How long is a piece of String ?

How long is a piece of String ?

How long is a piece of string?


The rag trade is just that- It isn´t you

What size are you?... It depends..

Are we measuring height? Most people are between 1,50 m ( 5´) and 2m ( 6`9”)

Or are we just measuring the leg length ? outside leg? or inside leg?

Are we measuring girth? Which girth ? Chest ? Waist ? Neck ? Wrist ?

All of these measurements have been used for different sizing systems.

And…... all of them are WRONG !… for somebody.

The german system sizing men's suits* is one of the most comprehensive systems I have come across. It takes height, girth and whether or not you have a prominent stomach into account. To clarify… per girth there are 3 possible lengths. So you want to offer suits for 4 chest sizes . You need 12 suits ,plus another 4 if you want to accommodate those with prominent stomachs.

Somewhere in the back of my brain I am reminded that some of the most reliable measurements come from the military.

Although ,it is a bit drastic to sign up just to find something that fits.

Men´s sizes are one thing. Traditionally there are fewer variations on the standard garb.

If everyone needs a grey suit it makes sense to have them available.

Womenswear is a minefield. There are those who swear that they are a size ( fill in the blank ) in that label. It is an open secret that “ EASE “ can sometimes make selling clothes easier.

As a designer ,no one will fire you for using the german standard measurement guide-

Despite omnipresent reality.

The guide goes from a standard size 38 up and down in increments of 4 cm.

The sleeve length is astonishingly 60cm for all sizes.

If a brand offers 4 sizes it might start at a 90cm bust .4 sizes ..90cm +4+4+4 =102cm

This leaves 60% (wild guess, but percentages add credibility) with nothing to wear … except for the dodgy “ One size fits all “ I can only think of one thing where this is true- a face mask.

Large brands have a design department that don´t want to know about sizing.They will even state like the ex - CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch , that their label is only for thin people.

Pattern making is left to the factories. The factories get measurement charts.

Oh I have stories ..

Here is a story. I was called in to trouble shoot for a “brand .“

The stretch jeans were bigger in the waist than the hip- what should they do ?

After staring at them for a while I realised that the back yoke of the jeans had been sewn on upside down. I want to be clear about this. Imagine a right angle triangle. “Y” goes up “ X” goes sideways at 90 degrees and “Z” is the diagonal third line .

If this was a standard jeans back yoke . “X” would be joined to the waistband and “Z” would be sewn to the lower trouser leg.“ Y”is in the same position in both variations

I was looking at “X” sewn to the lower trouser leg and “Z” being sewn onto the waistband.

My recommendation was to send them back to be fixed. My boss took a large discount , claiming that if something is cheap enough somebody will buy it. I hate to admit it but he was right.

In a factory the belt loop machine is used to attach the waistband. With stretch jeans, even without the above mistake, the waist can get much larger than it should be . To achieve the desired measurements the extra waist is taken out of the centre back seam. The result is what I call a “mono bum”.The look became so omnipresent that the jeans were also illustrated as such and the “mono bum “ became the norm.

There is something that horrifies me even more than the “mono bum”

That is the little knit top with 2 triangles and then a straight line that, in the perfect world ,would land under the bust. But it doesn´t !! There is no bust shaping in the little triangles that should cover the bust. The drawing that arrived in the factory was flat and so is the top.

In reality the little triangle sits above the bust and the straight line goes straight across the breasts at their fullest .if you view this top from the side,there is an indentation where there should never be one. Sigh…

Another pet hate is seeing sleeves made symmetrical.It does reduce that chance of them being sewn in backwards….Or Leggings, making the front and back rise the same. It is so cynical.It is as if we should all be flat and square to make it easier for the rag trade.

In 2008, I had a job designing jackets, uniforms and aprons for cooks and wait staff.

The client was a large european catalogue company. They were having a bit of a makeover , new photos ..and someone thought it would be a good idea to get me in because I make a good apron and knew my way around technical fabrics.

The someone was a design professor- still a good friend.

The company had a basic collection- so I thought that a good place to start was to measure the size range of a few styles.

Firstly ,I measured some cook´s jackets- they were ...random. Admittedly the small was smaller than the large. That was the only logic I could find..

I rang my contact in the firm and asked where I should send the jackets back to .

She said I could have them, I said I didn´t want them - then she admitted that it was more expensive to put the jackets back into the inventory than it was to give them away.

Later I saw the 64000 palette warehouse this company had.It was computer operated and was linked to a mini warehouse where orders could be gathered and put into a preordained box size.The weight of each product and the box was predetermined.

A finished order was weighed ,to check the contents - plus / minus 10 gms and the order was checked by a human ,just before being automatically loaded into trucks heading to different corners of Europe.

I was also asked to advise on a suitable sizing system. My suggestion of including a tape measure with every order was dismissed with a “ Nobody wants to measure themselves “

So I was asked to advise but not listened to.

The company sold throughout europe so they were using the standard european sizing charts- each country has their own. You will see this mess of sizing on european garments.

The european union hasn´t sorted out standard sizes yet so I am not taking it personally.

SO…. where were we ? It isn´t you .

Much of the clothing industry is broken - the reasons are complex.


It does make sense to try and find a reliable ratio of human proportions.

It is a starting point.

Stokx patterns has its own size chart AND garment measurements.

Stay tuned for “ Let´s talk about Stretch” next time.

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