Both sizes and silhouettes have completely changed in the past 60 years. This often causes confusion to those who are new to vintage clothing. In order to help your experience with GlamAmor and any other vintage shopping ventures, the following can give you a little understanding about the evolution of fashion over that time.
Let’s first discuss sizing. Once and for all—and ladies, I want you to hear me loud and clear—the sizes attached to clothing are essentially meaningless. There is zero consistency in sizing from year to year. None. I have examined sizing charts for dress patterns from the late 50s all the way through to the early 70s, and each year the allowed measurements (for bust, waist, hips, e.g.) have increased. So the sad truth of the matter is that clothing manufacturers have understood our vanity well, and simply made our clothes bigger and bigger while making the sizing smaller.
Though sizing is this inconsistent, I can give you at least a general understanding of vintage sizing. A rule of thumb is to double your current numerical dress size and you will have your vintage size. This is close, but still only approximate.
Again, sizing charts have rarely stayed the same even from one year to the next. Further, sizing between contemporary design houses is also very different. That remains true today. So the moral of the story is to ignore the size on the label and know your own measurements. Here are guidelines for taking the basics:
In any GlamAmor listing, I will include the measurements of the garment—bust, waist, and hips. I will also include others like skirt length (waist to hem) for the dresses and sleeve length for the coats. My recommendation is to find garments that will fit you in what you know to be your most difficult to fit area. For many, it’s the bust. My own guide is the usually the waist measurement.
You should never buy any clothes—new or vintage—that are too small for you. They are frequently bought as “incentive” to lose weight, when what they really become is a morale killer and a beautiful dress that just sits in your closet. Better to buy a dress that’s one or even two sizes too big. You should be going to a tailor anyhow, so it really doesn’t matter. Think of it as molding that dress to your body.
Silhouettes—the shape of a garment—have also changed through the years along with the sizing. Part of the reason for this is that there are significant differences between how we wear clothes now and the way our mothers and grandmothers wore them. The impact of undergarments alone. Dresses from the early 1950s, for instance, expected there to be a girdle between the woman and the fabric. They were fitted for those cumbersome foundation garments to be worn every minute of every day. It shaped a woman in a very certain way. Very beautiful. Very exaggerated. It affected the way we moved.
Then comfort started to become more important. We mixed comfort with career clothes as women began flooding the workforce. Eventually we even mixed comfort in formal gowns...Halston is a great example. You can see the design arc move gradually from very voluptuous to more streamlined silhouettes. By the late 60s and early 70s, bustlines were really reduced with higher and tighter armholes, and shoulders and sleeves narrowed as well.
Each decade designed for its ideal body shape, so you can actually use that to steer your shopping in vintage clothing.