Germans get taller - and wider | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 23.04.2009
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Germans get taller - and wider

A survey supported by clothes and car manufacturers has shown that women have grown on average at least 4 cm around the hips while the average man has gone up by two chest sizes.

a man having his measurements taken in 3D scanner technology.

This is the first mass measuring in Germany to use high-resolution laser scanning technology

Using the latest in 3D scanner technology, Human Solutions and the textile research institute Hohenstein took 70 separate measurements in sitting and standing positions. The information, the most extensive of its kind to date, will be analyzed by manufacturers who hope eventually to adapt clothing measurements to suit the new German figure.

A woman having her measurements taken in 3D scanner technology.

Textile scientists are collaborating with electronics specialists who measure bodies with lasers

Thomas Rasch is the director of GermanFashion, an organization that represents the German clothing industry. He doesn't expect dramatic changes because of the findings but he says it is sure to influence the way some stores mark and manufacture their sizes in future.

“Now that we know exactly what the proportions are in the population of Germany, we can check the decisions we already made. I don't think it will be a revolution in labeling but we will fine tune it,” he says.

More than 13,000 people between the ages of eight and 86 took part in the survey, which will also be used to benefit furniture design, car interiors - including the length of seat belts - and even operating tables. This was the first such survey of women in 15 years and the first for men in almost three decades.

Tangible effects will take some time to implement. SizeGermany's project manager Dr. Rainer Trieb says it will be several months at least before the findings can be incorporated into new designs.

“Information will be integrated into new products for the coming seasons on a step by step basis. Maybe these results will be completely integrated in the next two or three years,” he says.

If the shoe fits

Interest from the clothing sector is not completely altruistic. A foreseeable side-effect of better-fitting clothing is that people buy more.

The findings have also raised the question of how shops choose to depict clothes sizes. It is often the case that if people feel they fit into a smaller size that they are more inclined to make a purchase. For Rasch there is still a long way to go before there is any real parity in clothes sizing and even longer before retailers across Europe agree on a unified system.

A shopper holding up clothes in a shop.

Because Germans are getting bigger, fewer people fit into standard clothing sizes, set in the 1950s

“The one thing is the new data about the proportion of bodies and the other thing is the question of the future of the labeling of sizes. Retailers across Europe have just started again with the discussion about size zero. They have been discussing this for years and it will take another three years to harmonize,” says Rasch.

It also remains up to the individual brands to what extent they follow sizing guidelines. Luxury brands tailor clothes for a different demographic than high street stores, for example.

“The decision of how to name a piece of clothing is a very individual and a very political decision which is very closely linked with marketing and image and all the things that make up a brand,” Rasch says.

The information from this survey will also form part of an ongoing research project of interest to the participating companies. SizeGermany has created an interactive portal where companies can access the data directly. Regular information from the Federal Statistics Bureau will be included to allow companies to compare the data to changing demographics. One final project is to combine recent body size information gathered from other European surveys.

One thing that has emerged from the statistics is that while Germans are taller than they used to be - a fact linked to affluence, nutrition, and light - they have for the moment reached a growth cap. The German waist though is still expanding.

Author: Tanya Wood
Editor: Michael Lawton

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