Things you must know if you have a clothing line: garment measuring

Hark, a new series! Must be a series, the list is endless. Let’s call it “Things you must know if you have a clothing line” or TYMKYHCL for short. Catchy huh? That won’t work, how about “Must Knows”? Feel free to weigh in before I finalize it, you guys were great at coming up with Refine My Line.

Today’s edition is about garment measuring. Specifically that you need to know how to do it. Case in point is a DE who describes garment sizing in terms more typical of spec sheets than point of sale. Ex:

  • Sizes: 25-31
  • Inseam: 34
  • Front Rise
  • Back Rise
  • Upper Thigh
  • Knee
  • Leg Opening

Before I go on, do not, I repeat, do not list specifics of rise or flat across measures (as this firm did) for three reasons. First, what consumer is going to have the means to measure this point or know it off hand? They’d have to grab a pair of pants they already had and measure it as a point of comparison. And since it would invariably differ, they’d have to put the pants on and pinch up any excess (or mentally add to it) to see if it is commensurate to fit their bodies. And that’s assuming they have a tape and the time. Most people don’t really know their measurements and if they do, research shows that they lie about them. The best option is to use espionage for better sizing (pt.2).

Two, a malcontent like me is going to analyze the specs you’ve listed from which your grade rules can be easily extrapolated. Anybody who knows anything about product integrity (a buyer? a party interested in acquiring you?) is going to pass if your front rise grades 3/4″ from XS to S but then is a static 1/4″ grade for every size thereafter so it can only hurt you to advertise this information. It’s not a crime that you don’t know what you don’t know, but you need to go out of your way to find people who do.

Third, -and forgive me for flogging a dead horse- I don’t understand why designers broadcast proprietary information like this but they want us to sign NDAs? Seriously? Anyone can find this information on your hang tag or website and develop a pattern without having to buy your product.

As it happens, I only found this product line because someone asked me what I thought because they were thinking of knocking off this firm’s products. Not that I would help but I’m always interested in competitive analysis. Speaking of, if you’re going to copy something, in the name of all that is holy, copy something that’s good (try the thrift store). Not the leader, not the most popular, but something that is good. Otherwise we end up with another mono-butt-like product that becomes so pervasive that everyone thinks that things that don’t fit like that are wrong.

Okay, here’s what is wrong with the above list of attributes. You need to list waist (this was absent), hip (ditto), and inseam. If you want to go above and beyond, you can measure thigh and leg opening but -this is most important- you list the measures of the body the product was designed to fit (this designer measured the garment flat across). Specifically state these are body measures, not product measures. Follow solid guidelines to writing product descriptions, some of which you’re required to do by law.

For example, with low rises being fashionable, a waist measure can be useless without context. So you either state your product fits someone with a natural waist of “x” or you state the waist falls x inches shy of the natural waist and that your model measures x at that point. What you should not do is list actual garment measures (because consumers are no saner than we are). No garment designed to fit a 28″ waist should measure 28″ (you need wearing ease) but consumers will buy according to any attributes you list. If you like, you can elaborate. You can say your product fits a 28″ waist snugly (29″ actual product measure) or more generously (30″ ditto).

I can’t tell you the myriad ways to measure products (except in the forum) but you can buy or borrow a book. One such book is Complete Guide to Size Specification and Technical Design. Another one is The Spec Manual which I don’t have but one can hardly spec a garment without measuring it. The cover shows some swirly lines around products leading me to believe it does exactly that. You can also buy a great software product called Style File that handles this sort of thing, actually your whole product development and production routine.

The most important element of garment measuring is POM which stands for Point of Measure. There are codes for each POM (more). Most people make up their own or adopt whichever coding system they’re exposed to either from a vendor compliance manual (pt.1, pt.2), a pattern maker, grader or technical designer. So maybe you didn’t hire anybody and winged it. Apparel manufacturing looks very easy, something mom can do right from the kitchen table but it’s like peeling an onion. There’s layer after layer of complexity that you don’t find out about until after you’ve started peeling away layers amid your tears. Better that your tears come from an onion than from losing your house in a failed fashion foray.

Anyway, if you’re going to run/own a clothing line, you must know how to measure garments and how to list dimension attributes. It’s not rocket science. I’m not suggesting it’s shameful to not know but it is shameful to not avail oneself to proven learning opportunities (like my book).

Before I forget, any suggestions on what to call this new series?

Espionage for better sizing
Espionage for better sizing pt.2
How to shop for clothes for sizing research
How to get sizing and grading standards

Get New Posts by Email


  1. Dana says:

    Excellent conversation starter about the need to understand and use appropriate methods of garment measurement. I think one thing that is a bit muddled here is the distinction between measurements you release to the public (or store buyers) to help them understand your fit and those that should be kept internal as part of product development and quality control measures. In the example given, waist, hip, and inseam are important bits of information for consumers as they choose size. Rise, thigh, etc I may want as part of contextual conversation for styling or grading conversation or documentation of final product for QC checks but they stay in-house.

  2. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Clothing Line Must Knows? I think your original encapsulates what you are trying to get across but it may be a bit long. Can’t think of a line as succinct as “Refine My Line” though.

  3. Johanna Lu says: are unbelievably generous when it comes to sharing measurements. I wonder how many other companies spy on them? But it’s clearly a business decision that I’m sure they put a lot of thinking too. So they clearly see value in doing so, perhaps the nr of returns has become less since they started?

  4. Jill Petersen says:

    So much good information to absorb on your site, I swear it’s like drinking from a firehose. As far as titles go … How about “The Clothing Under-line?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.