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Garment vs. Body Measurements

Throughout my career, I’ve encountered several instances where customers ask us for our garment measurements, to understand what size they should be buying. On every one of these occasions, we’ve had to point them back to our body measurement charts though, as these two sets of measurements are very different from each other.

Body Measurement Charts are created by every apparel brand to convey their available size range to its target consumers. Typically, they’ll list out the chest, waist and hip circumferences in a small, informative chart somewhere on their website. The customer can click into an image of the size chart while they’re shopping, to make sure that they’re purchasing the correct size for their body shape. It’s important to follow this type of a measurement chart, as each brand will have put together their ideal size range for its audience. As an apparel brand, it is their responsibility to ensure that your size is consistent across all of their garments. So if you are a Medium in a t-shirt from them, you should also be a Medium in their sweaters, shorts, pants, etc. Companies that do not adhere to these guidelines tend to find themselves in trouble with product returns and poor customer loyalty very quickly.

Garment Measurement Charts are a tool that we use in the apparel industry to communicate with our manufacturing partners. Laying flat on a table, we will measure an apparel piece at its many key locations to help guide our pattern makers and sewers to create the fit and look that we want. Garment measurements will always be bigger than body measurements, unless you’re purchasing a compression garment. Even a tight fitting garment needs to have a slightly larger circumference than your body, or it will feel constrictive when you wear it. This is the first reason why understanding a garment’s measurements is not going to tell you much about what size you should wear. It will rarely (if ever) actually match up to your body.

The biggest reason though why we don’t share garment measurements is because of varying fit intentions. What I mean by this is: when we fit garments at an apparel company, we are following a brief to tell us whether that garment should be tight-fitting, relaxed, oversized or anywhere in between. If you are a Medium in a garment that we intend to be oversized and slouchy, then its garment measurements are going to be nowhere close to your body specifications.

So the next time you’re shopping for apparel online and you’re wondering how a garment will fit your specific body, look more closely for their body size chart or fit guide that they might provide. Outlining their definition of what “slim” or “relaxed” means on a body is a better way to gauge a garment’s fit intention than seeking out the true measurements of a garment. Trust me, garment measurements are going to get you nowhere unless you’re also a professional in the industry and can decipher how those specifications will translate properly.

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