Leave those labels behind … a chat about vintage sizing !

Leave those labels behind … a chat about vintage sizing !

Vintage sizing … where to start ? It’s not as scary as it first seems and can be pretty empowering once you get the hang of it ! Don’t believe me … then read on !

Firstly, never ever trust the size written on the vintage label, just because it says it’s a 12 on the label definitely doesn’t mean it is a modern day 12. As a very rough guide a vintage 12 would be closer to a modern size 6/ small 8 ! 

The trouble is that the sizing system has never been perfect and as women have gradually become taller and more curvaceous since the 50s manufacturers have cleverly been changing the measurements for each size  to accommodate. This is now known as vanity sizing . A term you’ve probably heard of. Add into this the fact that all brands then and now use different measurements to calculate size and that no two bodies are the same then it is a wonder that anything fits us properly. 

So what we’ve learnt so far is that size labels in vintage clothes are best ignored which is … the empowering bit well I think so anyway. 

It’s a chance to step away from the shackles of label judgement and just buy clothes that you love. You just have to put in a little groundwork and then it’s easy you’re set up for a lifetime of vintage shopping delights. 

So where to start … well with your trusty tape measure. You need to know your own measurements.. you may not be keen to do this but they are only numbers and really are the key to getting a great fit. 

The essential ones to know are bust, waist and hips

Bust measure around the  fullest part 

Waist the narrowest part of your torso 

Hips the widest part 

But if you like things a certain length or want to check sleeve length then you can also measure those areas of your body too. 

So now you know these figures the power really is in your hands!


When I’m shopping for vintage myself  I always carry a tape measure with me so when I see something I like I can measure it and check it against my body measurements for fit. I always allow about an inch / 2 cm to allow for ease of movement depending on the fit I’m after. 

If you don’t have a tape measure on you then most vintage sellers will happily lend you one. I always have one on my stall at vintage fairs  for this purpose. 

The same rules apply when buying online as most sellers will provide garment measurements and if they don’t ask for them. At Bristol Betty Vintage, we measure everything flat to help you achieve the perfect fit and are always happy to provide additional measurements if required. Again, don’t forget that you need the garment measurement to be a little bigger than your own to allow for comfort. 

One tip to add, is that  if I’m checking measurements for a potential online purchase then I will compare the garment measurements with those of a similar piece of clothing I own already which fits me really well and if these match or are very close I know I’m on to a winner. 

So do you feel empowered yet ? I really hope so but if  this seems like a lot then don’t worry you will soon get the hang of it. After a while you will get to the point where you will be able to tell if something will fit you just  by looking at it and you will know your body measurements off by heart. 

So what now ? The best bit. Get hunting for fabulous, unique vintage pieces and discover your vintage style . 

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1 comment

A very useful and informative post, Becca! I’ve left labels behind a long time ago. Even modern sizes can be very off. Knowing your sizes is very empowering – and liberating – indeed! xxx

Ann Polyester Princess

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