Blog: Leonie BarrieFit is a big issue

Leonie Barrie | 27 February 2006

Body shapes such as the rectangle, the spoon, the triangle and the inverted triangle might not have the fabled reputation of the ‘hourglass’ figure popularised by 1950s film stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield – but the reality is that more than 90% of US women fall into these categories. Yet manufacturers apparently persist in designing clothes for the 8% of the population that have an hourglass shape. If this really is the case, then I can only imagine that most American women are wearing clothes that don’t fit, and that they have very few opportunities to put this right.

Why this should be the case, though, is mystifying, since the Size USA study that ran between 2002 and 2004 was among the first to highlight the fact that fit is a big issue. Most retailers still try to please the average customer in terms of sizing, although not surprisingly they simply end up pleasing very few. But a disappointed shopper is not the only downside; this practice can also have a detrimental effect on sales, profits and customer loyalty.

I'd add another downside too: customer loyalty. I now give most high street stores a miss after bitter experience has taught me that most of the clothes on sale just don't fit; they're too big on the hips, too tight on the waist…you get the picture. Maybe things are different now and they’ve improved their fit, but I’m not even prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. And vanity sizing? Who does that fool? I know perfectly well what my size is, and certainly wouldn’t be encouraged to buy something just because the label said a size 6 rather than an 8. The upside, of course, is that when you find a brand that fits like a glove, there’s no holding back! Although in my case, one of my favourite jeans labels also costs an arm and a leg!

The study conducted by North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles hopes to encourage manufacturers to begin producing clothing that conforms to the real shapes of women’s bodies. Some retailers, particularly those with niche customers, are turning to technology to help them develop new fit specs and grade rules for their ranges. And this is this helping to dispel the assumption that the bust, hip and waist all grade identically, no matter what a person’s size (that’s really the way it’s done). To read more about some of the pioneering work on fashion and fit that’s currently underway, check out our feature of the week:

Bringing the right fit to the masses


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