Inclusive Uniforms: Why and how to cater to all body sizes
Providing uniforms for all body sizes is encouraged for companies and employers, who often view diversity in the workplace as something valuable. A good uniform, which has a big role in the visual identity of a company, is also responsible for the staff’s comfort in the workplace.
Although we recognize this now, it hasn’t always been this way.
A bit of History
With the start of mass manufacturing at the beginning of the 20th century, the clothing industry developed very few variations of size to make production easier.
Clothing was produced in limited sizes in the early 20th century
This automatically made it difficult for people who deviated from the standards imposed to find clothes that fit them well. People would often find pieces too big, too small, too tight, or loose for their body size.
Although the first exclusively plus-sized retailer was established in 1904 by Lena Bryant in New York, it wasn’t until the Cultural Revolution and fat-acceptance movements of the 1960s that the issue of sizes in the fashion industry started being discussed.
Gradually, this cultural shift has significantly changed the fashion industry and diversity has become the goal of companies everywhere, and especially in New Zealand.
Body sizes in uniforms
In New Zealand, inclusivity in the workplace is valuable and is often encouraged by businesses. The labour force in the country is already incredibly diverse, with women representing 50%, while 25% are immigrants and another 25% have disabilities.
Because uniforms have the function of visually representing the values and qualities of the company, designing with the diversity of shapes present in the community ensures your business is walking the talk.
Why care about this?
The diversity of body types is a matter employers have to handle when designing and ordering uniforms for their staff.
Inclusivity is indeed a valued quality for businesses because it shows the company is modern, making it more attractive to the public and investors. But this is not the sole reason why it matters.
Having the uniform designed and tailored to fit different bodies properly is also a matter of comfort for the staff. If the employee wears a uniform that doesn’t fit them well, it can make them feel physically uncomfortable and affect their job performance. On the other hand, if the uniform fits nicely, it can easily improve their confidence and their performance too.
This is especially true if they work in customer service because it can directly impact their treatment of clients.
It is also important to note that a well-fitting uniform looks more neat and professional, which can have a positive visual impact on clients. Additionally, getting the right fit is ideal for the employer’s budget in the long term because it could avoid needing to replace them so soon.
Finally, being inclusive to everyone ensures that you’ll never have to turn away an outstandingly talented person because they can’t fit in your uniform.
How to cater to different sizes?
When formulating new designs, make sure to:
- Design unisex uniforms if your company has a high rate of staff turnover. This way you won’t be bogged down by the pressure of needing to hire people with specific body types because of the uniform design.
- Keep religious dress codes in mind. Design uniforms that only need slight adjustments if needed for a religious staff member. They might need a more modest version of the uniform, with long sleeves and pants, and even a headscarf.
- Keep in mind that in some cases, individuals might need the uniform to be made personalized for them. This could be crucial for employees with disabilities. Therefore, it’s important to work with a provider that can make a tailored version of the piece.
When ordering new pieces, make sure to:
- Ask the staff how they prefer the uniforms to fit them. Getting their opinions guarantees that you are both on the same page on how the uniform will look and that they will be comfortable with it.
- Measure each of the staff’s body section. Measure around the neck for the collar without pulling the tape too tight. For the chest, measure around the wide part of the torso, under the armpits. Meanwhile, for waist measure the where the torso and hips meet. Finally, for the legs, measure from the inside of the crotch to the ankle bone.
Knowing the exact measurements is help because factories often have size categories with different measurements. For instance, the size “large” of one company’s catalogue can refer to another’s measurements of the size “medium”.
- Have them try on a mock-up to make sure it’s the right size and that it fits them well.
Having a diverse company can bring so many benefits to your company and following these simple practices can make sure anyone and everyone will be comfortable in the workplace.