A Not-So-Ticklish Measure of Man

by Jeff Fleischer

(Sydney Morning Herald, December 4, 2003)


The military has a new way to take your measurements. But you’re not being drafted – it’s just an attempt to figure out the sizes and shapes of Australians.

Standards Australia has long wanted a national sizing standard based on average Australians, citing consumer frustration with sizes that fluctuate from one store to another.

The organisation held a forum for fashion industry representatives yesterday, where they learnt how the Australian Defence Force could help this cause.

The military plans to measure more than 2000 of its own personnel early next year using a body scanner machine purchased especially for the survey, said Standards Australia’s spokesman, Tom Godfrey. The fashion industry would use the machine to take the body measurements of an undetermined number of civilians.

The device – which Mr Godfrey likens to Dr Who’s Tardis – looks like a dressing room. But when someone stands inside, the body scanner uses a series of cameras to create a three-dimensional scale image of that person and his or her measurements.

The results will be used to update clothing guidelines not changed since the 1970s.

“This will affect not just clothing, but ceilings, doorways or chairs,” Mr Godfrey said. “It literally impacts on anything that has interaction with the human body.”

Standards Australia committees would continue meeting to develop specifics, said Professor Maciej Henneberg of the University of Adelaide, a member of the clothing size committee.

“We will use the new data and existing data,” he said. “We would love to have a new standard within a year, but what that is will depend on the data.”

For clothing, the new standard could mean redefining existing sizes, going back to previous ones (like the bust-waist-hip measurements for women) or developing a new system. The standards would be regulated by the industry, Mr Godfrey said.

However, while some designers have taken advantage of self-regulation in the past to stretch or shrink their sizes, he believes things will be different with better and updated data.

“The consumers are demanding it and the retailers are calling for it,” Mr Godfrey said.

“So I don’t think it will be a problem for them to conform to a standard size. The consumer is always the final authority, and they want this.”

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