How to measure yourself for buying vintage clothes

How do you measure yourself for buying vintage clothes that fit perfectly (or close to perfectly)? The way to measure someone to fit clothing has not changed since the 1930s or even the 1880s!

First, you need to understand how the clothing is usually measured. It’s a standard for sellers to measure vintage clothing “flat”, which is a way of laying the garment out on a table and noting the measurements, doubling where appropriate (i.e., waist and hip measurements are doubled).

Here is how to measure yourself so that you can know if the clothing will fit:

  1. Bust measurements:
    • Measure at the widest point of your bust, while you’re wearing a bra.
    • I usually add 1-2 inches to ensure a comfortable fit.
  2. Waist Measurements:
    • Measure your waist at the smallest point, usually right above your belly button, without sucking in.
  3. Hip Measurements:
    • Put the tape measure around at the widest point of your hips, usually about 7 inches below your waist.

Do not draw the tape measure too tight! It’s best to leave a little “wiggle room”, and “round up” rather than down when noting your measurements. I don’t know about you but I would rather wear a dress or coat that was slightly too large, than one that was too small and possibly couldn’t zip up all the way.

Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to the seller with questions. For example, if your wrists are large and the seller hasn’t stated that measurement on a long-sleeve top with cuffs, it is always good to double-check by reaching out to ask for those additional measurements.

See the illustrated measuring guide that I made below, out of the pages scanned from the 1935 Chicago Mail Order Catalog.

how to measure yourself for buying vintage clothing
Illustrated guidelines on how to measure yourself when buying vintage clothing.

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