Vintage Clothing Sizes

Let’s talk vintage clothing sizes. I know, I know. You’d probably rather head on down to your dentist and get yourself a lovely root canal!

They’re confusing. They’re frustrating. And you sometimes wonder if vintage clothing sizes were invented to make you feel bad about yourself.

Well, let’s start there! First and foremost, let’s stop feeling bad about a number on a slip of paper. Because as you’re about to find out, it really means nothing.

Think about modern sizing. You might wear a size 14 in some brands and a size 16 in others. There’s no consistency in modern clothing sizes! Why would you expect consistency from vintage sizes?

Let’s lay it out. Here’s a sewing pattern from the 1950s, courtesy of Pintucks by Mojave Dry Goods.

And now let’s a have a look at a modern sizing chart.

Start at the beginning. A 1950s size 10 had a 28.5″ bust and a 24″ waist. The bust measurement doesn’t even register on the modern chart, but we can assume the closest comparable modern size would be a 0. Feel any better? A 1950s size 10 would be a modern size 0. So when you visit your friendly neighborhood vintage store or your favorite online vintage shop, *cough, cough* 20th Century Fox Vintage, and a cute 1950s dress with a size 10 label won’t even make it past your thigh, understand that this is really a size 0. If you wear a size 10 in H+M, for example, you wouldn’t immediately hit up the size 0 jeans. It’s really no different with vintage clothes.

And don’t even get me started on the inconsistency in brands. This makes it even harder to pin down your exact size.

Size ain’t nothin’ but a #

The real issue with vintage sizing is that unless you know, it’s incredibly frustrating. We’ve been so conditioned to believe we have to conform to a certain size. But what if those sizes don’t align with the clothes you typically wear? Babe, let me join the chorus of folks who will tell you that you are gorgeous just the way you are.

I’ve fallen victim to it, too. I once bought a cute pair of pants. I didn’t even look at the label. They looked like they would fit me, so I grabbed them and bought them. And if you’re anything like me, you will not try things on in the store.

I got home with those cute 70s pants, ran right to my room, and tried them on. And they fit perfectly! And then I looked at the label and read size 12! Size 12! But I wear a size 2! Everything in my closet is a size 2. What on earth is happening here?

Now, I’ve been collecting vintage clothes for 20-plus years. Even I fell victim to this mindset.

So let’s all take a deep breath. And pay attention to your measurements rather than some arbitrary number on a label.

P.S. When a shop says an item is measured flat, that means you need to double those measurements to meet your own.

P.S.S. You’re gorgeous just the way you are!

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