Previous entries in this series are here and here (yes, there are only two). These questions regarding the design of a style numbering system come from Julie. Her questions focus mainly on numbering across size categories (which includes some talk of grading) and fabrications.
Regarding style numbers, I wanted to clarify what you would do with different size ranges. For example, regular, plus, petite, plus petite.
I was thinking that if it’s something you can grade -for example- your petite size is the same as your regular size but graded shorter in length, would you use the same style number with the sizing making it clear it was a petite (either using #P or I’ve seen one company use odd numbers for the petites). Is that right? Or would it be safer to use a different category number?
I can tell you what I’ve done (instructed to do as an employee) and what I think. Before anybody gets the wrong idea, you can’t grade one style -successfully- from regulars into plus sizes, petites and plus petites (Miracle and I were writing a post on the limits of what you could grade but it kind of floundered). The best you could do would be petites and longs because these are traditionally just length changes that don’t have any other proportionate (girth) changes.
I worked at a company that made longs of some style versions. I don’t know that we were doing it the best way possible. I had to recut the styles by hand for added length and these were then digitized and graded from there. I don’t know that this is true but I’d think this was unnecessary. I don’t see why we couldn’t have designed a new grade rule that would grade and lengthen the style all at once. The only difference is that the rule would need to be modified to add two additional length grows in two spots (mid-chest and the hip). I can only think that making the longs by computer would have been better; CAD is unbeatable in this regard and much faster for this sort of thing. However, this company did (most) things very very well so I’m wondering if there was a reason to do it the long way that isn’t obvious. I’d be interested in hearing what the graders out there have to say about it. The style number for longs was the regular number with “L” tacked on at the end.
Back to your original question of “Regarding style numbers, I wanted to clarify what you would do with different size ranges. For example, regular, plus, petite, plus petite.” Most manufacturers develop a separate product line or label for each of those sizing categories. Since the patterns would be different from the “regulars”, they’d need a different style number because each brand (product line or label) would have it’s own set of patterns (and usually, pattern maker, sample maker etc). While the petite plus line -for example- would share a feel and maybe even fabrication with the main product line, it’d have its own identity if for no other reason than that not all the styles would translate well into different sizing configurations and you’d have to fill the line out independent of the other.
Now, if you’re a small company, you don’t have the luxury or need of a separate brand at the outset. In that case, I suppose you could use the same style numbers as the regular sized products with the addition of P/PP tacked on to the end of the style number, keeping in mind that these patterns may need to be totally different from their “parent” styles. This is something that can be difficult to manage for smaller companies because of the work of product development. Based on the number of styles, you might have a small line of 5 pieces. But if you made those five styles up in three different sizing designations, that really translates to product development of 15 pieces which may be unwieldy. I know there are some designers out there who just “grade” in the difference (haphazardly) but they’re not winning any consumer converts with their sizing. It’s one of the biggest problems in plus sizes. I’d think that integrity would dictate that one should fully respect those customers to do full product development in those size ranges. That’s why a lot of DEs don’t pick up other size designations outside of their main one. It takes a couple of cycles just to tweak the fit of one sizing standard much less having to tweak the sizing on two other sets of sizing. I could see that going to longs or petites could be manageable for simple shapes (skirts, slacks, blouse lengths etc) but crossing over into plus sizes is another ball of wax.
And for Plus sizes, if you’re just grading up (but changing your proportions along the way) would you use the same style #s and only use a different catagory if you’re essentially making a new pattern from a different block, even if the ‘style’ is the same?
I think this is a decision only you can make. If you must, be sure that if you share style numbers between two different patterns for one style, that you append the number with the PP designation or something like that. If it were me and I only made bridal attire for women, my plus sizes would be designated with the first digit so they’d be different at first glance. I’d number plus sizes as starting with “2” (regulars would be “1”). If they’re entirely different patterns, why fiddle with giving them identical numbers or semi-identical numbers just because the garments look the same? Just because things look similar doesn’t mean the numbers need to be similar; numbers aren’t a visual cue but an organizing one. Would you name your kids with names that rhymed (nearly spelled the same) just because your kids look alike? :)
I was wondering what you think about including the year or season in the style # because I have dealt with a manufacturer that issues catalogs to the retailers and the catalogs are numbered by season and year like so:
Spring 2006 = 106
Fall 2006 = 206
They explain their style numbers as: season/year/line/2 digit style number, so a dress from spring 2006 evening line would be: 16801
My first thought is that the company that does this has been using this style numbering system for less than ten years :) but that’s assuming they keep all of their old patterns. [Note: you should always save your old patterns and prototypes] If they’re cycling out and destroying old styles, I don’t see a problem, there’s no possible numbering conflicts and if they tend to track patterns by season, it could actually be useful. It depends on their internal style organization which hearkens to that series I did on pattern room management.
Just for your entertainment, here is what we were taught in 4th year at school:
“All manufacturers produce garments that can be identified by style numbers. Often these style numbers are indicative of fabric groupings and types of garments. For example, if you have a four digit style numbering system, each digit may represent the following:
1000 – linen/rayon fabric grouping
2000 – cotton double knit fabric grouping
3000 – rayon fabric grouping
4000 – 100% cotton chambray fabric grouping
100 – dresses
200 – pants
300 – blouses/shirts
400 – jackets
500 – skirts
600 – vests
00 – the last two digits could represent that various styles within the garment groupings
Numbering systems also can include letters (A, B, C, D, etc.), identify season and year and can have as many digits as you wish. However, you should keep in mind that retailers will be ordering your garments by style number, so you should keep the numbers relatively short and therefore easily understandable”
Then they further confused us by having us assign PATTERN numbers – which were equivalent to style numbers (not separate PN numbers for each piece as you’ve described) but didn’t necessarily match the style number assigned on a drawing or cost sheet or whatever.
The latter is a real bugaboo. Separate pattern numbers? I worked for a company that had a different style number and pattern number and some days, it was all I could do to keep from screaming. You can’t find patterns in a system like that. I mean, if you’re little and only have a few styles to sort through, no problem. If you have fifty, a hundred or more, you wanna kill somebody because you have to rely on verbal communication (and that person being accessible in the first place and designers often aren’t). The style number should always be the pattern number. It’s okay if you’re your only employee and you don’t use a contractor. The minute you hire anybody else, you need these systems. It’s just better to do it from the get go and assume you’ll be hiring people. That way, you won’t have to deal with enforcing new habits in yourself while you’re trying to instill new habits in someone else. Besides, you’ll need time to tweak your system to suit you.
I really don’t think it’s necessary to assign numbers according to fabrication unless you’re only working with two or three basic fabrics that never change and the cost differences (fabrication or tooling requirements) are extreme. For example, one client designs her style numbers around the use of a silk brocade, a solar fabric and cotton for all her products. In her case, it’d be okay because the cost differences between fabrications are extreme (and you want that style number to be a checkpoint all its own). Plus, she does need a different number for each fabrication because the styles -even though they look the same- are entirely different patterns. For example, she couldn’t use the cotton pattern for the version that takes silk brocade due to the width of goods. Using a different style number between the two ensures her contractor won’t make that mistake if she’s producing all three kinds in one job.
Now, if your fabrication costs are fairly even, I wouldn’t bother. For example, if the fabrication of style 1001 was in three different fabrications, you’d need 3 different style numbers like 1002, 1003 so the contractor doesn’t mix up the fabrics but you wouldn’t need to design the number to indicate fabrication, ex: 1101, 1201…it gets too complicated in relation to costs.
On an unrelated note, I was reviewing the pattern room management series (what is kaizen, a cutter’s must, a cutter’s must pt 2, how blocks work, pn numbers) and deciding I didn’t really like them. Some seemed too brief. Should I bother with beefing up that series? There’s more to pattern management than that. Grading management needs to fit in there somewhere too but nobody seemed very interested.