Addressing My Sample Size
When we are toiling and sampling, we all tend to have our standard 'sample size' we create to and grade up/down from. I was always taught to cut to what we called a UK size 12, but realistically was more of an 8-10 when you looked at the measurements. A designer I worked with in the past cut to her own body shape and size, grading from there. (Yes I found this weird too as she had a very specific shape not many women have.) Most designers cut to the standard 8-10 model size and shape (usually accounting for the 'desirable' 5'9" and up height). This means that we don't have to think as much, we don't have to account for many changes and can reuse old patterns we know fit well. We just stick whatever model we have chosen into her outfit for the shoot/show and do minimal, if any, tweaks.
But what does this mean in the overall sense of a sizing system? Creating a standardised sizing system is incredibly difficult as everyone has a different body shape, however, is creating our initial design to one specific body size over and over again making this worse? Surely we should be trying our designs on a variety of body sizes and, more importantly, shapes. Exploring a more inclusive sizing system for my own work is something I would love to go into, but the timings of this project doesn't allow that. Therefore, this is just going to be parked for later on in the year.
For now, all I can focus on is the range I am creating for this collection. The range of samples, essentially. Because that is what a catwalk collection is really, isn't it? We are stuck in a cycle of cutting samples to fit the standard size model, meaning the models have to be a standard size, and around it goes. Yes, some designers are starting to see past this and are booking a much more diverse range for their shoots and shows (Christian Siriano and Art School come to mind for me). However, these are just a small number of designers making this choice. We have just accepted the 'model standard', this is harmful both to society, as we are only showcasing a specific beauty standard, and to the models. It is easy to forget these models are human too, I am guilty myself of seeing a model (or dancer/actor when I am doing costume work) as a live mannequin when I am in a stressful moment of working. I encourage you to watch these videos linked below, they definitely gave me a grounding moment.
So, how am I planning on tackling this right now? As I said before, I do not have the time to sit and create a whole sizing guide for this collection. Instead I am focusing on creating multi-sized patterns, allowing for things to be stretched and cinched in. It is impossible to include EVERYONE at this stage, but if I can allow just a few sizes to fit into the same garment then I feel I am moving in the right direction. By doing this, I am also allowing for different body shapes and proportions. We all carry our weight in different places, and are all different heights too.
I am keen to eradicate this strange, clinical divide we have between 'main range' sizes, or 'standard sizes', and 'plus size' or 'curve'. As a woman who has been everything from a size 8 to an 18, this divide never makes people feel good. There is no such thing as a 'standard' person. So why aren't our clothes, both on and off the catwalk, representative of this?
I am focusing on elasticity, belting, cinching and layering to attempt to address this problem. Measurement-wise I am aiming between UK sizes 10 - 20. Not every style is possible for this range, but if I really think about my silhouette and get my pattern cutting head on then this should be a good problem-solving exercise. A size 10 is around a 70cm waist (I say around because some brands do differ) and a size 20 has around a 98 - 103 cm waist (anything above a 14 tends to have much more variation between brands). If I can go up or down sizes and still make it work then I will do.
While we are on lockdown, it is hard to test fits completely. I am lucky that I do have a good size range living with me so I will be borrowing them!. I am a size 14-16 and my mother is a 10, both of us are completely different shapes on top of this. Also, although I am creating a womenswear range, my brother is very tall and slim so I will be testing some pieces out on him for those with a more slender shape. Gender does not define our body shape so that is important to remember too in this entire process.
As I said, this isn't a complete solution, but if I can demonstrate diversity through this collection in a technical sense as well as aesthetic, I feel I am doing something to add to the conversation.