The process for creating a well fitting garment can be difficult to explain. There is a lot more to the process than assigning a set of measurements. A nice fitting garment needs to make the wearer look great, not simply fit around the body and stay put. Even those in the industry struggle to understand the nuances.
⦁ Why doesn't it fit, we sent the factory measurements?
⦁ Why do samples from two factories fit different?
⦁ Why do some customers love our fit and others are completely disappointed?
If these problems were easy to solve, technical designers would be out of work. Assigning garment measurements is not enough to create a well fitting garment. A square table and a round table can measure the same dimension across, but they don't fit in the same space or convey the same aesthetic.
What makes a garment fit well?
⦁ Balance. Horizontal seams should be parallel to the floor. Vertical seams should be perpendicular to the floor.
⦁ No drag lines. Those puckery areas that point to a problem.
⦁ Comfort. Garments should allow movement for the end use they are designed.
⦁ Fit preference. Not everyone wants their clothes to fit the same.
Yes, designers ask to break the above rules sometimes to push the boundaries of style.
Pattern shapes are as important as measurements. Two garment patterns can have the same measurements and fit differently. The pattern shape can be the difference between a garment that appears dated or one that feels contemporary and stylish.
The tee shirts in the below images share the same measurements that would be included in a basic measurement specification. The first has hip shape in the side seam. The sleeve is straight, allowing ease at the elbow. The second has less room at the hip. You can see the pant is bleeding through in the 3D render. The sweep and hip could both be eased out to maintain the same shape and aesthetic. The elbow has also been shaped to give a slimmer effect. Both of these garments would be acceptable fits. But you probably wouldn't find a single brand running both. For consistency one pattern shape should be followed consistently.
The below garment follows the same measurement specification. But it does not fit well. The shoulder slope is too flat (angle of the shoulder seam). This is causing the garment to hike (CF is pulling up). The armhole shape forms a V where the side seams meet. The sleeve cap shape is also different. This is causing excess fabric along the armhole. These are the types of issues technical designers and pattern-makers spend time correcting in live fit sessions and communicating to factories.
Communicating the pattern shapes to the factory along with measurements creates a better fitting initial prototype. Vital time and effort are saved for both the factory and the retailer.
Ways to communicate pattern shapes to manufacturers:
⦁ Send a block pattern. Allow the factory to adjust to match the new design.
⦁ Send the pattern from a previous style that sold well.
⦁ Create a pattern for the new style to send to the factory.
Why is creating the pattern for the new style listed last? Most large retail brands do not dedicate in house resources to this effort. Pattern makers located at the factory can often create the pattern cheaper. They also can work directly with engineers to make sure the pattern is efficient to sew, fits the marker well, and is adjusted for fabric shrinkage. Designers who want a high degree of control over garment fit and drape may employ an in-house pattern-maker.
The second step is to make sure the factory followed direction. Manufacturers should always send a copy of the pattern with the fit sample for evaluation. Electronic pattern-making can save valuable time. Even if you are not creating patterns in-house, a system can be used for receiving and reviewing patterns created by manufacturers. The pattern you sent to the factory to follow can be overlayed with the newly created pattern for comparison.
Consistency is key. Your customers need to feel like your tee shirts feel similar to your sweaters. If your marketing materials show a sweater layered over a button-down shirt, can the customer achieve that look purchasing the same size of sweater and shirt?
Consistency requires communication and management. The leaders of technical design and design are charged with the responsibility to maintain fit consistency and provide direction. Verbal or written communication is not enough. Technical designers and designers need to visualize the intended fit. Invite designers and technical designers to join fittings for other product categories. You can also hold a show and tell with staff from multiple product categories to discuss the fit. Document the fittings with photos or video that can be shared.
The right fit
So all your garments fit consistently. But is it the right fit? If you are a mass market retailer how do you decide how your garment should fit in the first place?
1. Ask a designer to dictate the ease over body and pick a fit model they think looks good in their designs.
2. Compare your fit to your competitors.
3. Analyze the body shapes of your target market.
The answer is really a bit of all three. Design should help guide the brand aesthetic, so they should be involved but the fit process is not a dictatorship. You need know what competitors are doing, but be aware that competitors product may not fit better. Body scan data can give you insight to the body shape of your target market. Organizations such as TC2 or Alvanon can advise how to interpret the data. ASTM provides standardized body measurements for infants and children. The goal should be to please majority of your customers, not everyone.