How to Measure Clothes

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Here is a short article on how clothing sizes have changed over the last few decades and why some of us struggle to find clothing to fit on the high street. Please check out our other articles for information, how-to guides and tips.

Finding clothes to buy that fit you can be a real pain, clothing sizes can change depending on which shop you are in, and some can even vary within the same shop given style and manufacturer! Some shops equate a UK size 12 with a European 40 others with a 38. The bad news is that clothes sizings have changed consistently from decade to decade and getting the sizes right on vintage clothes is even more challenging than those on the high street today.

The standard UK clothes sizings that we know today - sizes 10, 12, 14 etc, were brought in during the 1960s. Prior to this a normal size for women's clothing would be considered to be a size 34, and this would mean a 34" bust and a 36" hip. Waist sizes differed but would generally be smaller than the average waistline today. Outsize clothes were considered to be over 42" for a waist measurement.

In general people used to be much slimmer than they are today, and no one really went to the gym to build muscles till the late 1970s. This meant that clothes sizes for the fashion market were considered to be fairly limited and clothes that were considered to be a size 12 thirty years ago would probably be sizes as an 8-10 today (or a size 4-6 in the US!)

The fashionable shops in the 1960s for younger women, such as Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Lewis Separates (now River Island), produced very few styles in a size above a UK 14 due mainly to a lack of demand. Other labels often found on vintage clothing of the 60s, 70s and 80s include C&A, Etams, Richards, Wallis, St Michael/Marks & Spencer and BHS.

Shops such as Wallis and Next were known to be generous on their sizings where you could find a dress to fit you a size smaller than usual. This is a process known as vanity sizing and is attributed with the fact that a size 12 today is much larger than it used to be. On the flip side however young fashionable high street designers of now vintage clothing, such as Miss Selfridge, designed the cut of their clothes to fit a figure based on the fashion icon model "Twiggy" and these clothes wouldn't fit a lot of people regardless of the size on the label.

A lot of the vintage clothing around is actually home made. These items will have been made to fit a specific individual, often by using patterns which would have followed the sizings used at the time.For note the clothing and shop name that has always been associated with 'outsize' clothes (greater than a UK 14) is Evans, but before the 1990s these outsize clothes generally resembled tents. So in conclusion to find any clothing that will fit you, vintage or modern you need to be sure of your bust, waist and hip measurements. Take note also if you have strong legs or arms as some vintage clothing may not allow for this.

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