Your brand’s fit model is the person who tries on your designs during development so that you can test the fit before production. The fit model is supposed to represent your average customer’s body size and shape so that as you make fit decisions and changes, you know that the garment will fit the end customer. The goal with a fit model is to get the garment to fit your average customer, not to make a bespoke garment just for the fit model. I think that makes a difference. Here are three things to keep in mind during fittings to make sure you are fitting your customers and not just your fit model.
Know how your fit model compares to your brand’s size chart
In reality, is anyone – even your fit model – ever *exactly* perfectly average? That is the interesting thing about people – we are all slightly different – and the fun challenge of fashion design and development. There are brands that specialize in made to measure where the garment is made to fit each individual customer and that is a topic for another day, but the majority of brands are trying to fit all customers based off of the fit of their individual fit model.
When you are trying to fit a whole group of people based off of one person, it is important to understand how your fit model’s measurements, size, and shape might slightly differ from your size chart or average measurements. For example, she may have the same bust, waist, and hip measurement as your chart, but slightly longer-than-average arms or the same bust and hip size, but a ½” larger waist. I think it is fine to base your fit off of a fit model whose overall shape and measurements do match your brand’s average as long as you know where the slight differences are. If you know her arms are long like in our example, you can keep this in mind when fitting the garment and know that it is okay that the sleeves are a tad short on her. Because your goal is to fit the average, and you know where your fit model differs from the average, you can still make fit decisions that get you to that goal.
Keep your range of customers in mind
Another difference between fitting to one person and fitting your average customer based off of a fit model is that your actual customers are a range of sizes and shapes. During a fitting, you do want to get the garment to fit the fit model well and represent your design vision accurately, but you also want to consider how the fit might be on someone slightly different. For example, how would it fit if the actual customer was a cup size larger or smaller than your fit model? Would the design still work well on someone a few inches shorter or taller?
It is impossible to fit each individual customer as well as if you were making a bespoke garment for each person, so the final fit decisions do get based off of your fit model, but I find it helpful to consider the range of your customers when making those decisions. There are often places where you can opt for a fit that can accommodate more body types while still fitting your fit model. For example, instead of sewing a sash belt onto the dress, leaving it as removable with thread belt loops at the side seams so instead of being placed exactly perfect for your fit model, it could be adjusted up or down slightly for customers who have a different bust size or longer or shorter torso. Another example of this fit solution thinking could be adding an adjuster or elastic piece in the back waistband of a high-waisted pant so that the waist not only fits your model, but accommodates customers with varying waist sizes as well.
Acknowledge fit preferences and communicate clearly to the customer
A key skill of designers (and a helpful skill for fit models to have as well, I think) is being able to separate your own personal fit and style preferences or biases from those of your customer. What you might wear personally might not be the same as what your customers want to wear, and it is important to acknowledge that when trying to get the perfect fit for your customers. Each of us has styles and fits we like on our own bodies. You may like more fitted styles, but your customer may prefer a slightly more relaxed fit. As a designer, you need to think in terms of your customer’s preferences, not your own or your fit model’s.
As the designer, you may intentionally create a certain fit or look for the design like making the style cropped, relaxed, tight-fitting, or swingy. A well-fitting garment will fit the body well, but still maintain this design vision. When it comes time to present the style to your customers, it is helpful to communicate this design vision and how it is intended to fit. Your vision for the style might differ from an individual customer’s preference, so it is nice to give them enough details about your design so that they can pick the style that is the best for them. For example, you’ve probably seen on some fashion brands’ websites notes in the product description along the lines of “this style has a more relaxed fit than our classic shirt. If you prefer a more fitted look, size down”. This type of note in the customer-facing product information acknowledges different fit preferences, understands the fit difference between two designs, and recommends the best fit for the customer. By doing this, you are helping to fit your customers, not just your fit model.
While your fit model represents your average customer in fittings during development, they aren’t the exact size of each one of your individual customers. Fitting a fit model in order to fit your customer base takes a different approach than simply fitting a bespoke garment to that individual person. Knowing how your fit model’s measurement might slightly differ from your size chart, keeping in mind your customer range, and acknowledging and communicating fit preferences will help you fit your customers and not just your fit model.