Grading children’s clothes pt.1

[Edited 9/18/2018] This article was supposed to be about extrapolating grade rules from sizing charts to make the different sizes for children’s clothes but it’s descended into what Eric describes as a necessary group apology from moi. Consider that done. Let me explain.

In the course of learning my pattern CAD program (now StyleCAD) I had been using a child’s pattern and used the grading charts for kids wear from the Handford book. Since the pattern I was using had already been graded by my friend in hard copy, I was surprised that Handford’s charts differed so much from hers. His were definitely dramatically longer. The one thing I remember my friend saying was that her sizes were much different from books but that after seven years of use, she knew her patterns ran true to size (for her market).

Which is what started my quest over the weekend to find standardized sizing charts, throw them into a spread sheet and compare the grades between them. What I didn’t expect was to find such vast differences. There’s also a bit of controversy to explore as well. The cut to the chase lesson for today is two fold. One, check the sources of your sources. Two, just because you have to buy a given data set, doesn’t mean it’s better than the available free one.

In this post (this is where the group apology comes in), I’d said where one could get sizing standards. For children’s wear, I said one could use the ASTM standard D 5826. However, I was doing a comparison so I pulled measures from Mortimer-Dunn, Solinger, and Jaffe Rosa. The thing that stood out -glaringly obvious- was that the charts in Solinger, (appendix E), shows bodies larger than the published ASTM standard (D 5826). Since Solinger’s book is 27 years old, I started to read the fine print. As it turns out, the data for the ASTM standard is from 1930! Wow! Aside from the obvious, 1930 wasn’t exactly the best time to be measuring kids considering it was the depression and all. So, I looked up Solinger’s source material which turned out to be the Commercial Standard CS151-50 which dates from the early 1970’s, a full forty years newer. As it happens, this data set is in the public domain and but as of this date (9/18/2018) is not readily available on the web. If you’re sufficiently motivated, the WayBack Machine has some of these documents for download. Caveat; this standard has been officially withdrawn because:

The commercial standard and products standards on body measurements for the sizing of apparel ….maintained by NBS under the Voluntary Product Standards [sic] Program (VPS) were withdrawn. This was in accordance …to withdraw these standards after sponsorship was assumed by the private industry sector.

Cut to chase, the private sector party is ASTM. What I don’t understand is why the “sponsoring organization” is selling 1930’s data when responsibility for this 1970’s standard languishes. Well no mind; you may decide to get the data set (via Wayback Machine) as I use it as source material when explaining how to calculate grade rules from measurements. I can’t use the ASTM data for this purpose so it works out well enough.

~Sigh~. Regardless of the base sizes described in ASTM D5826 vs CS151-50, the most important thing is the rules derived between them. As it turns out, there’s some quirkiness there too; it almost looks like hedging one’s bets. I’ll explain more on that tomorrow so be sure to stay tuned to this riveting, gut wrenchingly exciting series. Heh. Now I have to get back to grading practice…

I forgot to mention that between all of us on the forum, we have an in depth topic on cutting the differing sizes in children’s clothes with side discussions of major retailer private label requirements (anybody have Penney’s or Sears’ specs?). See Grading kid’s clothes 3, 4, 5, 6 (and I suppose, 6X, 7?) for more developments. If you have nothing to add but want to be emailed notice of updates, be sure to select “Watch this topic for replies” at the bottom left portion of the screen.

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  1. J C Sprowls says:

    The great thing about the CIS151 is that the grading charts appear at the end of the report. There’s no real need to calculate anything unless you’re a glutton for punishment (like I am).

  2. Gail says:

    I wonder if standardized children’s sizes will have to be redone again, what with the obesity epidemic we have here in the States. What have I heard–66% of children are obese? Hope I’m wrong.

  3. Barb says:

    Actually I do find this gut-wrenchingly exciting! I really want to know about grading kids’ sizes – there’s so much less information on it than adult stuff, although I’m hoping it’s easier given the simpler shapes involved. And I’d particularly love to know about grading knit patterns (leotards, swimwear etc.) – hint hint!

  4. Esther says:

    Other than the elimination of a dart on most styles, the grading process is no different for kids than for adults. The grade rules differ, of course, and that is where the controversy comes in. Standardization is an ongoing dilemma in the children’s market. The grade rules for knits versus wovens won’t really differ.

  5. Pam says:

    We have been designing and manufacturing our kidswear line now for 3 years and believe it or not it has taken this long to get our patterns really right. We started with books and wow, some of those measurements were really really off so only now through several seasons and many fit model photos have we tweaked our measurements for everything from pant length, inseam, and tops. It is an ongoing process but finally in our summer line we should have the most correct sizing yet.


  6. J C Sprowls says:

    I concur with Esther. The grade rules don’t change much because they are largely based on the dimensional change in body measurements (e.g. the S has a 3″ smaller hip than the M).

  7. Lisa Bloodgood in Portland says:

    When my 11-year-old stepdaughter was a little younger, I noticed that the size 10 (usually pants) was a lot longer than the size 8 and there needed to be a size 9 because once the 8 was way too small to be worn any more, the 10 was still too long. She’s tall, though, so I don’t know if that was the reason. It’s not like I couldn’t just roll up the pant legs or something, but I think sometimes the waistlines were too big and didn’t always have belt loops.

  8. Esther says:

    I should probably clarify my statement about knit versus woven grade rules. The grade rules all depend on your sizing. You can derive S-M-L grading from regular sizing grade rules. I have found that S-M-L sizing for children is virtually meaningless because of all of the different size ranges. I tend to discourage it unless the S-M-L sizing also has corresponding size numbers attached to it. In any event the PROCESS of grading knits and wovens is the same.

  9. Penny says:

    My experience is that there is no standardization among the grades and most children’s wear companies develop their own fit. The grade is really dependent on the type of fit and “look” you’re going for. Some companies have more of a European sizing and fit, and some are cut more generously with a looser fit. Honestly, I’ve never been able to completely use the grades / sizing from one children’s wear company to another.

  10. Alan says:

    I’ve been waiting for someone to open this can of worms.

    15 years in the kidswear business and I can honestly say we’ve had to develop our own grade rules based on input from Penny’s, Sears, Lands End, LL Bean and many published books. Let’s just say irritated vocal customers eventually make your grade rules perfect.

    When it comes to designing a new line like swimwear its back to the drawing boards again. It takes about three years (not seasons)to refine size grades for kids.

    Over the years we’ve found the best way to grade is to have three base patterns. One infant (12M), One toddler to 6X (4T) and one 7-14 (8). I can’t wait for part two!

    Once you get the grades right your retailers will love you.

  11. Lisa says:

    In Response to: anybody have Penney’s or Sears’ specs?

    I have a copy of jcpenney grade rule for Childrens 3-6x (4 pages). Not sure how to share it…. help?

  12. lisa says:

    I am a little concerned about the standards website with the 1970’s / withdrawn standards. I am currently trying to develop/locate avg childrens body measurements for my new job. My background is missy womens clothing…. so, I checked the misses withdrawn standard first and found that the sizing wasn’t accurate to todays (moderate) industry standard. The sizing is better associated with home sewer pattern measurements. So, getting back to my concern…. I don’t know how accurate the childrens standard are to todays moderate childrens industry standard. Any thoughts?

  13. Susan says:

    AND sizes are different for people from different cultural groups as well as individual differences, of course.

    As I look at sizes from different manufacturers I don’t find any standard at all, nor can there be one because infants and small children’s bodies grow so differently, in spurts.

    What bothers me most is the quality control on sizing from a single manufacturer whose sizes are not reliably dependable – often it has to do with manufacturing outsourced to multiple vendors in a number of different countries. I just saw a film about garment manufacturing in India where the operators are in a large part men who work away from their home towns and send their income home to their families. They SLEEP in the factory under their machines, have no bathing facilities, are paid by “acceptable” piecework rates which varies considerably by the person responsible for accepting or rejecting that person’s production. It’s a horror I hadn’t even imagined.

    One more thing: My mother was a designer in Europe until the 50’s when we came to America. Here the standard adult female model size was a “10” which would fit a woman who was 5’6″ tall and weighed 115 lbs. (34,26,35). Now that woman would wear a “2 or 4” but generally unless the garment is a petite the length for pants is too long because the cut assumes high heeled footwear instead of flats (except for manufacturers specializing in outdoor merchandise.

  14. Judy says:

    Great article. Can you advise if I can use a standard sportswear grade for panties, underwear & swimwear styles ? Or is there a different set of graded measurement for this tight fitting garments. Thanks !!! looking forward to your reply.

  15. Hey Judy! That sounds like a great discussion. Join the forum and we’ll take it away! You’ll need The Book (see The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing at upper right) which will be very helpful for you.

  16. Kathleen says:

    Judy, this is a very complex question but I do understand how one could think it should be simple. Fact is, grades can be just as individualized as a given designer’s styles. Alison’s suggestion to confer in the forum is helpful because determining what you need requires the input and experiences of people who have been grading for a long time and in order to get definitive answers, you need to provide somewhat proprietary information (sketches, size tolerances etc) that should not be public.

  17. megan says:

    This is so helpful…as I was beginning to feel a little helpLESS! I’m just starting out and every old text book I review has different measurments. Also, each little 3T model I measure is unique in size and shape. Hmmm…I find it oddly encouraging that some of you are just now getting it right after 3 years (and am a little stressed out to know that I could potentially send out 6 seasons worth of ill fitting garments before I catch on to the secret)! Eeek.

    Thanks for the guidance! And PLEASE keep it coming!

  18. Natalie Dalton says:

    It doesn’t seem like there is much standard on children’s sizes. I have to buy several differences sizes depending on whether I am buying jeans or a gymnastics leotards. It would be nice if there was a more standard system. Maybe one day?

  19. It doesn’t seem like there is much standard on children’s sizes… It would be nice if there was a more standard system. Maybe one day?

    I certainly hope not. The very idea makes me shiver all over. The day children’s sizes become standardized is the day all same-aged children are the same height/weight and with the same shapes. The only way I see that happening is if children are bio-engineered the same way tomatoes and cotton are. What would Monsanto call that variety? M-Sano Kid®? I wait with bated breath…

    [notwithstanding CPSC efforts to attempt it]

  20. Quincunx says:

    The “standard” system exists in some places–and it does NOT help when trying to pick the same number, every time! Just received a link to a Swedish blog where a shopper, accustomed to shopping in a system where the size numbers are standardized by height, is nonetheless frustrated when the garments of the same number are not the same size. . . (The title: If Klara [girl] is 116cm and Kalle [boy] is 116cm, how much taller is Kalle?. The measurements: In mass-market size 116, presumed to fit a 116cm tall child, the boys’ shirts had 4cm longer sleeves, 5cm broader chest, and “larger” armholes. [Nor are these just variations within manufacturing tolerances, given the number of comments complaining about the same mismatch of boy/girl ‘cut’ across sizes and across retailers.] The solution: The same child is clothed 1 to 2 sizes larger in girls’ shirts.) What baffles me about this is that the manufacturers and retailers incurred the expense of differentiating girls’ and boys’ cuts and all it did was annoy shoppers.

  21. Awesome link, and annoyed they were, to the tune of 358 comments! I should ask Bente to go by there.

    I plugged the text into a translator and glean that Lindex said boy’s clothes are longer to permit greater range of motion. Because they do that you know. Said blogger was not amused and said something to the effect that “welcome to Lindex, our girl’s clothes have built-in motion restriction.”

  22. Megan Plummer says:

    For what it is worth: I went to Auburn University for Apparel design, product development, and merchandising. A large part of the program there is research. The Human Sciences department owns a body scanner and conducts (or did 5 years ago) regular studies on body weight/shape/size, particularly in women and children. (I have been scanned-it is safe, simple, and provides valuable insight). Anyway…I’m sure the department has extensive information or findings regarding current body sizes for children. If you can figure out your own grading rules, then it may be beneficial to try and coax some information out of the ladies who conduct these surveys. If I hear anything helpful, I will share…I hope you will do the same! :)

  23. JS Tori says:

    Just came upon this blog while searching for grades between sizes for infant to toddler. I actually have a JC Penny chart and am happy to share it.

    I am launching a new infant and toddler line and am doing my own patterns (am not a patten maker) I am not sure how to make the actual grade between sizes , for example from a 24 month to a 2T – etc

    Any guidlines for that so I dont have to do all the math?

    • candace says:

      Hello- years later…I am also interesting in doing some toddler clothes ( mostly for my nephews & friends)- do you happen to still have sizing charts? Trying to figure out sizes is pretty daunting- they all seem so different!
      How did your business go?

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