SPESA Trip Report: Kathleen pt.4

Another thing that seemed to be the rage at the show (see Eric’s and my previous posts) was dress forms. Lots and lots of dress forms. Dress forms -or Judies as our northern neighbors say- have gone high tech. While the traditional “off the peg” papier-mâché Wolf form crafted to ASTM specifications were available in abundance, the focus was on new technology. Companies are scanning and molding live bodies and using innovative materials. The leader in this market was easily Alvanon with their Alva Forms.

I don’t even know what to write about this company. They definitely intend to dominate fitting technologies in the international apparel industry. Maybe that sounds negative, how to better phrase it? Alvanon has made incredible investments in studying body sizing worldwide and we -to include consumers- will benefit. They’re upending the apple cart. Right now, the data from sizing studies is only available to people who can fork out $20,000 for the Sizing USA study but Alvanon is a private company, not public like TC2, and I expect the cost of their data sets to be much lower, even tenable. Perhaps even better, you can order a dress form matching these dimensions. Actually, you can buy forms in a way I think is much better, demographical, according to your target market. The ASTM data sets aggregate measures. You have no idea what the “average” customer reflected in the charts is willing to pay, her tastes, lifestyle, and disposable income. Alvanon’s forms will reflect a profile consumer of your choosing. One interesting form you can buy is that of your “aspirational” customer. I wanted to ask about it but even with Janice Wang’s ear, our meeting went over budget with many questions left unasked.


Speaking of, I have a (perhaps premature) disclosure to make. I will be affiliated with Alvanon in some way (and they will be supporting F-I). We’ve agreed to work together but my role is as yet undefined. My contributions may be loosely related to analysis and feedback on research, specifically morphology, anthropometry and discussions of the potentiality of the application of both. That sounds nebulous. Put it in the context of my thoracic shaping entries and you can figure out what I mean. Interestingly enough, once I described the characteristics of this kind of chest shaping, Janice said their stock fit model Maureen had this configuration but they modified her shape for the stock form. I’m hoping they’ll start tracking this body type so we can get an idea of how prevalent this is.

Off topic but bearing a mention here, Alvanon is an active participant of ASTM D-13 and they’ve made some recent contributions with regard to the presentation of the data sets (body measurement charts, see more here). It has irritated me for years that the measurement points in the standards are described but not illustrated -and don’t get me started on the descriptions themselves. With the goal of eliminating some ambiguities, Alvanon has donated their proprietary body shape depictions (by size!) with the measurement points marked off. I made the suggestion that the visuals could be modified to include the measuring point designation numbers as this would help everybody immensely but non-English speakers as well. This new format (still in balloting) will be effective with the release of the new standards, mostly likely November, I’ll let you know (I profoundly regret I can’t include samples but I have a non-disclosure with ASTM). One last bit of sizing news, the new standards will include measuring charts for plus size children’s wear.

I imagine I’ll be writing about Alvanon more as things progress. While most of their existing products and services (largely fit and size consulting as well as custom form manufacturing) are geared toward larger players, I’m anticipating the “crumbs” (poor description) of their research in the form of data sets to be accessible to everyone. They are remarkably transparent and accessible. They are planning very exciting studies, one of which is a do-over of the sizing for women over age 55 (I have never liked the existing study). Janice says they plan to break it down by age blocks of ten years each and include demography data. Ever the easily amused, this makes me happy happy happy! Speaking of Janice (Alvanon CEO), here’s a picture of her. She’s so young. Most of the people working for her are much older.

Returning to the topic of the dress forms, I preferred the Alvanon forms for several reasons. Below is a photo in which I was attempting to capture the shape of the upper center thoracic region. Most dress forms show this area as concave (hollowed) but the upper region of the thorax is convex (bows slightly outward) in real life; the Alva form (but not the photo) reflects this shaping.

Below is a photo of the bust and waist area. I love that the bottom of the rib cage shaping is evident. I also like the taping off and the grid lines. By the way, these are easily pinned, more so than the traditional forms.

Below is a view of the derrière. In this view, I like the upper side thigh shaping -slight saddlebags- which is more accurate of women’s thighs albeit more slender than average.

Below are two photos of the child forms. Wholesale adorableness aside, unlike the heads on other forms, these include the phisionomic features required when designing children’s hats and hoods.

Continuing on with dress forms in general, rats and double drats but the photos I took of the Tukatech forms didn’t come out other than the ones in the background of this photo with Ram.

I’m on the fence about the Tuka forms for two reasons. One, they were weirdly squishy, it was kind of gross (sorry Ram) but they were definitely pinnable. Squishy is actually a good feature in many kinds of product design so please, don’t let my impressions sway you. Second, these were definitely modeled after real people and while you’d think that is the selling point, reality doesn’t always work that way. One of those forms reminded me wayyyy too much of old me, ham hocks, cellulite and all. I kid you not. Call me neurotic but I avoided the forms, they made me uncomfortable. I wonder if other women have that reaction and if they do, how strongly. Maybe we’ll have to send the boys to buy our forms. These were definitely accurate. If you’re targeting the plus size market, I’d definitely recommend you consider these. I didn’t ask the price. I don’t know why I didn’t. Now I almost feel guilty for giving n-hega such a hard time. I did inquire at one point but the price didn’t register beyond noting the price was a value proposition.

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