Dress Size Harmonisation


24 October 2003

Women's fear of being over a size 12 could become a thing of the past due to new European Guidelines, published by the BSI Group. Miss Average in the UK will become an 88-72-96 instead of the old 34-28-37, when European retailers agree the new metric system.

By implementing a standardised set of measurements, and the sizes based on them, BSI aims to make life easier for both the industry and consumers. Currently a size 12 in the UK is a 38 in Germany and a 44 in Italy. A standard will give people a better idea of which clothes will fit them, although this does not mean the end of changing rooms just yet.

David Lazenby, Director of British Standards says:

"As well as setting out standard tables of measurements, from which the clothing sizes are specified, the standard also includes an ISO pictogram. This diagram will appear on the label and will clearly indicate which part of the body a garment size referred to. We appreciate it is a big change to get used to, but it will bring great benefits, especially when buying clothes in mainland Europe."

Over the last 18 months an ongoing major study by Size UK - which has included approximately 10,000 people - has revealed some interesting statistics. For example, more than 50 per cent of returns to mail order companies are due to a problem with the size of clothing. A standard should dramatically reduce this.

Department stores and multiple retailers will be the first to adopt the new standard as they presently have many different manufacturers' clothes on their shop floors.

The cut of the clothing has not been formally agreed on as yet, but the ISO pictogram idea will have a small picture of a body on the label. This will this signal the end of sizes 12, 14, 16, 18 etc. albeit slowly, because this will be a voluntary standard.

The pictogram could also display both primary and secondary measurements. For women the primary measurement would be the bust and the secondary measurements would be the waist and hips. For men the primary measurement on a pair of trousers would be the waist followed by the inside leg.

Clothing standardisation is coming although it is a pragmatic process. Aside from the Size UK data, other European countries are now running their own schemes to see if any changes are required. We are currently sizing clothing on measurements made in the 50's.


For more information please contact:

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