Vintage Sizing - Understand and Find Your Perfect Fit

by Komail Noori on March 25, 2024

It is interesting to note that while vintage clothing has many benefits, it also has its own sets of challenges associated with it, especially when it comes to vintage sizing. The process of conversions from modern sizing charts to vintage sizing can be tricky and unreliable at times, thus to some extent, shoppers might get puzzled by this during their search to find the best fit for themselves. Therefore, it is fundamentally important to creep into the details of vintage sizes to get the best fit.

In this article, we will get into the nitty gritty details of vintage sizing and give tips that will help readers overcome the challenges and find their perfect fitting size.

Understanding the Vintage Clothing Sizes

For me exploring the sizes in vintage clothing is like finding answers to a difficult riddle. Over time, sizing standards have varied, and as a result, they are different in terms of the previous decades and regions. Getting properly informed about vintage sizing calls for knowledge of the elements that have implications for these standards like the vanity sizing, fabric’s capability to stretch, and varying body shapes. Moreover, the astonishing variability in tagging of the garments increases this complexi

1. Evolution of Standard Sizes over Time

The history of sizing standards can be traced back to the early 20th century when standardized sizing systems were introduced. Nevertheless, it was not until the middle of the 20th century that sizing achieved uniformity throughout various manufacturers. Vintage clothing from the 20s to the ‘60s is usually following a different sizing system than the modern ones. For example, a size 12 in the 1950s may not correlate to a size 12 today in consideration of how body proportions and societal perceptions of ideal body shapes have transformed over time.

2. Variations in sizing across different decades and regions

Size variations in certain decades and areas were used to depict cultural shifts and fashion seasons. Take the US after World War II as an example: The affluence following victory caused an appreciation for fuller figures, thus increasing the average size of clothes. On the other hand, European size is typically smaller and more fitted as opposed to American size which is larger and more comfortable. 

Furthermore, sizing in Asian countries is typically smaller than American standards which indicates variations among body shapes and cultures.

3. Factors Influencing Vintage Sizing

Several reasons may be classified as incognito factors of the vintage sizing, making it complicated and tricky to understand.

  1. Through the ages vanity sizing, which is the process through which clothing sizes are resized to flatter the wearer’s ego has been in trend.
  2. Similarly, fabric stretch and the use of different materials lead to sizing inconsistencies.
  3. Furthermore, vintage clothing is designed to fit a variety of body types, including the hourglass figure, which was popular in the 1950s.

4. Variability in garment labeling

Garment labels are another source of confusion that should be taken into account when trying to figure out vintage clothing sizes. Labeling sizes can be numeric, letters, or specific measurements, and each has its meaning. In addition, there are often variations in the labeling process from one manufacturer to another and from one locality to another which makes it difficult to consider just the labeled sizes when shopping for vintage clothing.

The Different Vintage Clothing Size Labels     

A Proper understanding of vintage clothing size labels is very important for fitting yourself in the right piece. These labels range from very simple to complicated ones and grasping their meaning may help you to save time and stress when buying a vintage piece.

1. Commonly Used Vintage Sizing Labels

Every vintage size label has letters and symbols that denote different forms of size and fitting. For instance, the letter "W" can represent either "Woman" or "Waist", implying that the garment is intended for women or has a fitted waistline. Also, "XXS" corresponds to "Extra Extra Slim Small," which is a very small size, ideal for a woman with a small stature. Other commonly used labels might be, for example, "S" for "Small," "M" for "Medium," and "L" for "Large," which would follow the traditional sizing first letter labeling.

2. Numeric Sizing System

Numeric sizing systems are also one of the common things in vintage clothing, especially in certain countries. For example, the United States uses numeral sizes, which are numbers in the range of 0 to 20 or even more. These numbers can have different meanings or fits. European sizing follows a similar numbering system to American, but the measurements can be different and the increments might not be the same. If properly understood, the numeric systems can help you identify vintage clothing labels correctly.

How to Find the Right Size of Vintage Clothing for You?

Finding a well-fitted vintage cloth can be a satisfying yet daunting experience. I will now give you some useful suggestions to work your way through the process and find out the best fit for you.

1. Take Accurate Body Measurements

Of paramount importance is taking correct body measurements first. Measure your bust, waist, and hip with soft measuring tape. In the case of your bust, wrap it around your chest's fullest part. For the waist, measure the smallest point on your torso (where your rib cage ends and your hips begin). But again, for the size of hips, take the fullest notch on hips and bottom. Guarantee that the tape is secure but is not very tight to get profound measurements.

2. Focus on Measuring garment Size Over Looking at Labels Only

When selecting from a vintage clothing collection, always keep in mind that the size labels are just a guide while measuring the actual size of the garment is what matters. Vintage clothing can significantly differ in size when compared to modern sizes, so getting the exact measurements of the clothing will allow it to fit better. Don't forget to check the clothes listings and look for those pieces that have explanations regarding their measurements: bust, waist, hips, and length.

3. Look Out For Vintage Clothing Sizing Charts

Looking through the sizing charts and resources that are available for a specific vintage era can also give you an idea. The internet is full of a bunch of sites that contain vintage size charts for different decades which in total makes it easier to get an answer to how sizes have changed over time. 

Secondly, you should make sure to pay attention to the construction and fabric properties when evaluating the fit. The construction techniques and the materials used in vintage pieces might be different from modern clothes and therefore might cause them to drape and fit differently on the body. Think of things like stretch, drape, and seam placement to help you figure out how the garment will fit your shape.

Lastly, don't forget to experiment with what works best for you. Vintage clothing frequently requires alterations to get the desired fit. Whether it's seaming, hemming, or putting in darts, the alterations can take a vintage piece to the level where it becomes a personal thing for fashion fans.


Understanding vintage sizing is a bit tricky, so take your time, pay attention to all the details, and be ready to have some fun! Meanwhile, when you go vintage shopping, be sure to focus on measuring garments rather than looking at size labels as your only guide. Also, keep in mind that getting precise body measurements and adding necessary adjustments will give you more options to alter vintage clothes and make them fit your body shape well.

Lastly, I want to encourage you to remember these tips and advice when you go vintage clothing shopping, and with that, you will find yourself picking interesting pieces that will not only enhance your style but your personality too!