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Hohenstein Aims to Improve Baby and Toddler Sizing with 3D Body Scanning Study

Finding the right fit is one of the most challenging aspects of apparel shopping, and it’s also one of the top hurdles in product creation. This is true for adults, but it’s especially difficult to generate graded patterns and assess fit in children’s clothing—particularly for the youngest consumers.

“Compared to older kids and adults, the challenge of developing well-fitting clothes for infants and toddlers is the rapid growth of the body and change in the body proportions within a very short time,” Simone Morlock, head of digital fitting lab at Hohenstein Group, told Sourcing Journal. “Body shapes and proportions influence fit.”

Data is one of the leading tools in designers’ arsenals to create better fitting clothing. By knowing what combination of measurements consumers typically have, companies can make apparel that will more accurately fit the intended portion of the population.  

Testing and certification firm Hohenstein has been conducting body measurement studies since 1957 to create a consistently updated database that designers and product development teams can use to inform size grading. For around the past two decades, this data has been gleaned via 3D body scanning. Now, Hohenstein is expanding its scanning to the littlest consumers: babies and toddlers. The firm scanned 5,626 boys and girls between German sizes 56 and 182, which corresponds to their height in centimeters (approximately 22 inches to 72 inches). From this sample—which went up to age 15—around 20 percent of the usable results were from children 3 or under and 2 percent were of babies under the age of 1.

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One of the reasons why 3D body scanning has not been prevalent for this age group before is the unique challenge of capturing squirmy tots. “For achieving reliable and reproducible results, it is very important to prevent body movements during the scanning process because these movements falsify the body measurement results,” said Morlock. To help limit kids’ movement, Hohenstein installed a television in the scanner to keep children occupied, entertained and focused. Still, many scans had to be “rejected” due to movement.

Another consideration is children who cannot yet stand on their own. For children who could stand upright with some assistance from a mom or dad, Hohenstein captured the parents’ hands as part of the 3D image and then cropped them out. For the usable infant scans, Hohenstein corroborated the results with a tape measure.

Having a better understanding of the spread of heights and measurements for babies and toddlers can assist companies in creating appropriate sizing tables, size grades and garment patterns. “The grading is based on, and strongly correlated to, the body measurements of the kids,” said Morlock. “Without considering the body measurements and shapes and their changes, the fit of the graded pattern and garments will fail.”

Another advantage of 3D scanning is that it provides brands with more reliable virtual 3D fit models for apparel. “Digital fit models must represent the realistic body shapes of human beings—in this case, the kids,” Morlock said. “Without 3D scanning, there are no 3D average body models and no avatars representing the realistic body shapes of kids.”

For retailers, having accurate, consistent fit and sizing across a brand contributes to a reduced return rate, allowing shoppers to trust sizes. “To achieve this, it is important that the product development is based on reliable size charts describing the realistic body measurement and shapes of the target group,” said Morlock. This includes “perfect grading rules” based on real data, which support better fitting apparel that reflects consumers’ needs.

“Well-fitting garments lower returns, increase sustainability and boost customer loyalty,” Morlock said.