How to Measure Yourself for Vintage Clothing

Why is it that when I am vintage clothes shopping it is so hard to know what size I am? This is a question I hear over and over from men and women. One of the main reasons for this is fashion was not mass-produced the way that it is today so clothing was either handmade from patterns, tailored to individual body types or social expectation. The ideal body size and shape were vastly different to today’s social norms.

Now a couple of things to remember before we start body bashing ourselves on the size and shape of our bodies according to labels. The garment industry has no standardizing when it comes to sizing and your body is beautiful because your body is just that, yours. The key things to consider when we are buying vintage are:

How do I want a garment to fit my body?

Me personally I prefer a looser fit and would rather alter a garment to my liking, so consider if you prefer your clothing tailored or looser fit.

How do I know which measurement to go off?

Always go according to your largest measurement. If you want to buy a dress and your hip measurement say size small but your bust say size medium go with the size medium. The same can be said for men’s measurements, as an example if your waist measurement is larger than your chest measurement then use the waist measurement as your point of reference. It is better to be safe than to be sorry.

Always measure yourself with your under garments on (bra and underwear) but not over your outer clothing as it can vastly change your measurements. As best as you can try to use a dressmaker tape for a more accurate measurement and write down your measurements or save to your smartphone.

Where do I take my own measurements?

Dresses – Measure from the natural part of the shoulder to your desired hem length.

Bottoms – Measure from either the waist or the hip to the foot (this will vary for style & fit, shoes off).

Bust: Measurement taken from the fullest part of the breast with your bra on.

Chest: Measurements taken from the widest part of your chest.

Shoulder: Measurement taken from shoulder tip to shoulder tip.

Waist: Measurement taken from the smallest part of your waist, a little above your belly button.

Hips: Whilst standing in a natural stance measure the fullest part of the hips.

Inseam – Measure from the inner leg at the crouch to the foot (shoes off).


– If you are not confident about what part of your body is the fullest part take the measurements whist standing in front of a mirror or get someone who you feel comfortable with to take the measurements for you.

– For length / hem length take 3 measurements – where you prefer your hem at its shortest, knee and floor length. That way you will have a great comparison and guide for your desired hem lengths.

We hope that this has given you a little more confidence and understanding when buying vintage clothing and remember that fit of the garment is what truly matters, not what is written on the label.

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