Archaic anthropometry

I really don’t know what to call this entry but it’s an exploration of human cross sections which I’ll be using as the basis of an upcoming post. The illustrations I’m showing below are by Henry Wampen (AKA Heinrich Wampen, AKA Friedrich Heinrich) circa 1864. I scanned these from Harry Simon’s Designing Men’s and Young Men’s Overcoats, 1931-and no, there’s still no word from Wooden Porch Books on how to obtain copies of the latter.

This first figure by Wampen illustrates whence the cross sections were made (full size doc, 132kb)

This next illustration details the cross sections independently (full size doc, 131kb). For the purposes of my upcoming post, I’ll be using the thoracic cross section.

If these sorts of antiquities amuse you, you can find an amazing online bibliography here (in German). Unfortunately, one is unable to download images. I’m awaiting a response from the site author on how to effect purchase on CD (35 euros each). While there is a mind bending array of material to see (don’t blame me if you lose half the day on site, I’ve already warned you), this set of grading scales -again by Wampen- is tantalizing. Apparently, the concept of grading was previously unknown by tailors of the day. More from Wampen is here.

If you enjoy these sorts of things, you will also probably enjoy Cutting For All!It’s a bibliography of (mostly) pattern making books of the last five centuries compiled by Kevin Seligman (highly recommended).

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  1. sandra says:

    I have a copy from 1893 of J P Thornton’s “Sectional System”, in which he claims that “About the year 1820 Mr J Wyatt, of London, one of our earliest trade writers, published in his “Tailor’s Friendly Instructor” a plan for developing large-size garments from smaller ones, which he styled “Construction and Expansion.” ” The method seems to be along the lines of the Lutterloh pattern system, (rule a line from a fixed point through all the corners and expand proportionately), which to my mind makes no sense, but Mr J P Thornton then shows some of his blocks expanded in this manner. He calls it “Gradation.”

    FYI, his women’s tailoring book (or part thereof) is on the web at

  2. Hi Kathleen,

    This is really ELEGANT research, as said in the science research world. I created these in a fashion engineering design research grant for the National Science Foundation: “A Computational Model 3D / 2D Model for Apparel Pattern Design and Expert System”. In 1991. The are 2D ellipses in a 3D body. I propsed them for cutting my “Stylometrics 3D Primitive Slopers” at strategic points in the body.

    I wish I had more time to converse with you. I love your Fashion Incubator. But I have taken on too much work to leave a legacy of what I’ve experienced to others, and, at 73, I can’t take on that much online – at least for now. But, keep up the great work.

    Best regards,

    Shirley Willett

  3. David Ponsonby says:

    Interesting to discover clothing discussions.
    Medically, there was an old German book regarding cross sectional areas but it has now been superseded by illustrations drawn from the widely available 3-D technologies e.g. CT scan, MRI.
    There are a number of conditions that alter the chest. These may have increased in recent years, with the pervasive lung problems.
    While these may manifest in childhood, the repercussions can become skeletal.

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