Who is Gen Alpha?
Generation Alpha is the cohort born beginning in 2010 and continuing through 2025. This group was born after the launch of the iPad, so technology is a constant in their lives. They are aware and are swayed by YouTube influencers for toys and games. Gen Alpha is expected to have an attraction to multiculturalism and a tendency to veer away from gender norms.
Who is Gen Z?
Gen Z are those born between 1995 and 2010/2012. They value comfort and function and enjoy making their outfits their own, intentionally mismatched and less “put together.” They prefer to wear what feels right and tend to go for “unique” body-positive images.
Gen Alpha & Gender Equality
Who is fighting to get rid of the “pink” aisle for toys and wanting the “it” basketball shoe for girls, as well as, boys? Say hello to Gen Alpha (and their parents). This cohort, influenced by the #MeToo, #TimesUp and #HimToo movements, will be focused on “empowerment through empathy”which in turn, will catapult the green movement into every aspect of their lives.
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Gen Z and Alpha – Presenting Some Very Real Global Sizing Challenges
Children’s Apparel Standards
Gen Z and Gen Alpha are not the same as past generations in terms of size, shape and stature. And, sizing standards have not kept up with these changes. A report released by Alvanon (Alvanon Standard North American Children, January 30th, 2018), revealed a “seismic shift” in the children’s sizing standards. To develop the standard, Alvanon surveyed key clients to gain feedback on challenges in fitting children and collected body scanned data. The resultant new standard covers infants, toddlers and both male and female children/ teens up to age 18 (size 18). Further standards have been issued from ISO (International), EN (Europe), GB/T (China), JIS (Japan), KS K (South Korea), AFNOR (France), Australian, UK and ASTM (US). Many countries have their own general children’s sizing guidelines, but the actual garment sizing will vary by brand. For Asian countries, each country has their own method of children’s clothing sizing. Some countries base the sizing off height, some countries base sizing off age, and some counties have different sizing dependent on domestic use or for export.
While standards exist, they are considered voluntary, so the brands can size as they wish.
In both the US and UK, children’s sizing has historically been based on the age, e.g. a six-year-old requiring a size 6. Consequently, children over the 50th percentile in height or weight, would need a size above their age, so a six-year-old may require a size 7 or 8 if they were larger and size 5 if they were smaller than average. Current, European standards are based height and weight and not age dependent. With Alvanon’s new sizing standard not including Slim” or Plus” or “Junior” sizes for North American children and teens, some sizing discrepancies will remain. Perhaps new sizing standards for North American children and teens beyond “Regular” or “Average” should be included.
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The Impact of New Sizing Standards
Some companies have the same measurements for boys and girls through size 14 and others start separating the measurements for boys and girls at size 14. Most dress forms for children stop at size 14. Why? Historically, that is the size which teen measurements become aligned with adult sizes. This offers more choices to accommodate body shape variations. For example: children’s garments have one inseam length per waist size, yet adults have choices (more choices for men, then women). The inseam for Boys size 16 and 18 is 31 ½ inches or 80 cm but for the same waist size in men’s jeans, there are multiple waist and inseam combinations. Consequently, it is easier to shop for boys once they attain a waist size of 26 in (66 cm). but finding a suitable style might not be so easy as tween and teen styles preferences frequently vary from adult choices.
For girls, the question of the age of maturity and the shape and size of curves determine the sizes that fit: “Girls”, “Junior”, Girls Plus” or “Girls Slim” “Missy”, “Missy Petite”, “Missy Tall”, “Plus” or “Plus Petite” or “Plus Tall”. Measuring for these body shape categories, however, can be difficult as brands offer varied instructions. Measurements for bust can be either all the way around the body or is measured under the arms from outside edge to outside edge of front. Waist measurements for pants can be from outside edge to outside or all the way around the body, either at natural waist or as noted. The rise is measured from the crotch seam to the top of the pants, or it is measured as a total rise.
Sizing is even more complex when considering “fashionista” brands for tweens and teens. Girls may want to purchase garments to make them look like adults or older teens. In addition, girls who are larger size for their age, may end up purchasing clothing that their parents/ guardians do not approve. The solution is not simple. This means ordering online and returns are not going away any time soon.
Children’s Dress Forms
Dress form companies may want to understand the new size, shape and stature of today’s children. A previous blog post, What’s Happening in the Dress Form Industry 2019 Large Scale Manufacturing, discussed children’s dress forms. The companies that have dress forms for children include: Dress Forms USA, Superior Model Form Company, Dress Rite Forms Company, PGM Dress Forms, Ronis Brothers, Roxy Display, and The Shop Company. After comparing the children dress form measurements for the chest / bust, waist, hips and inseam, additional padding or shape may be required to align with today’s children.
How are Gen Z and Gen Alpha Shaped Differently?
The size, shape and stature change of the today’s children and teens are related to factors that include changes in lifestyle and increases in obesity that have shifted the distribution of body dimensions.
The National Center for Health Statistics at Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study on the height and weight of Americans in 2004. They studied the height and weight from 1960s to 2004. The study was repeated during the 2011 to 2014 period.
The average height of a 10-year-old boy increased 0.5 inch (1.7 cm) to 55.7 inches (141.5 cm) in 2002. The height has stayed the same through 2018. The average weight of a 10-year-old boy increased 10 lbs (4.5 kg) to nearly 85 lbs (38.6 kg) in 2002. The weight leveled off to same value in 2018.
The average 15-year-old boy in 2002 was 5’ 8, up from an inch from 1963. The weight increased from 135.5 lbs (61.6 kg) to 150.3 lbs (68.3 kg) by 2002. By 2018, the average 14-year-old was 5’7” tall. Heights for 14-year-old boys ranged from 5’ 0” (152.4 cm), (5th percentile) to 5’9” (175.3 cm), (90th percentile). By age 16, boys at the 95th percentile are at a height 6’ 1” (185.4 cm). This explains the need for inseams of different lengths.
In the same reports, the average height of a 10-year-old girl increased from 55.5 inches (141 cm) to 56.4 inches (143.3 cm). The average weight of a 10-year-old girl increased from 77.4 lbs (35.2 kg) to 88 lbs (193.6 kg). The 15-year-old girl height increased to 63.6 inches (161.5 cm). The weight increased to 134.4 lbs (61 kg).
Parents have solved the problem of fitting their children by simply purchasing larger and larger sizes. The advent of online purchasing has further complicated the situation. Parents must buy two or three sizes to see which clothes fit, to account for the myriad of variations within size charts. This does not even account for the children whose body dimensions fall outside of the norm (as determined by the brands).
This environment has created an unsustainable practice of multiple returns forcing Industry to start addressing the underlying causes, i.e. shifting size, shape and stature, of today’s children.
This has greatly exacerbated the on-going “what-is-acceptable-to-wear” battle going on between parents/ guardians and children/ teens. Furthermore, this environment has created an unsustainable practice of multiple returns. The Industry is being forced to address the underlying causes of the shifting size, shape and stature of today’s children. Improved shopping models are required to address the problem of age-relevant styling.
Limiting choices to certain size ranges has created an opportunity for apparel companies to improve the interactive shopping models currently available.
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So, what have been your experiences with navigating clothing sizes for kids, tweens and teens? Feel free to share your thoughts with us.