January 14, 2020 Dave Desmarais

Garment Fit: Preference, not science

What’s your height? Your weight? Your age?

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but these three questions have become the last step in the clothes-buying process for a plethora of online retailers. These questions, along with selecting how you prefer your clothing to fit (eg: tight, normal, loose) are intended to help the retailer suggest your best size. The industry is plagued by an increasing number of online returns each year due to size and fit issues and retailers believe by having you answer these questions, an algorithm will understand your personal fit-preference well enough to suggest your best size. There is certainly some merit here, but a few pointed questions are not the answer to a meaningful reduction in online returns.

Same body measurements, different fit preference

The thing about fit is it’s completely subjective. What is a “normal” fitting garment? How loose is loose? I have the same upper body measurements as a couple of friends, and I prefer a tapered shirt, while they prefer the more classic/boxy look. Their issue is they don’t like a lot of material touching their skin at their mid section. What equates to “a lot” of material? What I’m getting at here is it’s difficult to truly learn a persons preference by asking a couple questions or gathering their body measurements.

Comfort with familiarity

We’re all comfortable with things we know well. Chances are you already own an item or two that fits to your liking, or else you probably wouldn’t have bought it. Using items you own and love to help you locate new garments with a similar fit is the idea behind Tailored. Simply snap a photo of one of your best fitting garments, which instantly captures it’s measurements, and be presented with a list of new items matching the fit of your photographed garment. Tailored is partnering with online retailers to make this a reality.

Apparel is and always will be about more than a few measurements. I was once told by Michelle Lurch (former fashion director at the Institute of Design and Technology, Tampa) that buying apparel is an emotional experience; it taps into ones senses of touch, sight and smell. Finding the right garment with the right fit makes us feel happy and can even boost our confidence.

We won’t be able to eliminate product returns completely, but better connecting consumers with a purchase before they make it is a great start.