Show Menu

Self-Help Children's Clothing and Standardized Sizing

Standard Sizes

Dr. Eleanor Hunt

Dr. Eleanor Hunt, associate anthropometrist, Bureau of Home Economics, is shown training one of the first classes on taking scientific measurements of the human body (1937)

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division


The rapid growth of the pattern and ready-to-wear industry in the United States has brought with it many difficulties in the proper sizing of garments and patterns, especially those manufactured for women and children. Any satisfactory American sizing system must be based on dimensions obtained by measuring large numbers of persons throughout the country. Each measurement must be made in exactly the same way by individuals carefully trained in a method that can be duplicated. The same kind of instruments must be used, and these must be constantly checked so that they are accurate.

Unfortunately no such large, scientific study of the body measurements used in the construction of women's and children's garments has ever been reported. When funds were made available by the Works Progress Administration in 1937, the Bureau of Home Economics, therefore, organized and directed such a cooperative research project.

-- Ruth O'Brien and Meyer A. Gershick (1939). Children's Body Measurements for Sizing Garments and Patterns: A Proposed Standard System Based on Height and Girth of Hips. U.S. Department of Agriculture Miscellaneous Publication Number 365

 

This scientific study of children's body measurements was documented in several publications.

(Click any image to access full text)


Children's Body Measurements for Sizing Garments and Patterns: A Proposed Standard System Based on Height and Girth of Hips Children's Body Measurements for Sizing Garments and Patterns: A Proposed Standard System Based on Height and Girth of Hips Children's Body Measurements for Sizing Garments and Patterns: A Proposed Standard System Based on Height and Girth of Hips Children's Body Measurements for Sizing Garments and Patterns: A Proposed Standard System Based on Height and Girth of Hips

Children's Body Measurements for Sizing Garments and Patterns: A Proposed Standard System Based on Height and Girth of Hips (1939)

O'Brien, Ruth and Girshick, Meyer A.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Miscellaneous Publication Number 365

"Need for Scientific Measurements

The rapid growth of the pattern and ready-to- wear industry in the United States has brought with it many difficulties in the proper sizing of garments and patterns, especially those manufactured for women and children. Any satisfactory American sizing system must be based on dimensions obtained by measuring large numbers of persons throughout the country. Each measurement must be made in exactly the same way by individuals carefully trained in a method that can be duplicated. The same kind of instruments must be used, and these must be constantly checked so that they are accurate.

Unfortunately no such large, scientific study of the body measurements used in the construction of women's and children's garments has ever been reported. When funds were made available by the Works Progress Administration in 1937, the Bureau of Home Economics, therefore, organized and directed such a cooperative research project. The measurements used in the construction of trunk garments were taken on 147,088 children, 4 to 17 years of age, inclusive, distributed in 15 States and the District of Columbia.

This proposed standard of body measurements is based on the results of that study. It recommends dimensions to be used in constructing a series of standard mannequins such as are used by manufacturers to size garments and patterns. The measurements were taken next to the skin. The proposed standard, therefore, does not give garment and pattern dimensions. Standards for these can be developed from this proposed basis by agreement in the trade on tolerances for construction, style, and other clothing features."


Body Measurements of American Boys and Girls for Garment and Pattern Construction

Body Measurements of American Boys and Girls for Garment and Pattern Construction: Comprehensive Report of Measuring Procedures and Statistical Analysis of Data on 147,000 American Children (1941)

 

O'Brien, Ruth, Girshick, Meyer A., and Hunt, Eleanor P.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Miscellaneous Publication Number 366

 "Purpose of the Study

This study, financed by the Works Progress Administration and conducted as a W. P. A. project, was made in order to supply accurately taken body measurements for use in the construction of children's garments and patterns.

Unsatisfactory sizing is a source of much consumer difficulty in the selection of suitable clothing for children. For, although it is common knowledge that many children of the same age have entirely different dimensions (fig. 1), garments and patterns now are sized mainly on the basis of age. Moreover, different manufacturers make garments of different sizes for children of the same age. Also, due to competitive practices, few articles of clothing are large enough for children of the ages for which they are marked.

As a result of the difficulties in securing properly fitting children's clothing, retailers, especially mail-order companies, complain of huge annual losses due to large returns. These difficulties are caused partly by the lack of uniformity in the dimensions used by different manufacturers. Partly they are due to the fact that measurements for this purpose never have been taken with scientific accuracy on a representative sample of the child population of the country. Studies of body measurements have been restricted largely to growth and anthropological researches that have' not included the measurements used for garment sizes. The only published report of an American study of this kind with clothing construction definitely in view is the one made on 100,000 men during the demobilization at the end of the World War.

The idea has long prevailed that if a scientific study were made of the body measurements of a representative sample of children, the dimensions of a hypothetical "average" child of each age could be assembled. This together with perhaps an average chubby and an average slim child of the same age, might then solve the fitting problem. This study was initiated, therefore, not only to obtain scientifically taken measurements of a large and representative sample of children, but also to analyze the variations of these dimensions in order to determine the most satisfactory basis for sizing children's garments and patterns."


Standard Sizes for Children's Clothes: A Primer for the Consumer and the Trade

Standard Sizes for Children's Clothes: A Primer for the Consumer and the Trade (1941)

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bureau of Home Economics and National Consumer-Retailer Council

"WHAT THE STUDY SHOWS

1. That the size of children can be predicted best from a combination of two measurements.

• A VERTICAL LENGTH

• A GIRTH

2. That age alone is the poorest possible basis for sizing any kind of garments for children.

THE BUREAU OF HOME ECONOMICS therefore proposes ....

Twelve "REGULAR” classes of girls.

Thirteen "REGULAR" classes of boys.

All grouped according to hip measure and height instead of according to age."