Saturday, 5 January 2013

Japanese sizing and how to judge fit using photos

Topics covered: Where to find sizing information, Japanese standard sizing, Japanese size 9 mannequin, eyeballing fit, shoe sizing.

Most well known lolita brands have websites in with English options or descriptions now.  If you are looking at a specific item, try to find the sizing information using database sites like Hello Lace or Lolibrary.  You can also search customer to customer resale sites like EGL Sales Comm to find measurements taken by individual owners.  These are sometimes inaccurate due to the amateur nature of the measurement taker; however, personal testimony of these owners can often provide invaluable insight into the fit of the item on different body sizes and shapes.  Sometimes, official brand measurements will be inaccurate to some degree.  This is often as a result of tight shirring or not accounting for ease of fit (aka whether or not you'll be able to breath or bend over).  If customer testimonial and measurements are relatively consistent with each other, but also consistently different from the official measurements, it is often more trustworthy to rely on customer measurements as it can be a case of the item "running small".

Stock images and Japanese mannequin pictures will show what the item looks like on a very specific sizing.  The most common sizing of clothing is Japanese size 9.  This equates to a US S or around US 2-4 / UK 6-8.

Many online sizing charts will claim that Japanese size 9 is similar to US size 8-10.  This may have been true at one time (and may still be for looser fit and clothing for older adults); however, this is no longer the case in lolita and other fashions for younger people due the common practice amongst western retailers of scaling down the sizes so that compared to historical sizing, clothing often runs large (so a US size 12 from the 80's will match the measurements of a US size 8 in the present).

The exact measurement from mannequin to mannequin will vary a little, but generally Japanese size 9 mannequins are around the following (with girth matching closely with an average height of 5'2" / 157.5cm, so they have a shorter torso than most western ethnicity):
Shoulder: 13in / 33cm
Bust: 32.3in / 82cm
Waist: 23.2in / 59cm
Hips: 32.3in / 82cm
Remember that this sized mannequin is often used to DISPLAY Japanese size 9 clothing.  This does not mean that these numbers represent what Japanese size 9 measures.

While many brands will list specific measurements for their clothing, there are still some brands and some items that are listed in a very basic tiered small, medium, large system without any further sizing details.  For clothing, Asian sizes tend to run one size smaller than Western sizing, so if you usually wear an American M size, you will need Japanese L size.  This can sometimes be circumvented if the item is very stretchy or has shirring.  When possible, check actual measurements instead of relying on tiered S, M, L measurements.

Japanese clothing also tends to be made to fit a shorter population.  The average height of a modern American female is listed at 5'5" (approx. 165cm) while the average Japanese female is only 5'2" (approx. 157cm).  In pictures, this translates to about 2inches (5cm) shortened off the bottom of tops and blouses and about 3-4inches (7-10cm) shortened off of dresses.  If you are taller than 5'5" or a slightly larger size than Japanese size 9, the bottom hem will lay even higher up than this.  Also remember that the sleeve length will also appear shorter if you have long arms or have proportional arms, but are taller than the Japanese average.

In general, I estimate how much height impacts the fit of an item using the following:
(My height (in inches) - average Japanese height (in inches)) / 2 = how much shorter the bottom hem will appear on me (for a blouse or top)

(My height (in inches) - average Japanese height (in inches)) / 1.3 = how much shorter the bottom hem will appear on me (for a dress)

When official measurements are not available and you are basing fit on magazine or promotional pictures, you can sometimes find measurement information for some popular models.  In this case, you can augment the above formulas by substituting the model's height (in inches) for the average Japanese height.  Lolita models are often closer to the 5feet even mark, so official measurements aren't available and you're quite tall, it's usually safer to assume the models are a little shorter than Japanese average.

If visualization is not your strong point, you can test the sizing by using a similar item and pinning up the hems.  For example, if you're contemplating a cut-sew, find a long sleeve t-shirt or fine knit top and safety pin the sleeves and bottom hem to match the measurements provided (if you can find official measurements or refer to official measurements of a similar item).

If you cannot find official measurements at all (since some brands don't offer measurements on their site), you can estimate by using model pictures.  Again, using the cut-sew example, pin the hem and sleeves to match where they land on the model picture to your body.  Then take up the hem some more based on the calculations above.  This will give you a good estimate of how it will fit on you.

For lolita in particular, bust to waist ratio is also of high importance when judging fit.  Standard lolita items are not made to fit a high ratio, so if you have a large cup size, carefully consider the fit and whether or not there is enough room in the bust area unless you plan to bind your chest.

Japanese shoe sizes are based on actual measurements of foot length in centimeters.  To measure your foot length/Japanese shoe size, place your foot on a ruler with "0" being behind the back most portion of your heel when you place your full weight even distributed on your feet (standing works best) and measure to the very tip of the toe that sticks out furthest (big toe or 2nd toe for most people).  It is very important to do this while standing because your feet spread out when your weight is placed on them, so you need to measure the full length to avoid the shoes being too short to walk in.

If you can't seem to get a good measurement on your own, go to any shoe store or athletic wear store with a shoe section and have an employee help measure you using a sizing tool.  Make sure to measure while standing here as well or the shoes will be a little too short when worn.

If you want to be on the very safe side, you can add 0.5 of a size to the measurement.  This will help allow for a little extra toe room and even a little extra width if your feet are a little wide.  If the fit winds up being slightly loose, you can always add an insole which will reduce the shoe size while adding some extra comfort.  When in doubt, go up half a cm.  Slightly loose is better than too tight to wear.

Japanese shoes (usually fashion shoes) also often come in tiered sizes.  The conversion is as follows (although some brands may run a little small or narrow).
S = 22-22.5
M = 23-23.5
L = 24-24.5cm
XL = 25-25.5cm

If in doubt, just don't buy them.  Shoes are one item that really require proper fit.  Wearing shoes that are too small can cause problems in your feet and your back, so this is one item that should not be dealt with by suffering for the sake of fashion.

As for everything else, don't plan on squeezing in based on the maximum measurements.  Clothing is often extremely uncomfortable if you need to maximize how far the shirring will stretch or don't keep ease of fit in mind.  For many items, you also have to allow extra room for a blouse (although you can sometimes cheat this by skipping the blouse and wearing a cardigan or bolero on top of a JSK instead).  It is much better to play it safe and not wander too close to the maximum measurements unless you are willing to risk it not fitting at all.

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