A new robotic mannequin may change the way both tailors and designers have worked on fittings for centuries, writes Allan CK Chan.


Fitting plays a crucial role in the fashion design process. Customers procure garments with proper fit or even pursue the perfect fit, though the fashion trend changes with time. Designers or tailors have used mannequins for garment-fitting in search of the perfect fit for centuries. Today, they are still essential for garment-making, although each mannequin only provides one fixed size which can be costly, and occupies lots of space for storage.


The design and construction of mannequins depend on the data of national anthropometric surveys. However, anthropometric measurements of individual customers alter from time to time due to their aging, eating habits, higher living standards, immigration etc. A continuous update and modification of mannequins becomes crucial for accuracy. Hence, a quick response to the change of body measurements and shapes can be a key success factor for the fashion world.


Size fitting

Technology is going to change the way designers and tailors work. A new robotic mannequin was developed to advance the apparel and clothing industry for more precise and customised fitting. Sizes (global) can be scanned, retrieved or amended. This robotic mannequin can morph into any body shape and size in accordance with the input of body measurements. It is made up of various panels to form different body parts such as shoulder, waist, hip and body length. Its size, shape, proportion and dimensions can be changed by simply entering the required measurements via the computer interface. It can transform from a specified size to any size figure within seconds. Different body configurations can be availed of on demand by customisable panel movements. For example, a smaller waist or a fuller back or abdomen can be achievable.


The robotic mannequin can reflect the sizes of different races with high accuracy by a high-quality body sizes database. Thanks to the analysis results of massive anthropometric data of American, European, Chinese and Japanese populations, precise body sizes of shapes of the robotic mannequin can now be reproduced through delicate mechatronics.


Real fitting models are also widely used by designers offering their customers the privilege of the perfect fit. The processes of model booking and scheduling are very time-consuming. The use of real models can be spared for fitting, and designers can check the styles, fit, drape and final visual appearance of their design on a mannequin resembling a real human body with any shapes and sizes by using the robotic mannequin. Moreover, remote fitting can be achieved for bespoke tailors, haute couture houses and design houses, while the robotic mannequin can stand in for the customer for the private fittings.


Mannequins currently used by designers and tailors are standard-sized which require adjustments for dressmaking for the sake of the perfect fit. They might have to spend lots of time to pad up their mannequins to the required body size and shape. However, they can do fittings without time and place registrations now with the robotic mannequin which can resize automatically and instantly. Moreover, the dress-making workshops or shop-floors do not have to stock mannequins with different sizes consuming lots of spaces with one robotic mannequin fitting all sizes.


Fashion design

Alternations of the size are also possible - which becomes especially perfect for evening gowns, wedding dress and haute couture. It also streamlines the design process from concept to product, and hence the designers can work faster and speed up the design process to satisfy the fast fashion cycle.


The mechanism of the robotic mannequin to achieve such features is detailed as follows:


1. Measure individual customer (tall, short, thin or fat).

2. Input four essential body measurements into the robotic mannequin system. Other measurements can be customised.

3. The robotic mannequin will transform to the required shape, proportion and dimension to mimic the customer instantly.

4. Put a cladding on the robotic mannequin.

5. Drape or model the design or style on the robotic mannequin with muslin.

6. Remove muslin which will be used for pattern cutting and onward garment tailoring.

7. Tailor the garment.


The way ahead

The way designers and tailors work with mannequins remained the same, and limited too, for centuries. This revolutionary robotic mannequin will clearly change the entire scenario of made-to-measure tailoring, and bring the design process to a whole new level for the apparel and fashion industry by combing fashion and robotics. This mannequin will also be used for fashion design training and e-tailoring in the future.


About the author

Allan CK Chan is with the Institute of Textiles and Clothing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong.