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System fits male sailors

Classic or athletic, the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility (NCTRF) has developed a men’s sizing system for uniforms that will give sailors a much improved appearance and fit.

Female sailors were first for the NCTRF, an installation partner at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick), regarding changes to uniform sizes. An anthropometric study of females in the late 1980s resulted in a new sizing system for female sailors that incorporated the three body types and lengths and size standards used by the apparel industry at that time.

The Army, Air Force and Coast Guard subsequently adopted the women’s sizing system, and the intent behind the changes for men is the same.

Off the rack uniform
A sharper fitting uniform off the rack is the main benefit of the Navy men’s sizing system.

“It reduces alterations and improves appearance,” said Sirvart Mellian, program manager for Anthropology and Sizing at the NCTRF. “(The sailors) are as excited as we are about it.”

The proposed changes classify the Navy’s coats, shirts and pants as classic and athletic body types. A chest measurement at least 6 inches greater than the waist measurement define the athletic upper-body type, and a hip measurement at least 6 inches greater than the waist define the athletic lower-body type. The classic body type has a less than 6-inch difference between those critical measurements.

Mellian said Navy Exchange stores and the NCTRF were receiving comments from dissatisfied customers about poor-fitting uniforms and high alteration costs.

“They were telling us we had a fit problem with our uniforms,” she said. “In the military you’re restricted as to where you can buy your uniforms. You can’t shop at various stores to find the line of clothing that is designed for your body type and looks good on you, so it’s important that we have uniforms that have the appropriate sizing to satisfy the demographics of our population.”

Mixing a “combination of art and science,” Mellian, who also helped develop the women’s sizing system, wanted to develop a system based on Navy anthropometric data. She collected 38 clothing-related anthropometric dimensions from a sample of 1,338 sailors that demographically represented the Navy by age, race and rank.

“What’s unique is that while we collected our anthropometric data, we also had each sailor try on 17 current Navy uniform items to identify specific size and fit problems. We evaluated the size and fit, and collected their input regarding the problems they were experiencing with their uniforms,” Mellian said. “Combining the anthropometric, size, and fit data, and information collected during the survey, we hope to get as close to satisfying our user-population as possible.”

Besides identifying the two body types, the new sizing system solved problems observed during uniform size and fit evaluation, developed same-size standards for each garment type to eliminate confusion of uniform size, and established an idea of fit for each garment type. It also standardized seam allowances of each garment type.

By having their critical body dimensions measured, sailors can identify their correct body type and size, and then mix and match body types and sizes to find the best fit.

With such a wide variety of body shapes, minor alterations may still be necessary, according to Mellian.

In spring 2000, NCTRF completed an evaluation at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Naval Training Center Great Lakes that verified the patterns for the athletic and classic body types. Final verification occurred in February 2002 at Naval Station Norfolk.

Mellian said she eagerly anticipates implementation of the new sizing system by the Navy and other military services.

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