National Childrenswear Survey – first results on changes in children’s body shape for 20 years

3D body scan study
Representation of 11-year-old boy in 1978 (left) compared to 11-year-old in 2010

18 April 2011

Aston University has been involved in Shape GB the first ever national sizing survey using 3D body scanners to measure children aged 4-17.

The part publicly funded study, reveals the first results on changes in children’s body shape for over 20 years. The research involved universities, major high street retailers and specialists in 3D measurement.

The aim of Shape GB was, for the first time, to be able provide a clear representation and understanding about the changing shape of the nation’s children compared to the last published data from the British Standards Institute (BSI) in 1990. The 1990 standard was developed from a set of measurements collected in 1978; which reinforced the need for a new industry standard.

Clothing retailers have continued to improve and upgrade their own measurements based on customer feedback and internal fittings due to the limitations of the published data. However, Shape GB data now provides the industry with a new benchmark and insight into children’s size and shape.

The data shows that height and weight of children has increased gradually over the last two decades and this has led to an inevitable change in size and shape. When comparing the data for 11 year-old boys and girls, chest, waist and hips have all increased (See below). There are significant changes in body shape for children; many retailers assume that boys and girls have the same body shape up to the age of seven, but Shape GB data now concludes that changes in body shape between boys and girls occur at a much earlier age. The data also suggests that retailers need to reflect increases in height in their labelling, as many currently label a five-year-old boy as being an average height of 110cm. However, Shape GB now calculates the average height of a five-year-old boy at 115cm, which suggests that many parents are being forced to ‘buy up’ to get clothes that will fit their children properly. 

Over an 18 month period from March 2009 to August 2010 more than 2,500 children aged 4-17 were scanned at 12 locations across England, Scotland and Wales, to obtain a representative sample of Great Britain. The 3D scanners collated nearly 200 measurements automatically in six seconds for each child, creating a robust 3D data set never previously available. The scope of the new data set offers opportunities for further insight and development on body shape for retailers, sports scientists and for healthcare in due course.

The four sponsoring retailers Next, Monsoon, Shop Direct and George at Asda are using the Shape GB data set to design future clothing ranges and other retailers are now able to obtain the data, which may ultimately create and harmonise measurement standards, both in this country and in Europe.

Richard Barnes, MD of Select Research, whose company managed the survey, explained; “This new 3D data gives us a first ever insight on children’s body shape, never available before. Children’s body shapes have changed in the last 20 years and this is the first time it can be properly compared and measured. This allows us to understand the changes that boys and girls go through as they grow up, when these changes occur, and how this can be managed in the future”.

Example measurements - Girls aged 11

Girls Age 11

Height (cm)

Chest (cm)

Waist (cm)

Hips (cm)

BS 7231: 1990

146.03 *

71.31 *

59.96 *

77.81 *

Shape GB: 2010


78.4 1

70.2 1

81.78 1

Example measurement - Boys aged 11

Boys Age 11

Height (cm)

Chest (cm)

Waist (cm)

Hips (cm)

BS 7231: 1990

144.63 *

68.76 *

61.49 *

73.22 *

Shape GB: 2010


78.45 1

70.02 1 

80.21 1


* Body measurements of *boys and girls from birth up to 16.9 years (British Standard BS 7231: Part 1 & Part 2: 1990). As stated in Part 1; Section one of the BS 7231 standard, data was analysed in 1988 from manual measurements collected in 1978 from circa 3,585 boys and 4,770 girls aged 5.0 to 16.9.

1 The 3D scanner measures the surface of the skin without compressing like a chainette or tape measure and measures the small of the back. Consequently, the 3D scanner will measure approximately 1.9cm more than by tape measure, but repeatability of measurement has been validated and proven to be more accurate compared to manual measurement. Shape GB data was analysed in 2011 from 3D scan data collected in 2009 and 2010.


For media enquiries, please contact:

Alex Earnshaw, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4549 or a.earnshaw@aston.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

Shape GB is the first national childrenswear survey to measure children and the first using 3D body scanners, creating automated and accurate measurements for retail sizing.

The collaborating universities on Shape GB were: Aston University, University of Hull, University of Hertfordshire, Loughborough University, Manchester Metropolitan University,

About the 3D Body Scanner

The 3D Scanner involves no contact, uses safe white light technology and is completely safe involving no radiation or lasers. Once the scan image is collected and stored for data analysis, the 3D image remains totally anonymous.  The 3D Scanner is housed in a 4x5ft square upright booth where a person can stand to be measured. There are a series of 16 sensors and 32 cameras, programmed by a standard PC to create a ‘virtual’ body image.  Over 400 unique points of measurement can be extracted from any one scan. Manufactured by [TC]2 in Cary, North Carolina USA, the 3D scanner used for Shape GB - the National Childrenswear Survey uses the same technology provided by [TC]2 for Size UK – The National Adult Sizing Survey in 2001.