The human fit model, a tool for the pre-digital age?

When brands are designing size patterns, analyzing fit is a big part of the equation. Fit analysis has always been a challenging process for the apparel industry and one that is under a constant state of re-evaluation as emerging technologies hit the market. Through re-evaluation often comes innovation and there’s no doubt we are living during a period of rapid growth and innovation fueled by technology that wasn’t available ten years ago.

The technology we use today still has its roots in the classic techniques developed over a century ago. So where did it all begin?

The Dress Form

Oh the dress form. The first tool used by tailors back in the day to assess fit and size. Dress forms are mannequins created to represent the size and shape of a single size for a target market. It was the first tool used in the industry as a way to produce garments of a particular size and are still used all the time in the creation of new designs.

Dress forms were an early tool for Tailors and designers to produce garments of a particular size and fit

Dress forms were an early tool for Tailors and Designers to produce garments of a particular size and fit

The advantage of this tool is that the size of the ‘model’ is fixed (since it is not a physical, dynamic human being) and can be easily duplicated and sent to manufacturers. The obvious shortcomings are that it is a static object so you don’t get much insight into the fit with dynamic motion. The exterior of the dress form is often hard, so you also lose information about the softness of the exterior of a real human body. Both factors can have a dramatic impact on the final fit-and-feel of the resulting garment, and your silent mannequin is none the wiser.

The Human Fit Model

Just like it sounds, a human fit model is effectively a human mannequin with the proportions of the ‘average’ person within a designer/brand target market. The people are employed by designers to help in the design and fit assessment for one particular size.

Human Fit Model

There are advantages to using a human fit model, one being that since you are now working with a real human being, they can provide insights into how the garment fits with dynamic movement. Every fashion house has human fitting models at hand to help from concept design through to the final product. Although human fit models are very unlikely to be removed from the design process entirely, there have been big innovations to digitize the design process, including the human fit models.

More recently the human fit model is 3D body scanned to save their proportions digitally for use in CAD systems that use a 3D Virtual Fit Model.

The 3D Virtual Fit model

Virtual fit models, either generated from a 3D generated avatar to represent specific body measurements or via a 3D body scan of a human fit model is a more recent tool used throughout the design process. Patterns are designed in a CAD program and the 3D garment is produced and overlaid on the 3D Virtual Fit Model for assessment.

Virtual Model

The process can be quite advantageous for rapid pattern design iteration, with the resulting fit assessment being visualized in real-time. This tool lends itself perhaps to increased efficiency, as many iterations can take place digitally prior to creating the physical prototype garments, which is where the human fit model is then utilized.

Emergence of Target-Market Specific 3D Fit Assessment

All of the Fit Models have one critical shortcoming in common. They rely on a single Fit Model to create a single size, often grading from that pattern for the sizes down and up. This is effectively using a single data point to produce the sizing system for a garment. And a single data point is surely not a statistically accurate representation of the thousands of shoppers that are within a brand or retailers target market.

body variations

There are ways around being stuck in this situation. One is incorporating technology on the retail website to build massive datasets of predicted 3D human body models representing the shopper demographic. Fashion Metric’s smart size chart technology can help the shopper understand what size to order while shopping on the and behind-the-scenes this recommendation is accomplished through an accurate prediction of that shopper’s detailed body measurements. Over time, the data can be used to generate a statistically significant representation of the body shape variation that represents a brand’s demographic. This data can be leveraged to power a data-driven pattern design process.

If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s change, and the apparel world is going through a time of rapid change. A lot of this change is driven by shopper behavior and a shift from in-store shopping to desktop and mobile experiences. The brands that are thriving today have done so by putting a relentless focus on innovation – from Bonobos to Under Armour, the brand of tomorrow uses technology to reach and personalize the customer experience in a way that wasn’t possible ten years ago.

The question to ask yourself is – how are you adapting to these changes?

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