The new Shape GB survey should enable more consistent childrens wear sizing and fit

The new Shape GB survey should enable more consistent children's wear sizing and fit

Six of the UK's leading children's wear retailers have partnered with fit solutions specialist Alvanon and Select Research to create a common standard for children's clothing sizes in the UK.

Shape GB is the first comprehensive measurement survey carried out on children since privately-commissioned research by M&S in 2000 and the publicly available British Standard which was based on data collected in 1978.

The aim of the most recent study is to provide information and tools to help children's wear suppliers and retailers become more accurate, and more consistent, in their apparel sizing and fit.

"We wanted to create a reference point for the industry," said Select Research managing director Richard Barnes.

According to Barnes, the six retailers sponsoring the study - George at Asda, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon, Next, Shop Direct, and Tesco - account for some 48% of the UK children's wear market.

The study creates a "consensus of industry opinion," said Barnes, which will allow retailers and suppliers to create consistently sized clothes across brands.

Alvanon president Ed Gribbin said that children are getting larger, and the 1990 British Standards Institution (BSI) standard, based on the 1978 data, is "quite outdated".

On average, children have grown only slightly in height since the last set of BSI standards were released, but have grown "significantly larger by girth," Gribbin said.

The data showed there is less variation within sizes when children were grouped by height rather than age - so it is more likely that a 104cm tall child will have a waist of xcm, rather than a 10 year old child will be 104cm.

Earlier findings from the study found that an average 11-year-old girl now has a chest measurement of 78.4cm (7cm wider than it was 20 years ago), with a waist of 70.2cm (+10cm) and hips of 81.2cm (+4cm). But her height has gone up by just 2.7cm.

For boys of the same age, height has increased to 148.2cm (up by 3.6cm on 1990's data), with a chest measurement of 78.5cm (+10cm), waist of 70cm (+8.5cm) and hips of 80.2cm (+7cm).

Gribbin said the data also highlighted an opportunity for plus or slim children's wear, something that, at least on the plus side, is becoming increasingly common in the US.

Gribbin suggested the data showed that 40% of UK children could potentially wear a plus size product if it existed. However, he emphasised that this is often mitigated by designers making products that are easier to get over the body and because parents often buy clothing for their children to grow into.

"Closer fitting styles need consideration of plus sizing," said Gribbin.

The study will be made available to any interested brand, retailer or manufacturer in the hopes of creating an industry-wide children's wear sizing standard. It is also hoped that it will create more efficiencies in product development, sourcing and production, while also reducing returns and exchanges at retail.

Making this standard available to every children's wear supplier will help retailers and brands design and make better fitting clothes for British children, said Gribbin. 

"Everyone will benefit. Manufacturers will have a single common standard for gauging fit, improving speed and accuracy in the quality control process and ultimately saving money. Retailers will have fewer returns due to fit, while consumers will find that children's sizing is more accurate and consistent regardless of where they shop."

The study saw more than 2,500 children between the ages of four and 17 scanned over two years. The Shape GB report will be released on 28 February and can be downloaded from

The results of a second study, covering newborns to four-year-olds, is set to be released in the autumn.