A great piece on the complex issue of sizing in the apparel industry today in the WSJ features AAPN President Ed Gribbin, offering his opinions. And he's not the only AAPN member featured, Impactiva, Target, Walmart and Alvanon are as well. Give it a read, it's an excellent piece.
It’s Not You. Clothing Sizes Are Broken.
Startups use body-scanning analytics to tackle decades-old problem with nonstandard sizes
WSJ: Dec. 16, 2019
Christopher Moore has a doctorate in physics from MIT and has worked on projects ranging from tracking the world’s oil supply to searching for new cancer drugs. His latest gig is turning out to be the hardest: Helping shoppers find their correct clothing size.
There are no standard clothing sizes, something that anyone who has stood in a dressing room trying on jeans, tops or dresses can attest. As shopping has shifted online, the problem has worsened. Size and fit are among the top reasons for returning online orders, according to e-commerce software company Narvar Inc.—adding an extra layer of costs that further erode retailers’ already thin profit margins.
“Sizing is poorly defined. What do you mean by a size 2?” said Mr. Moore, the chief analytics officer at True Fit Corp., which uses specifications from different brands to help find the right size for consumers who provide their body measurements.
True Fit is among a crop of companies that are trying to solve the fit problem. Others include apps that take 3-D body scans, knitting machines that produce garments with less than 1% variation and custom tailoring services.
None of them provide a perfect solution, according to industry executives. That is because the problem is so complicated, particularly for women’s clothes, which range in sizes from 00 to 18, with plus sizes generally starting at 20. There is no standard that requires an 8 in one brand to fit the same as an 8 in another. Men have it a little easier. Their clothes are based on verifiable chest, waist and inseam measurements.
Ed Gribbin, who developed one of the first body-scanning machines in 2001, said clothes from different brands fit differently on purpose. “The brands use the data to tailor their fit to who they think are their target customers,” said Mr. Gribbin, who is now chief engagement officer of (AAPN member) Impactiva, which helps brands and retailers with quality and other production issues.
In September, Human Solutions of North America Inc. mapped the sizes of 18,000 people in the U.S. and Canada, ages 6 to 75, using its 3-D body scanners. The study, which was sponsored by major retailers including Gap Inc. and (AAPN member) Target Corp. , also asked a series of questions, including how hard it was to find clothes that fit. Seventy percent of respondents said it was very difficult.
The measurements underlying current size charts are so out of date that companies are having trouble finding fit models who meet their specifications, said Andre Luebke, North American general manager for Human Solutions. The biggest change is waist sizes have gotten bigger.
Some large retailers, including (AAPN member) Walmart Inc., are taking steps to ensure their clothes fit better. A Walmart spokeswoman said the company was working with industry experts and using technology to better understand and solve issues related to consistency in size and fit.
Inaccurate size tables are only part of the problem. Oftentimes, those tables are generic and don’t reflect the measurements of actual items, said Don Howard, executive director of (AAPN member) Alvanon Inc., a consulting firm that helps brands and retailers with size and fit. They also don’t explain how fabrics fit. A stretchy fabric might mean downsizing; a fabric with less give could require sizing up. Read More