Is this the end of the clothes size lottery? Major retail chains including ASOS, Next, New Look and River Island back creation of universal sizing

  • Inconsistent clothing sizes have led to huge amounts of clothes being returned
  • A study by the Mail showed over 47% of all clothes bought online are returned
  • Major retail brands have backed the creation of a new universal sizing template 

The inconsistent way in which clothes shops adopt their own rules on sizing has meant years of fitting room frustrations.

Many women have felt the irritation at finding they were a size 12 dress in one shop – but a 16 in another.

Avoiding a fashion fail often meant taking several sizes in to the changing room just to make sure. Soon there could be an end to the meltdowns, however, after major chains agreed to rip up their sizing rules and develop a standard measurement system.

Inconsistent sizes have led to huge quantities of clothes which are bought online being returned

Retailers including ASOS, Tesco’s F&F range, Next, Monsoon, New Look and River Island are backing a nationwide survey which will take measurements of 30,000 adults to create new universal size templates.

It will also reflect the fact that Britons have generally become taller and more ‘bottom heavy’.

Inconsistent sizes have led to huge quantities of clothes bought online being returned. The Mail reported yesterday how a study suggested almost half – 47 per cent – of all clothes bought online are sent back.

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The project to standardise sizing, known as Shape GB, will map how body shapes have changed since the last such study 17 years ago. Retailers will encourage customers to take part in the survey by using a simple smartphone app to establish their Body Volume Indicator (BVI) – an update to the conventional Body Mass Index (BMI).

The BVI system will be used to measure the weight distribution in certain areas of the body – the arms, legs, chest, pelvis and abdomen. A similar scheme involving children in 2013 found youngsters were getting taller, wider and heavier. The project is being run by Select Research Ltd, whose founder Richard Barnes said: ‘There is a lack of consistency in sizing across different clothing brands and the aim of Shape GB is to use body volume as a new way of measuring body shape to help us find better ways of resolving this for the customer.’

Several of the UK’s leading clothing retailers agreed to cooperate on a possible universal size template

The last national survey of adult body shapes in 2001 involved asking 11,000 women and men in 12 locations around the country to be measured in a 3D scanner.

Mr Barnes said our body shapes have changed in the past 17 years because of ‘natural evolution and lifestyle choices’.

‘There does seem to be a trend over time for some men and women to have more lower-body volume, or a more pear-shaped figure, but we need the new data to know that for sure,’ he said. ‘Also, the importance of changes in height should not be underestimated as we are all getting taller.’

Alan Wragg, from Tesco, said work with Select Research on childrenswear had already resulted in a major drop in returns.

H&M has already announced it is making the size of its UK women’s clothes bigger after shoppers complained they had to buy items several sizes up to get the perfect fit.

How standard fit could hit the high street 

To bring in standard clothes sizes, researchers need to enlist the help of 30,000 volunteers.

They hope that by collecting millions of measurements experts will first be able to assess how our body shape has changed over the years. The Shape GB survey is open to anyone over 18 and involves a simple app accessed on an Apple iPhone or iPad. Two photos – one from the front and one from the side – provide more than 100 measurements from each volunteer and a total of 3 million for the study overall.

Data is used to establish the Body Volume Indicator (BVI), which measures the weight distribution of seven areas of the body – both arms, both legs, chest, pelvis and the abdomen – to create a 3D image.

The software only uses the body images anonymously before privately and securely creating 3D images for use in sizing and body shape design by retailers and clothing designers. The images will be deleted afterwards.

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