loves buzz words. The latest ones: alpha sizing.
phrase was the subject of a recent Wall Street Journal
story predicting that more apparel designers and brands
likely will ditch numeric clothing measurements in
exchange for alpha sizes small, medium and large (and
sometimes extra-large sizes). Ever since, cyberspace has
been swirling with questions about what this claim could
mean for clothes — and the people who make and buy
mass ready-to-wear designers and manufacturers, it’s
means more sizes can fit into an alpha size," says
Rikki Hommel, a lead faculty member in the fashion
design program at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Rather than having to create a look in sizes zero
through 12 or larger, an alpha size combines two or
three different sizes into a single fit. (In other
words, sizes 2, 4 and 6 might all make up a small in
alpha sizing.) This means designers have fewer fits to
figure out for each piece and save money as a result of
the size cuts.
consumers, however, the switch in size scales could
bring varied shopping experiences. On one hand, it might
be easier to find a desired fit for apparel with a
boxier silhouette — with less guessing. (For example,
if you want a tighter fit, go down a size. For a baggier
one, try a medium or a large.) But seeking a more
fitted, figure-flattering ensemble that cradles curves
in all the right places could be trickier to track down.
transition to alpha sizing also could mean differences
in the types of fabrics designers use.
going to see a lot more knit and spandex and
comfort-wear fabrics," says Pittsburgh-based
designer Kiya Tomlin. "Maybe we’ll see a decline
in the use of woven fabrics" because they don’t
have as much stretch and give.
path isn’t surprising in an age when active wear
(think yoga clothes) are worn as everyday casual attire
and sportier silhouettes continue to crop up on the
is going to be a little more voluminous, a little more
stretchy," Tomlin says.
trend — and the fact that comfortable chic clothes are
easier for dressing the masses — influenced her to
design a line of sweatshirt dresses as part of her
initial foray into ready-to-wear fashion. At her studio
she also creates custom pieces, a service that could
become in greater demand if more brands board the alpha
you want something that is fitted to you, then that
becomes more important to have a custom garment
maker," she says.
wear clothing sizes have long been a sea of speculation
for shoppers. A woman who slips perfectly into a size 8
in one store but swims in a size 4 by another retailer
is commonplace and the result of vanity sizing, or the
fact that the U.S. government doesn’t enforce a
standard of measurements for women’s clothing. Alpha
sizing likely won’t help with size standardizations
small by one brand might offer a looser fit than a
medium alpha size in a different store based on how many
numeric scale sizes a piece tries to accommodate within
a single alpha size, Hommel says. And expect skewing
sizes to soothe shoppers’ egos to come into play.
who fits in a higher numeric size might be able to fit
in a small (alpha size) because it fits three
sizes," Ms. Hommel says. "I’m sure that’s
something companies might look into because it can make
the wearers feel better about themselves."