Sizeable Shifts

Much has changed during the last 15 years … including us.

Studies from the U.S. Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and others indicate that a number of factors, including an aging population, shifting ethnic demographics and a significant increase in obesity rates, have had an impact on the “size” of North America.

But exactly what size are we now? The answer to that question will come as a result of the Size NorthAmerica study, the most extensive body-measurement study ever conducted across the United States and Canada.

Through 2018, a demographically diverse group of more than 17,000 men, women and children (ages 6-75) will be scanned using state-of-art 3D laser technology to identify changes in body sizes, measurements and proportions of people in North America. The Human Solutions group, a leader in fashion technology, and Vestechpro, a research and innovation center supporting the apparel industry, are conducting the survey.

A variety of organizations – from universities and apparel companies to car, furniture and airplane manufacturers, have signed on to sponsor the study.

N.C. State University was one of the first organizations to sign on as a sponsor of the Size NorthAmerica study. Dr. Cynthia Istook, program chair for fashion design and fashion development at the College of Textiles, specializes in apparel fit and mass customization.

“We know that body shapes and sizes have changed considerably in recent years, but we are relying on data from 15 years ago,” Istook said. “That is why the Size NorthAmerica study is so important.”

Pulling data on children under 18 and capturing people in multiple postures – three standing and one sitting – also make the study unique, according to Istook.

“There will be significant value in better understanding the ‘size’ of our youth,” she said. “I think we’ll find that our children are larger than in any other point in history. That’s not a great thing, but important for us to know.

“We’ve also never had good information from large-scale studies on how the body changes with movement,” she added. “This survey will give us insights as specific as how biceps change when the arm is flexed at 90 degrees.”

HanesBrands joined N.C. State University and others to back the Size NorthAmerica study.

“The data from this study will allow us to develop reliable, up-to-date and realistic size tables and offer more comfortable fits for our consumers,” said Mike Abbott, director of research and development at HanesBrands. “And it is no surprise that consumers of all ages – from millennials to baby boomers – rank fit as one of the most important criteria for apparel.”

Istook believes the study will impact the way brands create, size and market clothing.

“I hope that this new data will be used across the apparel industry to establish more uniformity in sizing,” she said. “Standard sizing – meaning a size eight, for example, is the same from one brand to another – would be a tremendous benefit for consumers.”

More about the study, including scanning locations that are open to the public, can be found at