An Indian sizing survey is a good idea, but not without its own unique challenges
India will finally get its own clothing size chart by 2021. An ambitious project by the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), under the auspices of the ministry of textiles, will measure 25,000 men and women across six regions in the country – Kolkata (east), Mumbai (west), New Delhi (north), Hyderabad (centre), Bengaluru (south) and Shillong (north east) – in the age group of 15-65 years. Instead of the cumbersome process of manually measuring people, the survey will use 3D whole-body scanners, for which global tenders will be issued soon.
This is a welcome initiative, since currently the ready-to-wear industry uses approximations, often adapted from international size charts. This results in ill-fitting garments and limited styles. For example, for women’s kurtas, the styles are generally A-line and often tend to resemble tents. Even though Indians still go to neighbourhood tailors to get their clothes stitched, this tradition has disappeared for certain kinds of attire – for instance, few men today get their shirts and trousers stitched, whereas that was the norm some decades ago.
However, though this is a much-needed project, it would be prudent to recognise the challenges that lie ahead, starting with something as simple as figuring out whether people will be ready to be ‘measured’ by the body scanners or not. Also, India is a big, diverse country with very different body shapes and sizes. A woman in the North-east would have a different body shape and size from a woman in, say, Punjab. Arriving at an overall India chart will not be an easy task. Since the survey is being done in six regions, further slicing of the charts according to the different regions might make more sense. In big countries (more than 14 countries across the world have successfully completed national sizing surveys), such as the US, sizing surveys have to be repeated at periodic intervals to update the data.
Of course, we have to get the first survey off the ground before we can look at repeat surveys. This project itself is likely to take at least two years after the measuring equipment has been acquired. Once the data has been compiled, it will certainly reduce the rejection rate of garments in stores (at present, pegged at between 20-40%). Ready-to-wear apparel companies will be able to offer well-fitting clothes to people of all sizes, something which does not exist at present – a boon for both sellers and buyers.