Why Are Vintage Clothing Sizes Smaller?

Why Are Vintage Clothing Sizes Smaller?The contemporary style question, “why are vintage clothing sizes smaller?” has not only surfaced much more frequently as of late, but has also been erroneously dubbed a mystery among the masses.

Due to recent popularity, thrift stores and consignment specialty shops have begun to pop up all over the country while shoppers circle the store racks in search of their next vintage 1940’s, ‘50’s, even ‘70’s one-of-a-kind fashion find.

The trouble is vanity sizing can throw any fashion hunter for a loop. That size four frame you thought you had may not be able to fit into that adored Chanel 1980’s vintage peach wool and coral grograin trim skirt without facing the fear of potentially splitting the back zipper.

The evolution of women’s sizes has been highly misconstrued for years, leaving many to believe an array of theories. Believe it or not, even from the 1990’s up until the present day, women’s sizing charts have continued to see a shift.

One main reason that vintage clothing sizes are smaller in comparison to the corresponding contemporary size of the present day is style inconsistency. Think back to the days when women wore girdles, corsets, merry-widows– the whole nine yards. A woman whom has subjected her body to a waist-cincher simply cannot be compared to that of a woman whom has not.

Back then women were also more likely to have their garments made by a seamstress than they are today, allowing their garments to have a perfect custom-fit. It was less likely that a woman needed to fit into a previously cut mold.

It has been further reported that an official survey of women’s bodies was never fully completed until the 1940’s. This could simply be the result of unequal rights – perhaps women were not deemed significant enough for such a study. Who knows? Either way, this results in a sizing inflation. If sizes were never standardized, changes are likely to be made over the years.

Therefore, a vintage garment labeled as a medium may not be the medium you know it to be, but instead is more closely compared to that of a 2013 extra small.

Playing with vintage is a gamble. The best piece of advice to getting around vintage size inconsistencies is to estimate your size as best you can. Hold the item of clothing up against your body first and see if it appears to match you in length and width.

Here’s to hopefully leaving your next dressing room without a broken heart.

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo

Author: Rose Wheeler

Hey, I'm Rose! I work with words on a daily basis as a content manager and writer. When I'm not working with my awesome clients, I enjoy cooking, yoga, styling, blogging and curling up with a good book.

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