Why is Tall Clothing Sizing so Inconsistent?

I’ve got lots of emails from some of you frustrated with tall clothing sizing being so inconsistent.  Hey, I’m in the boat as all of you! It frustrates me too, so don’t shoot the messenger! As much as I’d love to buy everything I see and give you reviews and sizing on every brand of jeans, shirt, dress as well as shoes, it’s just not going to work within my budget. I wish I could though! 🙂 But, I have learned a few things over the years on how clothes are designed and manufactured. Today I’m sharing with you some insights as to why you may purchase a shirt one season and the seemingly same shirt the next season, but suddenly the sizing is so much different.  Also I’m offering a few tips for those interesting in creating a clothing line someday. It’s a dream that I have!

being well dressed

The fit of a garment depends on the pattern maker. If you don’t find a good pattern maker you’re doomed.  And skilled pattern makers are hard to find, especially ones that can adapt to tall sizing – meaning not just adding inches of fabric to the arms and legs, but proportionally make everything fit correctly.  So how do you find these pattern makers? That’s the million dollar question as many clothing makers like to keep the ones they find in under lock and key. I’ve tried to get Liz from Elle Mayers to tell me her pattern maker and manufacturer, but she just won’t. (Actually, I don’t blame her and we’re good friends.)

A few tips: you will need to send these pattern makers as many measurements as possible with lots of back and forth discussions. Then they will mail you (or you will pickup) a  pattern and perhaps a mock-up garment that you can have adjusted with more fit changes. You will have a pattern made say like in a size 8 and then the pattern maker will create patterns smaller and larger from just this one size. So you had better get the fit just how you want it the first time. Some companies choose to forgo the larger sizes as they often have to create a pattern in say a size 16 and then size up from there as the pattern can get too inconsistent based on the smaller size. It all adds up.

Multiple brands within a Large Store – Let’s use JCPenney as an example. They have a men’s tall clothing section as well as women’s. They are selling multiple brands within their tall section and each label has their own sizing. So it’s quite frankly hard to tell whether one brand fits the same as the next one.  If they don’t supply a size chart for each brand, it can really throw us off.

Independent tall stores have the best chance at getting the sizing right as they can create their own patterns and are generally good at supplying us with size charts. However, if they are a new store, it may take a season or two to perfect the pattern sizing. For example – last year I decided to buy two items from a fairly new tall store. One was a pair of leggings and this store did a decent job with the leggings. The other item was a sweatshirt and I can tell you that the sweatshirt was one of the worst fitting items I have ever worn.  It’s as if the pattern maker didn’t account for women having a chest at all as it turned into a tight sports bra and then the shoulders were about 3 inches too wide. I couldn’t believe how ill-fitting it was. When I showed it to Mr. Tall, he literally fell over laughing, it really was that bad!  A good pattern maker is worth the money!

Let’s move on to manufacturing.

Once you’ve finally got a good pattern, it’s time to find a manufacturer. If you are making items in the USA, perhaps you can travel to some manufacturers and see if they can make your item. Sometimes they will even let you be there while the items are sewn so you can be part of the quality control.

Let’s say you want to design an entire line of clothing, did you know that you may have to have many manufacturers? Most clothing manufacturers specialize in sewing only one type of fabric. Some may only work with denim garments, while others only construct knit items.  It gets to be a confusing game of finding out who sews what. Also you can’t use the same pattern for a shirt designed to be polyester cotton and suddenly you want it in made it knit. The knit can stretch out too much as thus requires a different pattern. This is a huge mistakes that some newbies may make.

Another obstacle is getting a manufacturer to make low quantities of items. When you are just starting out, you want to create the lowest number of items possible or you are going to run into a serious cash flow problems. You will get a better price per product with bigger runs, but who can afford that when you are specializing for a niche?

 Overseas manufacturing can save you money. However, what if they don’t understand your instructions for making tall items?  I’ve read of stories where the manufacturer really thought they knew best and so they resized the items to what they thought would be average sized. Then all the items had to be totally remade as it was supposed to be tall sized.  It can help to have a middle-man who speaks English and works close to the manufacturer so they can translate and do quality control, but then again, you will pay the middle-man a fee too!

Overseas manufacturers are notorious for cutting corners and doing things like slipping in cheaper fabrics after 1 or more runs on the items. – The substituted cheap fabric for them (not you) may shrink or they may have even sub-contracted it out to their manufacturers with less quality control.

When you are starting out, it may be best to try to keep your manufacturing within the country you live, as you will have fewer headaches and cultural/language problems to overcome.

If you are considering creating a clothing line, the best resource I have found is a Facebook page called Fashion-Incubator. The owner has written this book with detailed instructions on how to create a clothing line. The book’s expensive, but invaluable and once you buy the book, you have access to a forum that gives you insider manufacturers, etc.  I highly recommend buying the book.

One way to get over worrying about fit issues, is to realize that not everything will fit perfectly all of the time. As tall people, we have to be willing to buy multiple sizes, get them shipped to us, try and them on and return the sizes that don’t fit. Yep, you didn’t want to hear them from me, that’s the reality. Until all tall sizes are in stores, this is the best I’ve got for you.

I’m not an expert in manufacturing clothing, but these are a few things I have learned. Does anyone more experienced than myself have any other tips? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

krista tall clothing mall


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About Krista Mayne

Standing in at 6'2" tall, Krista Mayne is the the owner of Tall Clothing Mall, Wasatch Travel and Palm Tree Trips. Life is crazy as a serial blogger. Tall Clothing Mall started in 2006 after she became frustrated with finding tall clothes. She loves to travel and spend times with her husband and 5 children.