Will the new metric clothing standard work?

A new international standard for sizing clothes would overcome many of the problems of incompatible size labelling. But will it be undermined by the British retail and clothing industries because it is metric? – article based on contribution by M-V.

During the last few days there have been various newspaper articles describing proposed new labelling for clothing. This labelling is in fact the EN 13402 European standard for labelling clothing sizes and is expected to come into widespread use by the end of 2007. The work was sponsored by CEN (European Standards Organisation – an organisation that draws its membership from various European bodies), while much of the fieldwork was done by the BSI (British Standards Institute). The photograph below (by Markus Kuhn and downloaded from the Wikipedia site) shows an actual label used for a high-visibility jacket.

This example shows that the garment is designed to fit a man with a chest measurement of 118 to 124 cm and a height of up to 1.94 m.

The standard works as follows.
(Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EN_13402
has a full description – also written by Markus Kuhn). Firstly, it should be remembered that measurements on the garments refers to the wearer, not to the garment itself. Thus the chest measurement on a vest label and on an overcoat label for a particular person have the same value.

The standard comes in four parts:

  • EN 13402-1 defines how the body should be measured (using centimetres and kilograms where appropriate). For example, the length of the hand girth is measured “maximum girth measured over the knuckles (metacarpals) of the open right hand, fingers together and thumb excluded”. This results in a pictogram (diagrammatic picture) of the individual customer – as illustrated below:

Ideally, everybody should have a little card bearing this pictogram, and they can use this whenever they go shopping for clothes (or borrow their partner’s if they are shopping for them!) Enterprising clothing retailers might offer a free measurement and card-issuing service.

  • EN 13402-2 defines the primary and optional secondary measurements for various garments. For example, the primary measurement for men’s trousers is the waist girth, while the wearer’s height and inside leg length are optional additional measurements. The author has spotted one omission is the list of garments â?? there is nothing about men’s kilts, though manufacturers might use the same parameters as are used for women’s skirts.
  • EN 13402-3 defines the standard interval sizes for various measurements. For example men’s chest sizes will be in 4 cm intervals and a 100 cm chest would be suitable for men with chests between 98 cm and 102 cm.
  • EN 13402-4 defines a five character manufactures coding system.

If UK retailers adopt the system (it is optional), then there will be a big change – conversion of the sizes of existing clothing lines will be difficult because the traditional British interval for men’s chests (for example) is 2 in, not 4 cm. This will mean that manufacturers will have to offer the public a wider range of measurements to accommodate the smaller interval. Unless there is some coordination, one can see chaos on the high street if one retailer or manufacturer uses the EN 13402 while another sticks to traditional sizing.

One thought on “Will the new metric clothing standard work?”

  1. You fail to mention the fact that with most European clothing measurements, for example around the chest and around the waist, are in centimetres, but the number is halved, for reasons I find hard to understand. So my old British chest size of 42 inches becomes not 105 cm, but ‘size 52’ to the nearest rounded mark. Unless you know this it is almost more confusing to use the European measurement than it is to remain with the old imperial. Perhaps the European convention of halving the centimetre measurement is to prevent sizes going into three figures, which is perhaps deemed psychologically unacceptable by the manufacturers…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: