Behind the Scenes Sotela

Why Expanding Our Sizing Isn’t as Simple as it Seems

Update: I’ve written a followup apology post to explain my intentions with this original article.

After the Jesse Kamm debacle in November, there were many people questioning, and rightfully so, the cost of expanding sizing for small businesses. For those who aren’t familiar, Jesse Kamm is a popular clothing designer known for her high-waisted wide-leg sailor pant. She publicly accused Madewell of wrongfully using her name in Google Ads to advertise their own high-waisted wide-leg pant. The conversation quickly turned from Google Ads to the lack of inclusivity in both size and diversity in JK’s brand.

Many women took the opportunity to address JK’s rather small sizing and asked for larger sizes. From what I’ve heard, the Sailor Pant runs very small. JK’s justification for not having inclusive sizing were due to the design’s tiny waist (her words, not mine) and the high costs for her small business. That response obviously didn’t bode well and she received even more backlash. 

Even though I can’t speak for all small businesses, I can tell you how much it is costing me to expand our size offering. Now that I am in the process of expanding our sizing, I realize it isn’t as simple as it seems.

The Process

For those who are unfamiliar with clothing manufacturing, the process begins with patterns, samples, pattern adjustments, final samples, graded patterns, and finally production. From the moment you begin, to final production, there are so many changes that take place. Every change costs money, which can easily run you a couple thousand dollars. 

Brands typically use a size small for their patterns and samples, which is considered the base size. Once samples and patterns are finalized, the base size is graded down or up only 3 sizes. Going beyond 3 sizes can lead to disproportionate garments. For example, a pair of pants that are graded up too many sizes will be wide, but way too short for two reasons. Firstly, if you follow the proper grading rules, the length of any given piece is only increased by .5 inches for each size. Secondly, clothing falls differently on varying body types. Bigger hips may require longer lengths to fit the same way it would on someone with smaller hips. 

If your base size is a small, you can only grade up to an XL, which most brands do. If you want to go beyond the XL, you have to start with a larger base size.

Brands who want to expand their sizing have to start with a larger base size like XXL and with different measurements that are more proportionate. That entails doing patterns in an XXL, samples, pattern adjustments, final samples, graded patterns that go up three more sizes, and production. Essentially, companies have to do two sets of size runs in order to make patterns in all of their desired sizes.

Predevelopment Costs for Sizes 0-4

Sample Fabric: $1000

Patterns: $500

Samples: $1500

Graded Patterns: $950

Total: $3950

Estimated Costs for Sizes 5-8

Since we haven’t finished our expanded sizing, these are estimates based on the above.

Samples: $1000

Grade Patterns: $950

Total: $2400

I decreased the estimates for the expanded sizing because I don’t think it will be as time consuming as the original size run because we aren’t starting from scratch. We have final patterns in sizes 0-4 that fit well, so now it’s a matter of making necessary adjustments for a larger size. Either way, that is still an extra $2400 that we hadn’t spent on previous collections.

As a small business will those $2400 break Sotela? Absolutely not. I believe it will open the doors to more women who have been marginalized by the fashion industry and looking for brands who see them.

Ladies, I see you. I hear you. I apologize that it has taken me this long to expand our sizing.

Now I’m sure your next question is– when will the expanded sizing be available? Next week, I will share where we are at in our process and a timeline for its release. I promise you, it’s coming!

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