How to Measure for Vintage Clothing


Purchase vintage clothing by measuring for an accurate fit,

you will need to measure just like a pattern,

...A vintage dress sized 10 is closer to a modern size 1

...A vintage dress sized 20, is closer to a modern 10

Please use the guide below to help you measure your way to a successful vintage clothing buying experience!

The common rumor was that Marilyn Monroe was a larger girl, wearing a vintage size 15-16...
This helps debunk this myth, in vintage clothing that would have made her an approximate modern size 5

It's not uncommon to have to have a vintage dress or pants altered, it was common in the day it was originally purchased. Many vintage clothing items you will find have a very good chance of having been altered or custom made by a seamstress, just like men's suits today.

If you are a size 12 jean and a size "small" top, you will need to go with the larger measurement of the two  and have the dress altered to fit you.

Remember: It is easier to take a garment in than to let it out...Letting a garment out can leave markings of the old seam visible, can compromise the wear-ability of the garment and the security of the don't want to loose a seam while wearing your fabulous vintage dress to a big function...this will be the type of attention you DON'T want.

I will usually indicate what garments have stretch to the fabric and the ones that don't....
Generally silk and taffeta do not have of the most popular items that commonly do not have stretch, are swing skirt, 50's formal dresses.

Please take care in ordering and please feel free to contact me with any questions in regards to fitting and vintage fabric...I don't want you to get your Beautiful vintage dream dress and have it not fit for your occasion.

I'm a terrible writer, so thank you Ann for the use of your article on measuring clothing.
I have shortened Ann's article, to read it in it's entirety, please click the link at the end

How to Measure Clothes
Author: Ann Barrago


A lot of the vintage clothing around is actually home made. These items will have been made to fit a specific individual, often by using patterns which would have followed the sizing used at the time.For note the clothing and shop name that has always been associated with 'outsize' clothes (greater than a UK 14) is Evans, but before the 1990s these outsize clothes generally resembled tents.
So in conclusion to find any clothing that will fit you, vintage or modern you need to be sure of your bust, waist and hip measurements. Take note also if you have strong legs or arms as some vintage clothing may not allow for this.

To measure clothing (vintage or otherwise) to see if it will fit you need to try it on, for ebay and situations where this is not possible you will need to attempt to measure or request measurements. To do this lie the garment flat if possible and measure the following lines in the garment:


Bust - To fit around the bust or chest.


Waistline - The best way to find the waist is to lay out the garment and look for where it gets smallest. On mens shirts this is usually just below the fifth button. On womens clothing it could be anywhere. When you find the waistline, measure it using the same method as the chest.It can be useful to note how far down the waist is in relation to the top of the item and hip line.


Hips - this is set to be 23cm/8inches below the waist but to see if a garment will really fit you compare the widest/fullest hip measurement - if this is not obvious it will be roughly 10" below the waist.

Cuff/sleeves circumference - you've got to get your hands through there if no fastenings and it would seem people had smaller hands in the past too.


Neck opening - to check sizes and how revealing or not an item may be. Conservative necklines designed for narrower frames may not work too well on larger frames.


Collar - Measure on the inside of the collar band. Open the shirt and flatten the collar as much as possible. Start with the tape where the button is stitched. Measure all the way to the far end of the buttonhole.


Chest - With the garment open, measure straight across the back, from the armpit to armpit. Double this number to estimate the chest measurement. For absolute accuracy, first measure across the back. Then, starting from the same place in the armpit, measure the front panel across to the button, and the other front panel across to the buttonhole.This is only necessary for jackets that are fuller at the front - usually womens and outsize mens jackets.


Yoke - Often overlooked, this measurement reveals a lot about the size. The yoke is the area across the top and back of the shoulders. It can be seen easily on shirts and jackets as there is usually an actual separate yoke piece. It's best if you can measure the yoke while the garment is being worn. If you don't have someone to measure it on you, lay the garment out carefully and smooth the shoulder area. Run your tape from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, across the top of the shoulders and the back of the neck. There is a slight curve to this area, so don't try to pull the tape straight like you do when measuring other areas. Don't be tempted to just measure the yoke seam straight across the back. The true yoke is usually larger than this seam.


Length - Measure in the middle of the back, straight down. Start at the shoulder seam. Don't include the collar as part of the length.


Arm length - Measure from the shoulder seam straight down the outside of the sleeve. This number, plus half of the yoke, is the true sleeve length. (On most adult clothes, total sleeve length is somewhere between 28 and 38 inches.)


Inseam - This is the measurement from the crotch straight down to the end of the leg.


Outseam - This is the measurement from the waist down the outside of the leg. If the trousers have an unusually large waistband, don't include it in your measurements.


Rise - The outseam minus the inseam gives you the seat area. The rise lets you know whether you're dealing with a high waist or hiphuggers.


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About the Author

Ann Barrago

Clothing Sizes and How to Measure!

The Style Guide to making your own clothes!