This should be something at the back of your mind when you start developing your collection. How do you decide on your sizing chart? Who do you want to fit? What range best describes your target customer?
It can be a pretty easy call- small, medium, large, but it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Nor should it put you in a place where you are over your head with size options and your grading bill goes through the roof.
When you are starting out to create your sizing chart you should do what feels right to you. Just because inclusive sizing has become a buzzword does not mean that you have to do it from the beginning. (You can read about my thoughts on this here).
Here are the 3 biggest considerations for determining your size chart:
Decision 1- Alpha or Numeric Sizing?
Alpha will cover two size ranges. Numeric will offer more specificity, but more cost.
Example: For some brands size 8 & 10 are encompassed under the umbrella of size “medium”, and 12 & 14 are a size large. The difference in body widths is around 2”. Alpha sizing leaves the fit intent a little more general. A lot of brands will offer alpha as knits and numeric sizing as wovens for a more specific fit. A numeric fit will offer around a 1” difference in body widths between sizes. This allows a customer to feel that she can find a fit more closely tailored to her measurements. With numeric, there are more size options, but also more sizes to grade, place on marker and production bundles to manage.
Decision 2- What is going to be your smallest size and what is going to be your biggest size?
Many small brands try to keep their size options to a minimal until they can fine tune who their customer is. Personally, I always love this idea. As a grader, it’s not so good for the bottom line, but it suggest a thoughtful customer and I can always go back and add sizes as the brand grows. For those who want to offer more options, please keep in mind that for sizes over 16 I strongly recommend creating a brand new pattern for this size range as shapes do grade well proportionally.
Decision 3- How do you decide the numbers on a sizing chart?
This can be confusing and technical if you are new at this. I like to advise that you look at a sizing chart of a retailer that your target market shops. You know your customer loves their styles, so why not start there. Don’t worry, it’s not copying. There is nothing proprietary about any size chart I have seen thus far. Trust me, you will find that it will change as you grow anyway and then it’s your own!
Here’s why I like to look to large retailer’s sizing- the bigger the brand the more precise it’s going to be. These companies have the money to invest in multimillion-dollar sizing studies. They have done the legwork, so it’s worth a second glance. Sure they have lots of probably proprietary standards in their own internal grade rules, but I think basic sizing (chest, waist and hip) are fair game.
What about ASTM Standards?
ASTM standards are only a guide to be breezed over loosely (just my opinion). This is an average of people within a specific age range. However, it may be too broad to nail down what your target customer would want. There are a lot of extraneous measurement points that can be confusing and you risk choosing too many or not the right points. Honestly, all you need is chest, waist and hip circumference. Leave the others to your pattern maker who (hopefully!) should know what to do with all the other points of measure to fill in the blanks. Too often someone will give me an ASTM size chart for their sizing and “grading”. A small part of me dies. You can’t use ASTM for a grade rule, but more on that to come…
My biggest piece of advice
Don’t go overboard and decide that you are going to be the one that revolutionizes sizing for the world. Unless you have made the focus of your collection as an in depth sizing analysis before you even design, chances are you aren’t going to be bringing any new ideas to the table that has not been tried before. Don’t get me wrong, I like revolutionary ideas. When these kinds of head scratching projects come along, I’m game. Just don’t think you have to be the one that reinvents the wheel.
In today’s ever changing industry and frantic pace it’s easy to think you have to be everything to everyone. But you are not fast fashion and don’t need to pivot so fast. If you are starting out, slow and steady with careful analysis is still the safest bet. Listen, you are always going to have a few dissenters complaining that you don’t offer their size. Yes, you would like to make the sale, but is it the best move for your brand? Are you there yet? Please be thoughtful about your sizing.