ISO 8559-1:2017—Size Designation of Clothes

Young woman looking at the size tag on a dress that adheres to anthropometric measurements for clothing in ISO 8559-1:2017.

Initially, soldiers’ uniforms were custom-made. As the Civil War (1861-1865) continued and the demand for uniforms grew, manufacturers decided it would be more efficient to build factories to mass produce clothing into four sizing categories: small, medium, large, and extra-large. This mass production of uniforms enabled soldiers to be ready to head to battle as quickly as possible Hence, the standard sizing system for clothing that we use today was spearheaded in the 1800s to meet the high demand for making uniforms. ISO 8559-1:2017—Size Designation Of Clothes – Part 1: Anthropometric Definitions For Body Measurement comprises the definition and generation of anthropometric measurements for the creation of size and shape profiles in clothing.

What Is ISO 8559-1?

ISO 8559-1:2017 provides a description of anthropometric measurements that can be used as a basis for the creation of physical and digital anthropometric databases. This list of measurements provides a guide to clothing product development teams and fit mannequin manufacturers on the principles of measurement and their underlying anatomical and anthropometrical bases. The list is for practitioners in the field of clothing who are required to select population market segments and create size/shape profiles for garments and their equivalent fit mannequins. ISO 8559-1:2017 is intended to be used in conjunction with national, regional, or international regulations or agreements to assure harmony in defining population groups and to allow comparison of anthropometric data sets.

Origins of Size Designation for Clothing

Garments were once made individually, so they had to be ordered in advance and were generally available to a limited number of wealthy people. Following a measuring session, the tailor would pattern, cut, and assemble each item from scratch, involving a huge amount of work. In the early 19th century, tailors started publishing their methods and discovered there was a disarray of metric systems and a lack of sizing standards. By the end of the 19th century, the vast majority of the urban male population in Europe and North America was wearing mass-product, standardized clothing that stemmed from mass-producing soldiers’ uniforms based on chest size. Ready-to-wear menswear gradually became more industrialized; meanwhile, womenswear continued to be identified with the domestic sphere and dressmakers’ workrooms. Mass-producing women’s clothing took a slower path since they were not fighting in the Civil War.

Standardization of Women’s Clothing

In the 1920s, processes for mass production improved and cities grew, an urban professional class started to develop, and soon, women’s clothing started to follow the path of mass production. The standardized sizing standards for women in the US originated in the 1940s during World War II.  Since the government needed to provide uniforms for female factory workers, they conducted a study called the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) survey to determine the most common body measurements among women. This survey collected data on over 15,000 women and created a standardized sizing system for women’s clothing based on bust, waist, and hip measurements.

Over time, this sizing system was adopted by the fashion industry, remaining the basis for current sizing standards. Research, however, has shown that this system does not accurately reflect the diversity of women’s body shapes and sizes as many consumers struggle to find clothing that fits well.

The ISO 8559 Series for Size Designation of Clothes

ISO 8559-1:2017 is the first of the ISO 8559 series, Size Designation of Clothes. It forms a foundation for the other standards in this series:

ISO 8559-1:2017—Size Designation Of Clothes – Part 1: Anthropometric Definitions For Body Measurement is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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