Meet the Researcher: Dr Hye-Won Lim

Consistent and predictable sizing is a priority for many consumers, but continues to be a real challenge for the entire fashion industry. Dr Hye-Won Lim, Lecturer in Fashion Design at the University of Leeds, is committed to finding new ways to achieve the right size and fit for brands and customers alike.

Hye-Won returned to Leeds, where she completed her MA and PhD, in January after spending three years in the fashion team at Birmingham City University. Originally from Korea, she came to Leeds to develop her research in adapting pattern cutting methods to account for different body types.

From there her PhD took her to researching body size and sizing systems by analysing and comparing data from childrenswear in the UK and Korean markets.

“As children grow up, their body sizes change with different growth intervals while body shape and proportions are also changing irregularly. The physical growth rates and body proportion changes across gender and ethnicity between children in the two countries make them interesting to compare,” Hye-Won explains.

Dr Hye-Won Lim at the University of Leeds

The last national sizing survey for UK adults took place in 2001. Although SizeUK was extremely valuable, Hye-Won says, it is clear that the industry needs more recent information on which to base decisions about sizing and fit. This is an important part of her current research, making use of technologies that have become commonplace in the past two decades.

“We need data from several thousand people to get a statistically relevant result, but people can now measure themselves at home with their smartphones,” she says. “Some 3D body scanning technologies are available through mobile apps so we have the potential to generate lots of useful information.”

As well as understanding how the average size of UK consumers has changed, the data could be used by brands to adapt their products to their target audiences. If certain body shape changes can be seen between different demographics, for example, businesses can adjust pattern grading intervals to get the best fit for their market.

Sizing is far from an exact science, and Hye-Won also investigates the psycho-physiological factors that impact how we choose size and fit. Some people prefer a tighter or looser fit, while individuals’ perceptions of fit can vary with their mood.

“It’s absolutely about psycho-physiological comfort as well as physical comfort from a consumer perspective,” she adds, “But that is also useful information for brands. Inconsistent sizing can be a real source of stress and discomfort for shoppers that impacts on what they buy and where they shop.”

With so many variables to consider, Hye-Won is interested in understanding how digital garment technologies needs to be adapted for customised clothing, where these individual needs and preferences are especially important. She is also excited to apply these technologies to inclusive design, plus-size and maternity clothing, and even sportswear, where patterns could be adapted to make specific movements more comfortable.

Digital pattern software and 3D simulation technology offer fresh scope to explore these ideas without generating sampling waste. Hye-Won says this could be particularly exciting for smaller brands and manufacturers.

“I would be really interested to see how these new systems impact on efficiency and how much freedom they offer designers,” she adds. “Trialing them with new businesses, making use of the facilities we have here in the School of Design, could offer lots of potential.”

If you have an idea or a challenge with which Hye-Won could support you, get in touch with her: