Inclusive Sizing is a topic that is so huge I have been reluctant to tackle writing about it here. This will happen in more than one post. We’ll see how it goes.
Grading is Hard Magic
If you aren’t aware, I teach a massive course called A System of Grading. I have synthesized spreadsheet grading with flat pattern to come up with a system that is comprehensive, reusable, and magic. But magic is hard. Witness the fact (?) that Harry Potter attended Hogwarts for 6 years, dropping out in his seventh year. So do not harbor any misconceptions: grading is hard magic. Grading more than a small range of sizes is harder magic, and inclusive sizing is definitionally hard magic.
Breaking Down Sizing & Grading
Grading is creating multiple sizes from a single sample size. All sizing schemes are based on averages. My friend and colleague Jeane deCoster says that fit is based on a mythical body created by averages. Kind of an imperfect system.
Breaking Down Sizing & Grading
Mass-produced clothing required sizing that was generally understandable. Sizing was based upon measurements that could be shared with customers (think catalogs). For many decades people anticipated that clothing would have to be altered to fit their personal silhouette.
In the second half of the 20th century, as clothing manufacture was moved offshore, sizing became less precise to allow garments to fit a wider range of people within a size, and ease became more generous. Welcome Alpha sizing (XXS to 6X and beyond). Instead of one or two inches between sizes, the increment became 3 to 4 inches between sizes, and more as sizes got larger. Sizing has been a slippery slope since then.
For years, samples were sent from manufacturing facilities to company headquarters where samples were fitted on fit models. The fit process was repeated several times to achieve accurate fit. Final patterns were hand cut to within 1/32nd of an inch of the stated measurements. After cutting, patterns were graded to a range of sized patterns, cut to the same precision!.
Now it is not uncommon for there to be only one (or none) fitting session. We have given pattern making to those who do not fully understand our hybrid bodies, and accurate fit is a thing of the past.
Why? Because we value cheap over quality. Consumer resist paying for quality construction and accurate fit in exchange for owning quantities of poorly fitting garments — garments designed to fit any body, which means they fit none.
Knitters are no different, wanting patterns that are free or inexpensive, yet somehow believing they should get a level of fit and sizing from individual designers that is not available from large manufacturers with infinitely more resources!
Changes to Our Stature & Padding
At the same time that manufacturing was becoming less rigid in sizing and consumer’s values were changing, American diets changed. The US saw immigration from a wider variety of places: I remember immigrants from Cuba, SE Asia, Mexico, South America, and eventually from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc (that is mostly what we saw on the West Coast in the 1960s and 1970s). With this increased variety came differences in stature. When I learned pattern making in the early 1980s the clothing industry saw the need for smaller sizes. Sizes 0 and 00 were added and some brands added sizes beyond 12 or 14. Plus sizing existed but was always viewed as a step child and plus sizing wasn’t being taught.
During this period, and ongoing, our diets took some hits.
- Processed foods became ubiquitous;
- Fat became a demon, but sugar did not;
- Meal preparation time fell;
- Meal time became less structured and participatory;
- Distractions at meals became common; and
- Fast food became readily available.
Diets were also unchangeably enhanced!
- Ethnic cuisine became a thing;
- Natural foods became more widely appreciated;
- New ways of preparing food were introduced;
- The role of food shifted;
- Better diets were available to more people as food remained low cost.
New Sizing Needs Require Hard Magic
Of course there were always people who fell outside standard size ranges. They had “big and tall” sizing, which targeted a small portion of the population of both men and women. The clothing industry was very slow to recognize the impacts that changes to our stature, food consumption, and resulting increases in padding, were having. To date the focus has remained on standard sizing. Collectively clothing manufacturers and others have not been widely successful in translating standard sizing to other sizing.
Grading done to get larger and smaller sizes, without considering design is often not aesthetically successful. It is simply not feasible to take all ideas and just grade them. People get larger but not proportionately taller. The form that added padding takes depends on genetics, hormones, diet, and environment. I can totally grade something larger, but if it doesn’t take into account distribution of padding over your existing skeletal structure it isn’t going to work. Hard magic indeed!
Today I am not only thinking about “standard sizing”*, but about standard sizing in three different categories:
- Triangular (widest at the hip area)
- Inverted Triangle (widest at the bust/chest area and widest at shoulder)
- Standard modified hourglass (slightly wider hip than bust)
For my Lavish (Plus sizing) I am thinking in the same categories, but starting from the Lavish hourglass, just as I do for Missy sizing (as those are the only available measurements). Now I also think about inclusive sizing.
*Standard Sizing is anything available from ASTM.org. It isn’t perfect, but it is quantified.
Non-Gendered Sizing Magic
To broaden my thinking about sizing, I have ever-more-fully embraced the idea that sizing must begin from the skeletal structure. Working from the skeleton allows consideration of manipulated changes to bodies, but they are more difficult to standardize.
With those needs in mind, we can then imagine an XY skeleton with tissue that becomes softened and more abundant, while no change occurs to the skeletal structure.
Likewise, an XX skeleton can have tissue that becomes more angular and harder with similar interventions. This thinking also accommodates implants. There are also bodies without any modification which wear other-gendered clothing.
All of this has some benefits in broadening our sizing horizons, but there are no “standards” so it becomes quite a massive change in thinking and application. I’ve not yet worked out all the nuances in presenting this in patterns. Patterns with inclusive sizing require even more work and greater length to share all this, yet already my costs exceed their market price.
2022 Sizing Explorations at Jill Wolcott Knits
How does this impact you? Well it depends on where you are in the equation!
If you are a Knitter or Designer, you might care to join me for my first Let’s Make Nice Things Knit-along beginning on February 15, 2022. Sign up now to save a spot. Special offer if you bring a friend.
If you are a Tech Editor or Designer, you could join the ASOG 2022 Winter course which will launch in a new format on February 9, 2022. All course sessions will be video, not live, with Live Labs weekly for discussions and clarification. Sign up begins January 11. The full price has gone up, but there will be early discounts available so don’t wait. This course is a time commitment! Video of Introduction Webinar available here.
I will offer an accelerated Summer Session (dates to be determined). A slightly compressed Fall Session begins on September 12 and finishes on November 18.
If you have taken any version of ASOG, I welcome you as an auditing student. Email me to get a spot in the course.
In 2022 I will be releasing more patterns, and revising those that have released, that use pattern calculators to customize sizing. This seems the way forward for me.