Sunday, 20 July 2008

School uniforms expanded to size 18 due to soaring level of childhood obesity

By Tom Kelly
20th July 2008

School uniforms are being expanded to adult dress size 18 to meet soaring levels of childhood obesity.

High street chain Bhs has extended its "generous fit" range because of the growing number of pupils who no longer squeeze into traditional sized clothes.

It is one of a number of major retailers to increase the size of children's clothes to meet demand with a staggering one in four 11 to 15-year-olds now classified as overweight or obese.

BHS started its generous fit range three years ago, to provide  'a fuller cut around the chest, waist, hip and thighs' in ages from 4 - 16.

generous sizes

Bhs sells items of school uniform on its website for larger youngsters, advertised as 'generous size' outfits

Now dresses in this supersize range have been further increased to an 18, larger than the average size adult dress among British women, which is currently 16.

A size 18 woman typically has a 42in bust, a 34in waist and a 44in hip.

Rachele Hayman, the store's buying director of childrenswear, said: 'We are visiting schools all the time and we are always coming across boys and girls at sizes that are basically obese.'

generous size

Rising obesity levels are forcing school uniform makers to increase their sizes (posed by model)

Dr Colin Waine, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: 'It is sad that things have been allowed to get to this state.

'Even at school-leaving age, children at this sort of size are at serious risk of developing Type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease.'

A recent survey of school uniform suppliers by market research analyst Mintel found that on average children had gone up two sizes since the 1940s.

Overeating is playing a part, but some children may simply be bigger as the population gets taller and heavier as nutrition and living conditions improve.

John Lewis has extended the sizes in many of its children's ranges, and now sells blazers up to a 48in chest, and trousers up to a 40in waist, sizes traditionally used for overweight adults.

Fifty years ago the maximum blazer size for a 16-year-old was 36in.

Schools outfitter Price & Buckland also stocks blazers in sizes up to 48in and are often asked to make bigger sizes to order.  It recently made a size 56in blazer for a girl.

Last year, the chain National Schoolwear Centres introduced a blazer at 52in with trousers with a 42in waist and boys' shirts with 17½in collars.

M&S also expanded its sizes last year and Gap has brought in 'plus' sizes for casual clothes.

One in three children in Britain are obese or overweight, and obesity in under-11s has risen by over 40 per cent in the last decade.

The International Obesity Task Force estimates that each year in England 220,000 more children become overweight or obese.

But although children are growing, uniform suppliers are concerned that the Treasury has failed to keep up.

Clothes are meant to be VAT-free for children under 13. but the size definitions used are often out of touch with real children.

For boys, the limit is a 43in chest for blazers and 28.5in for trousers. For girls, it is a 39.5in chest on a dress and a skirt waist of 28in.

Retailers have to apply VAT on clothes over this size. This means the larger uniforms fail to qualify for the exemption.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This story is increasing evidence of the worrying trend for our children to be getting bigger and more unhealthy.

Quite plainly, in the UK at least, there is not going to be any easy or quick solution to this problem for our nation as a whole without probably some heavy-duty government intervention and major changes at the societal level.

However, as individual parents there is a responsibility on us to do all we can to make sure our children have the right diet and take proper exercise, and we can take steps to make sure that happens, hard as that might be, since as parents we will be fighting against all the temptations and habits that kids have today that are making them so overweight.

One of the ways we can help our children is by finding enjoyable forms of exercise for them. We have provided some ideas on this in our blog at, where the latest post is on this very subject under the title "A Triton with the School Uniform?"