Our Research Program
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Research conducted by Cornell professors Susan Ashdown and Suzanne Loker (see Contributors) challenges some of the assumptions behind methods now used by apparel companies to develop sizing systems. Research projects explore the role body scan data can play in satisfying consumers' desire for good fit while advancing the competitiveness of the domestic apparel industry. The focus of the research is to find ways to use body scanners to improve current practices. The initial research project at Cornell was funded by the National Textile Center and focused on improving ready-to-wear sizing systems.

Initial research focused on the development of protocols for collecting body scan data -- including issues such as what each study participant should wear, how they should be positioned, and how the data should be organized and measured. The software that comes with the body scanner creates automatic lists of linear measurements very quickly, but this is only a fraction of the information that is available from a body scan. So the next step was to look for additional software tools to analyze the data in other ways.

Ashdown and Loker adopted a program that was created for the automotive industry, where 3D scanning is extensively used in design. The program (Polyworks, by Innovmetric) merges into one layer the overlapping data from different camera views. The software also has tools that can be used to patch holes in the scan, so that linear, surface area, slice area, and volume measures can be made of the body. Finally, several 3D visualization options are available so that users can view the body scan as a smooth surface, points, or slices, and can rotate, reposition, and zoom in to critical fit areas.

New ways to visualize and measure misfit are also made possible by this software. In the past we could only look at the garment from the outside and see where it stretches or sags. Now we can actually measure the space between the outside of the body and the inside of the clothing -- the very essence of fit!

Four kinds of measurements reveal much about body shape and clothing fit: volumes, surface areas, linear measures (circumferences), and slice areas (cross sections). (Image: Deviron, LLC)

In their first major project Ashdown and Loker collected body scan data on women from an apparel company's specific target market. Subjects were scanned to capture their body size and shape, and were scanned again wearing the best-fitting pants from the company's size range. The measurement differences between the body and pant scan define the level of fit or misfit. This is a new kind of information that can be used to evaluate the company's sizing system and to propose changes that will fit more of the target market, i.e., increase the number of people that the company wants as customers who can find garments that fit well.

New sizing systems and grade rules may be recommended based on the results of this study. The goal of the research is to provide a model process and mathematical approach to improve fit for individual companies based on their target markets and current sizing systems.

The Lycra scanning suit was designed to be worn over the subject’s ordinary underwear to make the scan process more comfortable. (Image: University Photography)

For the first time, we can visualize and measure the space between the body and clothing and truly capture the fit of the garment. (Image: Adriana Petrova)