Return to site

Measuring Up

This cover photo is a Large measurement tag I use at my job. My jobs, actually.

I have spent most (ok all) my adult life in the costume shops of the biggest television shows & films. And it has taught me invaluable lessons about efficiency, user research and customer (costumer) needs.

I create a better User Experience for my costume colleagues.

Right now while I'm working as a UX (user experience) designer for a small tech solutions company - I also work at two costume shops (like many rappers of our generation, everyday I'm hustling).

I actually love fixing problems. I have to confess,  I love to come in and make things easier to use and understand. My friend MacKenzie used to say that I could turn a desk covered in vomit into a bouquet of roses (she is both wordsmith and a very loving friend)

So back to the L(arge) measurement tags.

Let me explain this process. Laundry, shopping, all these clothes come into the costume shop / office & there are racks and racks of stock. All the clothes are separated by categories & then by size. Simple enough.

broken image
Restock: The struggle is real.

When there are multiple racks of clothes to size - it can be a daunting task. Restocking is one of the most dreaded tasks for my colleagues. Most people HATE IT.

I on the other hand, am a super nerd. I love lining all the clothes up by type, efficiently slapping those tags on and putting them away ... Slowly watching the rack become empty.

But more importantly I love to create the tag organizer for each job. (see pic below)

Its very similar to the concept of customer research - creating it with the customer (and in this case, the cast of the film or tv show) in mind.

The reason for the tag organizer is 2-fold. 1. It makes things faster not having to write out each size (making you an impressive & efficient worker in the process) and 2. It is better for the environment, as each tag is used over & over again. Many new productions are pushing green initiatives, and this can be a way for us to reuse, recycle and be good Americans. 

broken image

The picture above is the measurement tag organizer I created for a particular show that has such a ridiculous amount of security, I'm not allowed to say I work on it... which is a little overkill, but maybe there IS someone about to rent a helicopter, parachute onto the roof of our building, scale down the side and break into the window of our costume shop (the costumes ARE amazing)... or just admire my super sweet measurement tags.  Those are pretty cool too.  

For our purposes here let's say the show is your run of the mill cop show. Not a lot of suits. Mostly a male cast. Dudes that are regular sizes.

So, take a look at the pic - and let's dive in the sweet minutiae.  

  1. Stock the first tag pocket at 24's. This is usually the smallest waist size sold in stores. Not 23, not 28.  
  2. At 30 (or 29 if ya got skinny dudes on your show) start the 30 x 32 tags. 32 is a common inseam (I don't have the actual scientific research but please go to my imdb page to RECOGNIZE)
  3. When you have a 30 or 34 or 36 inseam then grab a 30 tag and draw a ___ or an x under it and write it  out.  **Perhaps you are working on a show like HBO's Ballers, full of tall muscular dudes, then ADJUST THE INSEAM Y'ALL. Your tags are commonly 34 inseam. Write that under the __ or x and congratulate yourself on having excellent foresight.**
  4. Then the beauty begins ... A 36 or 38 tag can become your suit / sportcoat sizes. Yea I know *head explodes* …. Or your bust sizes if you are on THAT show with the precise measurement of all blouses *head explodes again* ~triple duty~
  5. If you look closely there are tags standing vertically behind the 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48. This is because the sweet new wardrobe PA's (production assistants) made a bunch of 38S, 38R, 38L etc -- and I hate to toss a bunch of paper & the recycling at this job is suspect. Any ole ninny can add a S, R, or L. Don't waste the pocket or your time.
  6. I went to 52. This can be adjusted if you are working on the Sopranos and need your 54s, your 60s, basically any size carried at Casual Male or Mobsters R Us. (Mobsters R Us is not a store but it should be and please credit me when you steal this idea.)
  7. After that the tag organizer has a bunch of wide pockets. Perfect for your blank tags that you will inevitably need because LIFE ISN'T PERFECT.
  8. On this job (again if I tell you I would have to kill you) we make stuff dirty & distressed. It’s actually artistically PAINTED (movie magic y'all) to look dirty. So, it won't wash out and per my amazingly talented costume designers request - we have a "dirty" & distressed section for her future use. I like to tag it with a florescent colored tag so if it ends up in the restock section - it’s easily recognizable to be put back in its home, aka "dirty" section. (Would you like to be in the "dirty" section? Because you've been washed but you are still a little suspect? .... I digress.)
broken image


  1. Starting at 0 and going by evens is perfect for womens suits and pants.
    • If you are a show with beautiful full figured female cast, go up to 20.
    • On The Good Wife, an ensemble cast with a lot of women in skirt suits - there should be a ton of these tags.
    • I just was on a job where someone had made tags with "1" on them. We don't work in Macy's juniors department. Chillax.  (Hey mom, this is because 1 is a size used only in Juniors Departments.  If James Perse does it, it means Small - so we would use a Small size tag)
  2. At 14 we start with the shirt sizes - neck & sleeve length are added.
    • Most 14 shirts will not go up to 36-37 sleeve length so don't bother. The same is true with the 16 & 17 neck, they usually don’t make them in 30-31 sleeves.
    • Again, if you are working on a show with a lot of NBA NFL players in suits ... perhaps they are just living in the city, meeting for brunch, just generally trying to have it all (no Boomer you are SO a Samantha) ... Make sure to adjust the sleeves up, and maybe forget about the size 14 necks altogether, making your system fit the customer / cast. 
  3. The best part! X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, 2XL ... Hopefully these will be the tags you use the most so that's why I love this particular white plastic model of jewelry organizer used for size tags. The giant pockets at the bottom are great for your top 3 most used tags.
    • Adjust accordingly. If you are on a new Terence Winter show about gangster little people (dude loves to write in little people to his shows) then add in more XS as needed.
    • Say you are working on the next Sons of Anarchy spin-off; the one where they all become zombies in Atlanta - then by all means, adjust to go up to 5X for your biker undead.
broken image

Most period shows use specific measurements for each item in the stock.  It takes longer, yes but the same concept can apply.  You would then nix the 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 etc. all together and use XS, S, M, L, XL…  In fact, any staff that joins the team can come in, have those tags available.  They send a clear message that this is the way the stock is measured and organized.  They will immediately understand the system and adjust their behavior accordingly.

This picture is the tag system for the costume shop at "Vinyl" (a 1970s HBO show coming out summer 2016), its elaborate but pretty cool.  If the production is willing to pay for the tags (from ULINE) and the stamps to be made then it’s a great system.  The new costumer comes in and again, knows exactly what’s expected of them.  "These are the measurements we want for these items."  Clear, concise & beautiful.

So the next time you start your new job in the costume shop, take a note from User Experience Designers and the concepts of:

  • User Research (who will the cast be and what will they wear)
  • Content Strategy (limited pockets on the organizer so don't waste it on "1's" or Suit Sizes with Shorts, Longs, or Regulars)
  • Information Architecture (how the tags are organized on each side to best use the space and be easy to find)
  • Importance of Visual Design (if no one can read your handwriting... please go practice writing clearly because you are making everyone's lives more difficult)
  • Iteration (after using the organizer for a while, if you find you need a tag constantly that you don't have, adjust!)
A Little foresight can make Life a whole Lot simpler.