Back when I wrote the entry If I were to produce a line, one of the criticisms of visitors was that my size range was too narrow. I had said I would cut 32 A/B, 32 C/D, 34 A/B, 34 C/D, 36 B and 36 C/D. Other than that I have rethought the sizing which I’ll get to in a minute, I find that I didn’t explain the factors of cost in the pattern making process (in that entry) as being the reason for the limits on sizing. In the interim, a lot of people have used that entry for guidelines so I really should explain the real costs of cutting for cup sizes.
First the rethinking of my sizing: I agree it’s dopey to cut A/B and C/D. In reality, the A/B would have to be a B cup and the C/D would have to be a D cup and is no different than the fit limitations of unisex sizing which I dislike (so consider me properly chastised). If I were to produce this line, I would cut in cup sizes of C and D, not C/D combined. That is still limiting, now I will explain why.
It is much costlier in the pattern process to cut different cup sizes, you need an entirely new pattern for each cup size. This is because grading is not morphing. By morphing, I mean shape changing. Grading can only make an existing shape larger or smaller. Cutting for a different cup size is morphing.
Each row represents a new pattern.
Each column represents an additional grade of the existing pattern on that row.
So, if you wanted one particular style in two cup sizes, you would need to have two separate patterns made, one for each cup size. Then you have to have each pattern graded for sizes 32, 34, 36 for each cup size. So, to put out a given style in various cup sizes, you’d need twice (or more) as many patterns for the “same” style. Summary: there was a reason why the sizes of the line I described were so limited. Your costs are much higher than someone who’s not sizing their products for cup sizes.
Obviously your second or subsequent patterns for the various cup sizes won’t take as long to develop amounting to a bust adjustment on your base size (the median size of the size range) but the costs are still greater than someone who’s using basic sizing (2, 4, 6, 8 etc).
It costs less in pattern development to expand the range of sizes by column than by each row. Below is a crude estimation of how your costs would work.
|Pattern & Cup||Grade 32||Grade 34|
|Grade 36||Grade 38||Total grade cost||Pattern Cost|
|Total per cup|
Your total pattern costs would be $200 per cup size ($600 C-DD) plus $45 per cup size to grade each. If you needed to keep expenses low at the outset, you should add more sizes by column, not by row. Each size/column you add will only cost you the theoretical $15 more but each row (cup size) will add $200 plus the requisite grading. This chart illustrates that cutting one “identical style” pattern in three cup sizes with four sizes per cup, would cost a total of $735. That is three times the cost of someone cutting in regular sizes (no cup sizes). As you can also see, the price of grading is quite low, seductively low which is why people think they can just grade the cup sizes in there from one pattern but it will not work.
The other reason cutting for cup sizes is costly is making minimums and style management. If I need to remind you, I am a pattern maker and could cut all these patterns and save myself the money of hiring it out. So, if I’m limiting the cup size ranges, there’s good reason for it, namely more hassle and more costs. If you have a normally sized line, you take orders based on sizes (6, 8, 10 for example) and figure out your cut. Maybe you have ten of each size, no biggie, you can get a marker made for a small run like that. However, if you are running cup sizes, and all things remaining equal (as compared to another designer), your orders per size will be lower. It will be more difficult to hit economies of scale. Sure, you might get ten orders for a 32 ( a size 2 or 4) but that will be spread over three cup sizes. If you only get 3 of each size/cup ordered (to make the math easy), the most fabric plies your marker can have is three. That’s not going to be very cost effective although it can be done particularly if you’re the one doing it. Add to that the cost of managing those cut pieces so each unit stays together. Then there’s the matter of three times as many sizing labels and hangtags. All told, this can be quite complex for a start up to manage. Anyway, knowing all I do and in spite of knowing how to do it, is why I limited my sizing to just two cup sizes. Even so, two cup sizes will double my product development costs. Starting with only two cup sizes at the outset is the only recommendation I would be comfortable in making to a startup owner/operator. As you become increasingly experienced and your accounts increase, add on other cup sizes as you feel competent to manage them.
Considering all the above, would you think it wise for a start up to start with 4 or 5 cup sizes? Probably not. The start up costs will be four or five times more than the costs of regular sizing. I completely understand why people want to do it. They’re trying to optimize their chances in the market because they must compete for sales on the basis of more highly defined sizing and styling.
If cutting for cup sizes were as (relatively) easy and low cost as it is for comparable products and sizing, more people would be doing it. Anyone who manages it certainly gets my respect.