My guide on how to shop vintage online part 1 – where to shop was released right before christmas, now I think it’s time for part 2! How to shop vintage online part 2 revolves around measuring and fitting a vintage garment. I think we’ve all been there, drooling over some fabulous garment on Etsy or Ebay but still chose not to order because we were insecure about the size or fit. In this guide I’ll walk you through how to measure yourself and compare to a listing. Also, I’ll be sharing some of my knowledge from years of vintage shopping online – so you won’t make the same mistakes I did!
Click read more to read the full guide!
First off, vintage and secondhand garments are always one of a kind. They differ in years, sizes and some garments are created in fabrics which don’t even exist anymore. Needless to say, there will always be a margin of error when you buy vintage clothes online. Thus the reward I think is always greater than a possible miss – you get a unique and very special garment with lots of history in return.
You’ve probably heard that Marilyn Monroe’s actually wore plus sized garments? That’s not correct, because she probably wore vintage sizes 12,14 and 16. These sizes are closer to a a modern 34,36 and 38 – not 44,46 and 48 (plus sizes) on a modern clothing size chart. This illustrates how much clothing sizes have changed through the years. I’m a typical size 18-20 US (misses) in the 50’s, a size 16 US (misses) in the 60’s and onward. My modern size is EU38/ US10/UK14. Vintage sizes vs modern sizes is quite a complex area. Most vendors and vintage online shops don’t list the vintage size of the garment. The reason why is simply because there are so many different sizes and measurements, and it’s way better to measure yourself and compare with the actual garment. That way, you won’t have to navigate through misses, woman, petite, from brand to brand and so on.
I mentioned above that I’m a size EU38/US10/UK12 or 14. When I do my measurements, my bust is 37 inches, waist 31 inches and hip 40 inches. I recommend that you always think and measure in inches, even though you’re used to centimeter measurements. The reason why is because the US has a lot (if not the biggest chunk of good vintage) and they use inches. Below you’ll see a figure demonstrating where you take your measurements. I keep my measurements easily available on a post it on my macbook.
Since vintage sizes are so different, you can’t search for a size 38 or similar and expect to find a a nice, full and unique selection. You’ll probably miss out on some very fine pieces because most sellers only list measurements. Not sizes. You have to use broad search terms like I mentioned in How to shop vintage online part 1. When you amend these search tearms you’ll see that each dress has it’s own measurements. Usually these are taken by the shop owner whilst the garment is lying flat. It’s your job to multiply the measurement by two. Let’s do an example below with this beautiful day dress from the 70’s.
Bust is 18×2 = 36 inches/ Waist is 14,5×2 = 29 inches/ Hip is 20,5×2 = 41. Comparing these with my measurements, the dress is too small. Remember to take stretchy fabrics into consideration (ask the seller how much the waist will stretch if not listed), or if it’s non-stretchy fabrics like denim/linen. Below is an example of just that. I loved this dress at first sight, but I noticed that the measurements were a little small. The dress looked as if it could be a bit stretchy, so I decided to ask the seller if she thought the waist and bust could be stretched by an inch. Ally Hoot Vintage was very very helpful and I learned that she nearly had the same measurements as me.
Looking for a nice pair of vintage trousers? Remember to measure your inner leg (from crotch to desired length). If hats are more your thing remember to measure the diameter of your head. If you’re on the hunt for a nice dress jacket, make sure to measure from armpit to armpit and shoulder to shoulder. Especially if you work out a lot. Vintage clothes are adapted to a whole other body ideal than our fit one. Vintage shoes I avoid as much as possible. They are painful, usually very worn out and not able to keep up with modern usage. If you have a thing for it, make sure to measure the inside of a similar pair of shoes (width of front footballs, length of foot from big toe to heel) and use a microscope to check pictures for cracked up leather and bad soles.
In the end, remember that it’s always nice to take chance that the garment will fit. You win some you loose some! I’ve had my fair share of not-so-great purchases, but in return I’ve gotten my best pieces from vintage shopping online.
I hope you enjoyed this guide, and feel free to check up on How to shop Vintage online part 1 – where to shop. In the meantime I’ll be making How to shop vintage online part 3 – returns and taxes. xxx, Iben.