All change for clothes sizes


March 11, 2002

New European guidelines published by the British Standards Institution mean that Miss Average in the UK will become 88-72-96. That's what a 34-28-37 inch figure becomes as sizes go metric.

The lack of a standard system of sizing for women's wear has long been an issue for the industry. And the problem goes deeper than just labelling.

Many European countries either don't have measurements of their populations at all, or use out-of-date figures or even data from elsewhere.

The plethora of sizing systems across Europe causes problems for consumers. And for retailers, who may have to spend money relabelling garments, sometimes in colour with national flags.

The catalogue shopping industry knows to its cost the problems associated with non-standard sizes: 50% of all returns are due to poor fit.

Manufacturers could also benefit from being able to offer consumers a better range of sizes that correspond more closely to their actual body measurements.

BSI is looking for comments from the public on a new standard that aims to do away with the confusion and provide a common set of body measurements and clothing sizes for the whole of Europe (please note: the consultation period for the draft standard has now expired) .

And need for change there certainly is. Let's leave aside the fact that in Britain we still cling to imperial measurements as the basis of the 8-10-12-14 system of dress sizes and for bra sizes.

For a woman with a bust of about 88cm, a waist of about 72cm and hips of about 96cm, her dress size at the moment is:
       12 in the UK
       C38 in Norway, Sweden and Finland
       40 in Belgium and France
       38 in Germany and the Netherlands
       44 in Italy
       44/46 in Portugal and Spain.
       (10 in the USA)

By implementing a standardized set of measurements - and sizes based on them - BSI aims to make life easier for the industry and for consumers. Under the new system, 88 centimetres should mean just that from Athens to Zeebrugge.

The new standard is called BS EN 13402-3 "Size designation of clothes - Part 3: Measurements and Intervals". 

David Lazenby CBE, Director of British Standards, said: "As well as setting out standard tables of measurements, from which clothing sizes can be taken, the standard also promotes an ISO pictogram. This diagram would appear on clothing labels and show clearly to which part of the body a garment size referred. We appreciate it is a big change to get used to, but it will bring great benefits, especially when buying clothes in mainland European countries."  

Wilma Tulloch on +44 (0)20 8996 6330 OR
Marc Edney on +44 (0)20 8996 6330