Monday, May 14, 2007

Why Body Measurements Are Necessary

As I’ve thought through this issue and how to discuss it, I get a little bit overwhelmed in terms of where to start and how to put it all in order. It seems simple enough, but really there’s more there than meets the eye. And, I think it’s interesting to know that there are steps most people don’t know about or think about in the process of getting the perfect finished garment to you. This entry will you a quick overview of those too.

So, rather than drag you into an overwhelmed place too, or lose your interest – and you - along the way, I’ll divide this issue up into a couple of postings. I’m going to try my best to post each Monday and Friday. Susie will post on Wednesday. So, this week both of my entries will be about measurements. Here goes!

We can intuitively understand why it’s necessary to have measurements of people in order to create clothes that fit them. If you have a general understanding of two processes in the development and manufacture of clothing, you can better see how important it is for us to have measurements of your children, specifically. Those processes are pattern making and pattern grading.

Once an apparel item is designed, a pattern is created by an industrial pattern maker. From that pattern, a sample of the garment is produced. Then, the item is “fitted” on the fit model. A fit model is a person on whom garments are test fitted. S/he represents the average target customer. So, once the sample garment fits the fit model, and some modifications may be necessary to create the proper fit, that size pattern is ready for production. However if additional sizes will be produced, patterns must be made for each size. The process of enlarging or decreasing the original, base pattern to fit other sizes in your range is called pattern grading.
Pattern grading is a relatively straightforward process, completed on the basis of grading rules. What’s less straightforward is developing the “grade rules”. The grade rules define in what increments the base pattern must be modified to create the pattern for the new size. The grade rules are based on measurement charts. It’s studying, charting, and reviewing the measurements that allows us to understand how our children’s bodies change as they grow and age. And, from this knowledge and data the grade rules are developed.

The shape of the human body changes as it ages. One example that's easy for us to envision is head size. The head size of an infant is larger, in proportion to the rest of the body, than that of an adult. A couple other examples come readily to mind as well: baby fat melting away with time, chest development during adolescence. We humans don’t as much “grow” as we “morph” over time. The shapes of our bodies change during the stages of life – infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood. Human growth from infancy through adulthood is simply not linear. So, while a pattern can be graded within a developmental range, such as toddlers or adolescents, grading cannot be done across ranges. For a different range, a new pattern must be developed.

The study of human body measurements and proportions is called “anthropometry.” Thanks to decades of studies, by government, universities, apparel manufacturers – often in conjunction – we have extensive databases of anthropometric data on standard populations of children and adults. These historic data, as well as newly developed data, are the basis for the sizing systems and grading rules of many apparel manufacturers. Unfortunately, no such extensive anthropometric data exist for people with Down syndrome. That’s our challenge. We can't develop grade rules for sizes without the data that tell us - precisely - how the body of children with Down syndrome changes over time. We can guess, based on anthropometric data of children who do not have Down syndrome. But, a guess is not good enough. If the clothes are to fit, the data must be gathered and followed.

Next posting I’ll talk about the data – what’s out there, how it was gathered and by whom, what’s missing, how we can develop a database ourselves by measuring our kids. See you Friday!

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