Today I got a letter from a reader enquiring about what size she should buy in vintage patterns.
As an aside, it seems that size numbers in clothing keep shrinking but the measurements do not. For instance, I wear a 4 or 6 in US sizes but when I try on American clothing from the 1980's I wear a size 10! This is known as vanity sizing and maybe has something to do with either the growing waistlines of this country or the need for more sales. For instance, if you are trying on clothes, do you get a little excited when you can fit into a smaller size? Well, don't get too excited! You may not have gotten smaller. The clothes have just gotten bigger!
Sewing pattern sizes have also gotten smaller through the years.
|A Modern Pattern Size Chart|
|60's Pattern Size Chart|
|40's Pattern Size Chart|
Sometime in the 60's the pattern sizing changed. For instance, I have a 34 inch bust so I take a pattern dress size 12 in modern patterns. I have a mid sixties Vogue pattern that lists a 34 inch bust as requiring a size 14. Going further back my fifties and forties patterns list a 34 bust as a size 16. The modern sizes we have now for patterns have been in use since around 1969. How do I know that? Well, I saw an old pattern that had a big announcement on it, saying "New Modern Sizing". It was dated 1969 and had the same sizes we have now.
If you look at the pattern charts above you will notice a size 12 today is for a 34 inch bust, 26 1/2 inch waist and 36 inch hip. But a size 12 in a forties pattern is for a 30 inch bust, 25 inch waist, and 33 inch hip.
Not only have the sizes gotten smaller but all this ease has been added. For you newbies ease is "extra space" added to a pattern for comfort. I am bigger than a size 12 on the bottom. I have a 28 inch waist and 37 inch hips but I often have to take in the skirts on size 12 dresses to get the more fitted look I like. Ease shmeeze if you ask me! Do I want to look like a box? NO! Why not add ease to shoes while we are at it? Because then they wouldn't fit! Just like modern patterns. This is all the more reason to, yes ladies, start learning how to make our own patterns! It's really not that hard. I will be doing a straight skirt draft- a- long soon. If you are interested in participating, leave a comment.
As an aside, I do have to say Collette patterns seem to actually fit the measurements described on the envelope. But if you are smaller than a C cup you will have to adjust the bust.
I hope I haven't bored you silly with all of this measurement jargon but I know some people getting into vintage patterns have mistakenly bought the wrong size. Just doing my part!