Figuring Out Vintage Sizing

When I first really got into vintage and thrift shopping I was always so confused by the sizing. I would look for the sizes that I usually shopped for at the mall, but nothing ever fit. And as we all know as women after trying on 6 or so dresses and having none fit, thats game over for the day. Well I wanted to know why this was the case.

The first time a clue clicked in my brain I was watching a re-run of a sitcom, and this over weight man made some stairs creek as he walked up them, to cover his embrassment he said ''People were alot smaller then.'' The phrase stuck with me and the next time I went vintage shopping I started looking for sizing a couple of sizes above my usuall size. Everything fit the way it should.

But why was there such a big difference? And I am not talking a size or two, with some dresses I have to go up 3 or 4 sizes.

After looking into it more, I have come to a conclusion that marketing is the culperit behind the difference. Media has taught us that a smaller size is better. Makes sense, who doesn't want to brag about fitting into a size 4 pair of jeans? Even over the last few years I have seen a major change. I shop quite a bit at H&M and I used to always, always fit a size 8 dress perfectly, in the last year or so I have noticed that I size 6 or even sometimes 4 is now my go to at H&M.

Even after two kids, I am the same size I was when I was in high school. I know this because I can still fit the jeans I wore at that time.

At one point or another I am sure we have all read that Mariyln Monroe was a size 12-14. Today that size is considered to by close to being plus size. However in the 1950's/1960's that size 12 meant that she was a size 12. And in modern sizes that size 12 dress would most likely have a size 6 tag on it.

So when shopping the thing to keep in mind is to add 6 to your regular dress size when shopping for dresses in the 1950's/1960's era and that will be your true size. Of course if you are shopping in different era's you will need to adjust. But this is a good starting point.

Knowing this fact will make seeing those sizes on the vintage garments much less scary.

For this reason I don't like to estimate sizes. I can squeeze into different sized dresses at different stores at the mall. Just because an online seller says something is a size 'small' doesn't mean it will fit like a 'small' from the store I like to shop at. An estimated size is that is based on that company's fit model, every company has different fit model and thats why all the stores sizing are never the same. So if you shop online for vintage or modern clothes checking your own measurements against the measurements listed is the best method for finding a great fit! I'll teach you how in this post!

The most important thing to remember is that vintage sizes ARE different and when shopping online it's best to go by measurements and not by the vintage size or an estimated size.


How to measure yourself for dresses:

Bust: Use a sewing measuring tape to measure the fullest part of your bust (with bra on!).

Waist: Measure the smallest part of your natural waist line. This will probably be about one inch above your belly button.

Hips: Stand with your feet close together! Measure the fullest part of your hips.

Add a little extra? Once you have your measurements add an extra inch if you want your clothes to be comfortable and loose fitting. I, personally, always add an extra inch to the bust but not the rest since I like a fitted waist. This part is up to you and will determine how you want your clothing to fit. It is much easier to have a garment taken in rather then let out. Or you can always add a belt if its a little to loose.

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his little Lady said... [Reply]

that's so interesting! i had no idea that when you thrifted you had to get a bigger size. i'll remember that for next time!! ;)
xo TJ

Lena @ Mom2MemphisAndRuby said... [Reply]

great post Amber! shopping vintage can be tricky!

aliciafashionista said... [Reply]

I always find it difficult to buy vintage items because of sizing. I usually just do a visual estimation, but it's still tricky.

Faithful MOMentos said... [Reply]

No wonder I can't find anything vintage shopping!!! and I am a plus size woman by the way. LOL

<3 Faith

Brittany said... [Reply]

oh thank you for posting about this! I LOVE vintage clothes, esp shirts and dresses but finding ones that might fit me are so difficult! Im petite but have a bust of 38-40in. Your dress too is so cute! new follower here too :)