In Apparel, the Right Tools Can Help Brands Create Better-Fitting Garments

Brands that are investing in real data, reliable basic patterns and fit testing (both physical and 3D), are avoiding these traps.

Fit is central to any brand that sells apparel. When clothes fit poorly, consumers are bound to return their ill-fitting garments and demand a refund. Returns in the fashion sector drive material and monetary waste.

Clothing well-suited to a target group—and their intended activity—increases comfort, usability and brand loyalty. With protective garments, the implications of fit issues are far more dire as a poor fit could have serious safety and performance-related consequences.

So why doesn’t everyone just design clothes that fit?

Trap 1: Missing the target

Whether for fashion, work or sports, a garment’s fit not only affects appearance, but also its ergonomic comfort and function. Step one is knowing exactly who will be wearing the garment and for what purpose. Many designs only consider the target group’s gender and, sometimes, age—not nearly enough information.

Measurements must include actual body shapes (“morphotypes”) and predicted motions during wear. Men’s size “Large” looks significantly different on a 6’2” athlete than the average “dad-bod.” Women with the same bust measurement may vary wildly in body shape. The pattern and material optimized for a golfer’s swing would be different than workwear worn by a mechanic.

Seem obvious? This step is often skipped during design.

Trap 2: Measuring idealized models

There aren’t enough supermodels in the world to keep the apparel industry employed. Using fit subjects with idealized figures or basing designs off existing patterns often leads to clothing lines that only work for the catwalk. To make clothing that fits, real people who are members of the actual target group must be measured.

Once a target group is established, real measurements can be collected using a measuring tape, 3D or 4D scanning, or a combination thereof. Manual measurements can be limited by accuracy, time and human error. Using technologies like 3D and 4D scanning, more detailed measurements can be captured. The scanned raw data is stored digitally in the 3D software and remains available for further analysis, even after the measured subject has left.

3D scanning allows developers to gather and analyze detailed, realistic body measurements and shapes. 4D scanning measures body shape during movement with a series of images taken in rapid succession (multiple frames per second). The movie-like visuals reveal changes in body shape and measurements during fit-relevant motions. Both the impact of movement on the garment and the garment’s impact on movement can be analyzed—particularly useful for sportswear and workwear.

Trap 3: Short Cycles

Keeping up with trends and seasonal changes leads some to think there’s no time for a solid base pattern. In reality, a well-developed base pattern created with accurate data from the target group can be used to speed future designs cycles.

Design time is also cut significantly by using avatars based on 3D measurements. Avatars—3D visualizations of scanned body shapes—allow developers to virtually try designs on realistic body shapes. 3D visualization not only improves design but shortens or eliminates prototyping time and cost.

Moving forward

Realistic body data leads to better size-chart creation and pattern making. Better patterns mean higher-quality garments and less material and product waste. Brands and consumers win with consistent, better-fitting garments.

Brands that are investing in real data, reliable basic patterns and fit testing (both physical and 3D), are avoiding these traps. They are not only saving time and money, but also positively affecting return rates and brand loyalty. When garment development begins with the appropriate target market and accurate measurements, the entire process is streamlined. This is all becoming more achievable with the growing research and data pools and continued improvement in 3D and 4D technologies at our disposal.

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