Sizing standards USSR

I collect sizing data sets like some people collect tea cups. Feeding my addictions are those near and dear. One such set comes from Tatiana Sannikova, a Russian pattern maker who’s been living in Australia but is now in the process of relocating to her homeland. Tatiana has sent an interesting message explaining that there was standard uniform sizing in Russia. Perhaps you’ll find it interesting, particularly if your target consumer matches the described body types. I think the discussion of apparel production in the Soviet Union is interesting in any event. See the data set (pdf) for more information. Tatiana’s email appears below.

[amended] If you have MS Word, the tif files are here (174kb) and here (177kb)

I remember I promised to tell you about nation-wide clothing sizing, but the life got a bit hectic: that business trip I mentioned before resulted in a new job that is in Moscow, and I’m relocating in 12 days (form Sydney)… You can imagine the rest. So I think that if I do not write to you before I start the new job I may not be able to do it for the next 6 month.

Until the end of 70-s apparel in then Soviet Union was market with 3 parameters: “size”, “fullness” and “height”. Size referred to the chest/bust measurement – this was the basis. Fullness reflected waist/hip measurements relative to the bust. For example, women with bust measurements between 86 and 90 cm would be size 44 (88 divided by 2), with bust measurements between 90 and 94 – size 46 and so forth.

I’m sure you are familiar with the idea of distribution curve: that among women with bust measurements between 86 and 90 cm certain number have hips between, say, 90 and 94 cm (this was the “first fullness”), certain number – 94-98 cm (“second fullness”) and so forth. And this what the “fullness” reflects. And “height” speaks for itself.

And the published standard contained the set of basic measurements that industry patternmakers must use to develop patterns for mass manufacturing. Also in Soviet Union we had a rather developed industry of custom-made clothing – network of workshops (smaller and bigger, government owned as everything else at that time), that consisted of designer-patternmaker(s) (one or several, depending on the size), number of seamstresses (sorry, not sure what the right word would be here, but I hope you understand what I mean – those who did the actual sewing) and some admin staff (a manager and an accountant). And these workshops had sets of centrally produced slopers in a number of sizes that were used to make and individual pattern – adjusted for clients individual measurements and a style of the garment.

Around 1980 the size marking were changed: instead “size/fullness/height” on the size tag you could see, for example, figures like 170-88-96 or 164-96-104. It looked different but the idea was the same: the first figure referred to the height, the second – to the bust, and the last one – to the hip measurement. And this time the standard were made common between COMECON countries – whether it is was something produced in Soviet Union or imported from Poland, Czechoslovakia or Bulgaria – the sizing and sizing marking were standard.

For illustration I attached a scan (pdf) from one of my patternmaking books. Pages 117 and 118 reprint the sizing standard for group of small sizes – bust measurement 88 to 104 cm, “second fullness”.

First group of columns contains specific measurements for every size. 88/96, 92/100, 96/104, 100/108, 104/112 are bust/hip measurements for a particular size. The most left-hand side column is the description of the specific measurement. I’m not always sure about English terminology, so I translate is descriptively (and in some cases comment on how the measurement is taken that is described further in the book).

On page 117:

  • Height
  • Neck girth, half
  • Bust girth 1, half (measuring tape goes across the back at the armpit level and across the front above the breasts)
  • Bust girth 2, half (measuring tape goes across the back at the armpit level and across the front through the fullest points of the breasts (i.e. can go a little bit down in front), but if the breasts are very low keep the tape horizontal and ease it to accommodate the breasts if they were at this level).
  • Bust girth 3, half (measuring tape goes horizontally through the fullest points of the breasts, i.e. on the back it may be lower than armpit level) – this measurement determines the size.
  • Waist girth, half
  • Hip girth, half
  • Bust width 1, half (measured horizontally across the chest just above the breasts between the armpit lines)
  • Back length 2 (from the top of the shoulder seam down to the waistline)
  • Front length 2 (from the top of the shoulder seam down to the waistline via apex of a breast)

Page 118

  • Bust height 2 (from the top of the shoulder seam down to the bust apex)
  • Back armpit height (from the top of the shoulder seam down to the armpit level)
  • Shoulder height diagonal (from the outer point of shoulder seam down to the centre back at the waistline level)
  • Back width, half – (across the back between the armpit creases)
  • Shoulder width
  • Arm length (shoulder to wrist)
  • Biceps girth
  • Wrist girth
  • Waist to floor on the side
  • Waist to floor on the front

[You may have noticed that for some measurements there is an index 2, but there is no 1-s – this is because there is a standard set of measurements (about 80 I believe) that are taken in anthropometric studies, but only some of them are taken in the sizing standard]

The second set of columns are adjustments one needs to make to go from the basic to another height/fullness. The third column from the right contains corrections that need to be made to the measurements to go to the next height. As you can see not only length measurements are adjusted but girth as well, and it is interesting that waist measurements are slightly smaller for both the taller and shorter women, and the biceps girth is to be reduced for bigger height and increased for the smaller one.

The last two columns are adjustments that need to be made to go to another fullness.

And there are similar tables for another size groups (bust 108-120 and 124-136).

So this is how uniform standard looks. It reasonably reflects the anthropometric “composition” of the population. The basic combination of size/fullness/height was set as such because it reflects the majority of population, the further you go from that basic, the smaller group of population you refer to. The manufacturer that wants to address any marginal group has a better idea what he/she is facing. And the same applies to the customers (I can give you an example from my own experience: when about 20-25 years ago I was a size 44 I knew that stuff with standard set-in sleeve would be too tight to me in the shoulders, and size 48 would do very well on the shoulders but will be way too big in the bust. Luckily the fashion of that period had a lot of variety in that area – from very roomy sleeve heads to batwing cut, so I did not suffer much).

What do you think? If something not clear from my explanation or you have any further questions or whatever I will be very happy to hear from you.

Kind regards

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  1. Kathleen says:

    I neglected to mention that Tatiana sent the originals in tif format, meaning they can be opened in word in an editable format. If somebody wants to edit the docs with the english translation she’s provided, just let me know.

  2. Rita Yussoupova says:

    Hey Kathleen,
    Sure – I will give it a try after I get back from Russia Oct 1.
    I must say that actually the system worked pretty well.

    BTW Thanks to you I am meeting my friend Joseph in Frankfurt.

  3. Sonia Levesque says:

    The previous comments eludes me… Well, off with it then! *laughing softly at the lack of knowledge*

    I’m actually replying here to state that I could not consult the PDF file linked. It opens on a web page containing 4 pages that are very small… And it seems I can’t save them in PDF form to consult properly. I’m in Safari, on a Mac computer.

    Thanks for any help in this. Sizing is a fascinating subject to me. So Thank you especially to Kathleen for sharing your discoveries!

  4. Kathleen says:

    I just downloaded it, I had to enlarge the page size. In the event this doesn’t work for you, I amended the entry, reproduced here. If you have MS Word, the tif files are here (174kb) and here (177kb).

    I thought the monkey butt comment was priceless. I pictured her head down, not able to view the screen and type at the same time, or even review it before hitting ‘post’ to notice see she’d misspelled ‘site’. It had been filtered into the junk comment folder but I fished it out.

  5. Kathleen says:

    I have a data set that is anthropometrically similar, that of Greek men and women from 1973. Do you have the Turkish data sets?

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