections are so complicated that it is hard to explain and even illustrate. Other times you need to check if the pattern is balanced, which helps to understand why the sample is hiking or collapsing or has some other fitting issues.

 I just recently had an example when shoulder seam on the garment was too far back, which seams like an easy fix, just move the seam forward. But after checking the pattern, I discover that the problem was not in the balance between front and back panels, but in the back neck drop – it was too high, which prevent the garment to go forward. Therefore, having the patterns is beneficial when working on the fit comments.

The question I have is if the pattern should measure exactly as the sample, meaning all the seams are the same length. Coming from production pattern maker background my answer to this question would be no. When garment is sewn, it reacts differently to each seam and some seams would stretch and some get smaller. We should take the pattern as is and correct with the sewing altering the length of the seams having in mind.

For example, if the length of the armhole on the pattern is 19 ½”, on the sample, after the sewing, this seam could measure only 19”, we will loose ½” in sewing. The armhole could also stretch to 20”. My point is that we can’t take the pattern measurements exactly as it measures and apply it to our specification; we should always take the sewing for the consideration.

But, some technical designers could disagree, stating that it is the factory job to figure it out the final pattern outcome. I had an argument stating that we should measure the pattern before approving the fit and the measurements on the spec page should be exactly as the pattern measures.

 What is your opinion on this?

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Time management by Lana Grant

Let’s talk about how we manage our workload, especially in a crunch time, when it sometimes seems that it is impossible to achieve the goal. Experienced technical designers are used to the pressure and know how to manage their time, but I think this is a good topic for those who are new in the field.

           Recently, I received so many samples to fit that -- even with all of my years of experience -- it was challenging to figure it out how to fit all of them and then make the comments without staying too late. So, I want to share with you how I managed to do it and see if anyone has a better idea or plan.

          First of all, I made a list: I think putting everything on paper is very helpful and keeps things in perspective. It gives you a visual on what you have to do and then it makes it easier to understand how much time it will take.

          On my list, I put all the samples I received today and which needed to be fit the next day. Next, to every sample, I put the time it takes to measure the samples, on average approximately 10 minutes per garment.

          Then I listed all the samples that already being fitted and were waiting for fit comments, also with the time for every comment, which would be about 45 min each. This time frame only includes the basic fit comment, not involving more complicated styles with pattern corrections necessary. [If you need to make some pattern work you will give yourself some extra time.]

          The next step was to include the actual fitting time and additional time I needed to answer my emails. The list and the time calculation gave me 12 hours of work, which I needed to complete in normal working hours, or such was my hope. I knew that I couldn’t get help from my team members; they were busy as well, so how should I manage this workload? The solution was simply to prioritize the work and see what I must to do today -- and what can be done the next day.

          So, how do you prioritize the workload? First, I suggest, look at the delivery time; place those samples on the list first. After the delivery is surveyed in writing, look at the garment class, for example, if the product is sweaters, they need to go first, because sweaters always take more time for sampling. By prioritizing my fit samples using this method, I knew what I had to do today and what could be done the next day.

          Answering email is the most important task of the day; so don’t forget to put that on the list first. After prioritizing my workload this way, I had to stay late anyway!  But it took a lot of stress off of my shoulders, and I finished everything in a timely matter. Please share your ideas and experience on how you manage your workload.

 

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What is meant for you by Lana Grant

"What is meant for you will not pass you by. If it didn't open, it's not your door." I know job searching is emotionally draining, but it won’t always be like this. Keep believing and speaking that things are turning around for you. Sooner or later, it must turn in your favor. Remember, it’s not about how many no’s you get. It’s about that one YES. Shake off rejection and disappointment and Keep going. Don't give up. Your time will come! So, don't stress about things you cannot change. Network, Volunteer and Learn new skills.

Brigette Hyacinth

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Working with overseas vendors. by Lana Grant

Now days, most of our product produced overseas or in South America. We are all working with different countries and that can be challenging, you will probably agree with me.

          The issue is that we are here and they - the factories, are very far away, in whole different countries. They have their own culture and mentality. We are coming into this foreign mentality with our demands and often criticize them for not doing a good job for us.

          But before we judge, we need to look at how we do our job here. What information and how that information is provided to the factories is a key to a good quality product. We should better understand what they must deal with when producing that product for us. Based on my experience and seeing many fit comments, I would like to say this. Fit comments and technical packages are all different, everyone (technical designers) has their own style and ways of explaining the fit issues. Some provide more pictures; some use more words to describe the fit problems. Different format and programs used to present the comments.

In my first trip to overseas, I asked my colleges there what do they want to see in our fit comments? The answer was more pictures and very precise comments along with the pictures. And, the language in the fit comments should be simple. We do have the language barrier and we need to communicate in a simple way as possible, so it is easy to translate and understand, that will help with any miscommunication.

          Now to my point, I personally think that our vendors deserve more respect from us. They do work very hard and any mistakes they make, we make as many as well. But for some reason, I hear repeatedly how bad some of them are. Yet we do continue working with those factories for various reasons.

Why are we so critical of their job? Instead of criticizing our vendors, maybe we should look at how we can help them understand us better. Create better relationship with those factories and that will help on both sides.

          We need to visit the factories in order to establish good relationships and see how they do business. This will help better communication and understanding, it works when you meet people face to face.

          It would be interesting to know your opinion on this subject and what do you think can be done to better our cooperation with vendors.

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Consumers: Give Us Apparel That Fits by Lana Grant

Body Labs shopper survey reveals 23 percent of returns are due to incorrect sizing.

Amid a so-called “ghost economy” worth $62.4 billion of returned apparel and footwear due to incorrect sizing, a just-released consumer survey from Body Labs found shoppers prefer “brands or styles they know will fit.”

The data technology company noted that 23 percent of all clothing is returned, according to those polled, and 64 percent said it was due to “incorrect fit.” The survey also revealed that 85 percent of respondents “would purchase at least one to two more articles of clothing during a single transaction if they could ensure a proper fit.”

Moreover, 58 percent of respondents said they would buy apparel “more frequently” if they could “ensure a proper fit.” The survey also showed that 57 percent of those polled only buy clothing from brands and styles they are certain will fit them.

“A third of all respondents are dissatisfied with the fit of traditional sizes and feel that traditional sizing is not an accurate depiction of their body,” the authors of the report said.

The researchers noted that nearly half of the respondents said they “hate” to try on apparel in a retailer’s fitting room. Still, 59 percent of those polled said they preferred shopping in a physical store versus online.

“There is a significant confidence gap in verifying size and fit — and it becomes even more apparent with online shopping,” the authors noted. “Fifty-seven percent of respondents say they only purchase apparel or footwear online from brands or styles that they know will fit from past experience. This appears to be one of the ways consumers can confidently shop online without physically trying on the item. However, this behavior limits consumers to specific retailers online and reduces the desire to discover new retailers or brands.”

The researchers said returns in general remains a “looming challenge” for companies. And with e-commerce, converting shoppers has also been difficult for some retailers because incorrect fitting fuels returns and creates unhappy consumers.

“To compensate for this, many online retailers offer free returns to increase sales,” the researchers said. “However, this results in a Catch-22 where the increase in sales is often offset by the much more costly shipping and overhead costs of increased returns.”

Despite offering free returns, “consumers continue to prefer shopping for clothing and footwear inside traditional brick-and-mortar stores because they understand the benefits of fitting rooms — even if they ultimately hate the tedious process of trying on clothing,” the study added.

The company said that for retailers, it’s “vital to invest in a scalable, effective and efficient way to capture the body measurements of shoppers to reduce return costs and increase purchase frequency and volume both online and in-store.”

By Arthur Zaczkiewicz

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The REAL reason you're a 12 in one shop and a 14 in another: Consumer investigation reveals how clothing sizes in top high street stores vary by up to four CENTIMETRES by Lana Grant

  • ·        C5 consumer show Shop Smart Save Money explored sizing differences

  • ·        Outfits were bought from Next, M&S, Topshop, H&M, Primark and ASOS

  • ·        Size 8, 12, and 16 models all tried on their size in similar outfits from each one

  • ·        Test found variations between the same sizes measuring up to as much as 4cm 

    Retailers have faced criticism in recent years for disparity in clothing size labelling from store to store - and now a new documentary demonstrates how women may find themselves slipping into a size 10 from one shop, and struggling to squeeze into a 12 in another. 

    An investigation by Channel 5's consumer show Shop Smart Save Money for Christmas, which airs tonight, uncovered remarkable differences in measurements among leading high street shops.

    The research, conducted by production team True North, revealed the disparity across clothing sizes from six leading fashion brands – Next, M&S, Topshop, H&M, Primark and ASOS - sending three models, one size 8, one size 12 and one size 16, into the shops to try on similar items. 

    The fittings indicated variations of up to four centimeters in the measurements of items of clothing with the same UK size on their labels. 

    According to the team M&S clothes were the most generous in terms of fit, followed closely by Next.  

    Channel 5's Shop Smart Save Money for Christmas conducted research that discovered the differences between sizes at leading high street brands. Pictured, the ASOS outfit

    The researchers bought similar outfits from each retailer in sizes 8, 12, and 16 to see how they measured. Next (pictured) was tested alongside other brands with a fashion expert looking to see the fit quality

    M&S were also part of the fit test, with their sizes fitting generously for each model. Fashion expert Sam Hudson-Miles suggested shoppers visit the store for a looser fit 

    With no legally set guidelines for clothes sizes in the UK - although there are EU guidelines - brands are free to use their own measurements; which most publish online using centimeters and inches. 

    The exception is Primark which sells clothes in three categories; small 10/12, medium 12/14, or large 14/16. European clothing standards list size 8 waist as 68cm, hips 92cm, and bust 84cm; a size 12 is waist 76cm, hips 100cm, and bust 92cm; for a size 16 the waist is 84cm, hips 108cm, and the bust 100cm.

    To explore the differences, the show enlisted three models to try on a similar outfit – jeans, a white shirt and a fitted blazer - in their different sizes from each shop.

    Sam Hudson-Miles, the fashion program leader at Leeds Arts University, was on hand to mark the clothes, looking at different areas of the item to check the quality of the fit.

    She pointed out things to look out to identify a poor fit, including gaps across the chest where buttonholes sit, jacket lapels that gape, and jeans that are too tight or too loose.

    'Also something to look for is across the back, if [the jacket] is pulling,' Sam said.

    Another high street brand on the list Topshop (pictured) were assessed on the fit of their items in three different sizes. Since filming they have altered their sizes for a better fit

    The results showed the differences in sizing across size 8, 12, and 16 with a difference of up to four centimeters between some brands

    The results uncovered big differences in measurements between brands.

    A size 16 from ASOS allows for a bust measurement of 103 cm - compared to 99cm in a size 16 from Next.   

    Size 8 bottoms from Topshop have a 3.8 cm smaller waist than those from H&M, but H&M's hip measurement is 92 cm - compared to 88.5 cm at both Topshop and ASOS, a 3.5 cm difference. 

    Sam recommended that shoppers head to M&S and Next for a generous fit, or Topshop, H&M or Primark for the tightest, with ASOS falling in middle.  

    Responding to the experiment a spokesperson for ASOS said: 'We aim to provide our customers with a friction-less experience that makes shopping with us as easy and as convenient as possible. Sizing is one of our top priorities and we work hard to ensure the fit is right every time.

    'Each day, our design teams work with "fit models" fitting and adjusting products across a wide variety of sizes and product styles. This knowledge feeds into how we size our products and present and describe them online.'

    During the jeans test for H&M the size 16 was a considerably tighter fit than any other high street stores, with Sam recommending elsewhere for a looser fit Sam Hudson-Miles, the fashion program leader at Leeds Arts University, said things to look for when it comes to poor fit, gaps across the chest where buttonholes sit, jacket lapels gaping, too tight fitting jeans or too loose In the ASOS jacket the size 8 and 16 gaped across the buttonhole. Sam said this was a tell-tale sign that the fit wasn't right 

    ASOS also explained that along sides this they have recently launched the 'Fit Assistant' which uses customer purchase history and short, optional questions about fit preferences to help customers find the right size, first time. 

    'And, of course, if things still aren’t right, we offer free returns, as standard.'

    An H&M spokesperson said the brand would be taking the results on board: 'Following customer feedback, we are taking the steps to change our women’s wear measurements to be in line with UK sizing, for example the previous measurements and fit of a size 12 will now be the measurements of a size 10.

    'This will be a gradual process whereby customers will experience a transition period and are encouraged to use our sizing guides online or ask our store staff for advice when shopping. 

    In the ASOS jacket the size 8 and 16 gaped across the buttonhole. Sam said this was a tell-tale sign that the fit wasn't right 

    ASOS also explained that along sides this they have recently launched the 'Fit Assistant' which uses customer purchase history and short, optional questions about fit preferences to help customers find the right size, first time. 

    'And, of course, if things still aren’t right, we offer free returns, as standard.'

    An H&M spokesperson said the brand would be taking the results on board: 'Following customer feedback, we are taking the steps to change our women wear measurements to be in line with UK sizing, for example the previous measurements and fit of a size 12 will now be the measurements of a size 10.

    'This will be a gradual process whereby customers will experience a transition period and are encouraged to use our sizing guides online or ask our store staff for advice when shopping.

    By NATALIE CORNER FOR MAILONLINE

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Why is it so difficult to find a good apparel technical designer? by Lana Grant

First factor, is that for many years we did not have a proper or specific technical design education. In the past few years, our profession has been recognized as a valuable trade tool and apparel technical design courses are offered in colleges. This is good news for the trade, but at the same time, we cannot tell how ready those newly graduated students are right after college. It’s understandable that graduates usually start their technical design careers at assistant level, however the industry needs already experienced TD’s.

We have many professional recruiting agencies offering their help in finding and placing technical designers. How do those agencies check the skill level of a candidate? Unfortunately, on many occasions, the candidates who are recommended by recruiting agencies are not up to the desired skill level. Why this is? No one is really sure.

During my career, I have seen many professional looking resumes with many years of technical design experience and, surprisingly, that candidate would fail a simple TD test. An impressive resume by itself is not an indicator that the technical designer knows the trade well or is up to your company’s standards.

Usually, when a company is interviewing for a TD position, it is normal practice to test the skills, including a pattern making test. I remember one of my previous hiring managers told me that I was the only candidate who knew how to balance a pattern. That is shocking, because every experienced TD should have all related skills to the job, shouldn’t they?

Now, going back to the original question, why is it so difficult to find a good TD? Why do you think we have this problem? Can you share your experiences with hiring in our trade? Also, it would be interesting to hear about your personal encounters working with other recruiters and agencies.

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Consumers: Give Us Apparel That Fits by Lana Grant

Body Labs shopper survey reveals 23 percent of returns are due to incorrect sizing.

By Arthur Zaczkiewicz on June 1, 2016

  Amid a so-called “ghost economy” worth $62.4 billion of returned apparel and footwear due to incorrect sizing, a just-released consumer survey from Body Labs found shoppers prefer “brands or styles they know will fit.”

The data technology company noted that 23 percent of all clothing is returned, according to those polled, and 64 percent said it was due to “incorrect fit.” The survey also revealed that 85 percent of respondents “would purchase at least one to two more articles of clothing during a single transaction if they could ensure a proper fit.”

Moreover, 58 percent of respondents said they would buy apparel “more frequently” if they could “ensure a proper fit.” The survey also showed that 57 percent of those polled only buy clothing from brands and styles they are certain will fit them.

“A third of all respondents are dissatisfied with the fit of traditional sizes and feel that traditional sizing is not an accurate depiction of their body,” the authors of the report said.

The researchers noted that nearly half of the respondents said they “hate” to try on apparel in a retailer’s fitting room. Still, 59 percent of those polled said they preferred shopping in a physical store versus online.

“There is a significant confidence gap in verifying size and fit — and it becomes even more apparent with online shopping,” the authors noted. “Fifty-seven percent of respondents say they only purchase apparel or footwear online from brands or styles that they know will fit from past experience. This appears to be one of the ways consumers can confidently shop online without physically trying on the item. However, this behavior limits consumers to specific retailers online and reduces the desire to discover new retailers or brands.”

The researchers said returns in general remains a “looming challenge” for companies. And with e-commerce, converting shoppers has also been difficult for some retailers because incorrect fitting fuels returns and creates unhappy consumers.

“To compensate for this, many online retailers offer free returns to increase sales,” the researchers said. “However, this results in a Catch-22 where the increase in sales is often offset by the much more costly shipping and overhead costs of increased returns.”

Despite offering free returns, “consumers continue to prefer shopping for clothing and footwear inside traditional brick-and-mortar stores because they understand the benefits of fitting rooms — even if they ultimately hate the tedious process of trying on clothing,” the study added.

The company said that for retailers, it’s “vital to invest in a scalable, effective and efficient way to capture the body measurements of shoppers to reduce return costs and increase purchase frequency and volume both online and in-store.”

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ATDA Post-Seminar Update by Lana Grant

Hello, our TD Community,

I would like to update you on our TD Seminar Series. Based on a full attendance every seminar, and many requests from other areas of the country like east and west coast, it is obvious there is a large interest for professional growth and improvement in the apparel technical design field.

We had participants from all levels and positions, starting from assistant to senior TD. The material of the curriculum was universally relevant, including subjects such as fundamentals of technical design as a profession on the first day, and on the second, we had a full day of actual fit correction techniques case studies and exercises.

The results and the post-seminar survey shows that there is a need to better educate and share the knowledge and experience among our pears, as well as a need for the ability to identify some common fit issues and then apply appropriate correction methodologies. In addition, the need for pattern making skills and techniques.

We, as a profession, should create standards across the apparel industry for sizing, grading, construction, and technical design processes to unify and provide a better apparel shopping experience for our consumer, ultimately leading to lesser product return rate and financial losses.

I want to thank all of the participants again for attending and we will work on continuing organizing this kind of educational workshop with different topics going forward.

If you are an experienced technical design professional who is willing to share your knowledge and expertise and would like to join us at ATDA in spreading this knowledge across the industry, please contact us at info@technicaldesign.org for any possible collaborations and ideas on how to make our technical design job better.

Thank you and happy fittings!

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One size fits sometimes: Woman creates a plus-size brand for others like her by Lana Grant

The brand now offers clothing for sizes 00-40!

By Alexandra Waldman

Alexandra Waldman is the co-founder of Universal Standard, a company that will exchange and replace clothing for free for up to one year if the original size no longer fits — for whatever reason. On Tuesday, the brand announced it will start offering a line of basics for the widest range of sizes, from 00-40. The company's philosophy of "Universal Fit Liberty" is intended to ease the anxiety women feel when their weight fluctuates. For this saving grace, we named Waldman a TODAY Style Hero in 2017.

There's a long and a short story to why we started Universal Standard. The long story is one that will sound familiar to a lot of larger women who've spent their adulthood searching for a style to call their own. It's about making do with very little. As I recently heard someone put it, it's not unlike trying to make a meal with only three ingredients while others have an entire grocery store from which to choose.

The short story is that women who are outside the store-size average live behind a veil. The scarcity we've had to get used to is quite invisible to those who don't share our wardrobe problems. This is despite the fact that women larger than a size 10 make up a majority of nearly 70 percent, or nearly 100 million women, in the U.S. alone. The lack of clothing and style options seems inexplicable.

But the long story starts with a friendship. Before it all began, my friend Polina Veksler, Universal Standard's eventual co-founder and CEO, asked me a simple question: Why was I willing to miss an interesting event because I supposedly "had nothing to wear?"

"You live minutes from Fifth Avenue (in New York City) ... just go buy something!" she said. We stared at each other in disbelief — she, because she genuinely didn't understand what the problem was and me, because I couldn't believe that she genuinely didn't understand what the problem was. That's when I realized how invisible my issues were on the other side of the size divide.

"There is not a single store on all of Fifth Avenue where I can go and buy clothes," I answered. "Let me show you my world."

I took Polina to a popular department store and we got on the escalator. Meandering upward, we passed beautiful floor after beautiful floor. There was ambient lighting, music to match the energy of the brands on display and smartly dressed sales people folding sweaters perfectly. Up and up we went. When we got to the furniture floor, I walked Polina to the corner allocated for people my size and I could immediately see the light go on. She finally got it. And it was time for us to get to work.

As a size 18 woman, design enthusiast and former fashion journalist, I had dreamed about designing a size-inclusive line of apparel for years. Now, with Polina's business experience, the two of us had the building blocks of a new idea. We opened our virtual doors to Universal Standard some six months later. The rest, as they say, is ... a story in progress.

We all know that weight fluctuates (whether you're a size 6, 16 or 26). Sometimes you go up, sometimes you go down. Not only can this be an emotional roller coaster, it also comes with the financial burden of replacing your clothes, which can have real consequences on your life.

Universal Fit Liberty, or UFL for short, is a concept we've designed to transform the shopping experience. Put simply, if the clothes you bought from our core collection no longer fits due to size fluctuation, you will be able to replace them for another size within a year of your purchase for free. The returned clothing will be laundered and donated across a number of charities supporting women in need.

We've created this concept because women deserve to live their lives without feeling bullied by their size. They shouldn't feel like they've shackled their self-esteem to a future self that may or may not come into being. People should feel free to get the clothes that fit them and their lives in real time.

This story was originally published on April 17, 2017.

 

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July Seminar Success! by Lana Grant

Thank you to all of our attendees from this past weekend seminar in NY. We appreciate you all for joining us despite some glitch flight delays – your dedication is truly admirable. We loved your thirst for knowledge in fixing the fit issues that you had and glad that we can assist you in all your technical design concerns. 

It was another successful seminar for the books and we are looking forward to the next one!

Here is a photo of the event.

CHEERS!

ATDA