Measurements, Size & Fit
Possibly the most important aspect of buying vintage is finding the right fit.
This guide will teach you how to take your measurements and how to determine garment fit.
A few important tips before getting started:
Take your measurements often because your body can change over time.
Many vintage garments are not lined. They were made to be worn with proper undergarments, like slips, girdles, pettipants, long johns, undershirts, etc. Make sure you take your measurements in the undergarments you will be wearing.
Many vintage garments were created in a way that allows altering for a customized fit. Please contact the seller if your measurements are off by just a bit; they can let you know if there is additional seam allowance available. Please consult a professional tailor or seamstress for any alteration questions you may have.
These garments can be fragile, and wearing something that is too tight for you can damage the garment. Keep in mind, if your waist measures 26” and the waist of your garment measures 26” you are going to be squeezed into it! Allow some room to breathe, sit down, eat, sneeze, etc. Be realistic about your measurements and what you find comfortable.
Vintage clothing was often sized much differently than modern clothing. The size tag on the garment may not compare to the same modern size. A vintage size 12 will not necessarily fit a modern size 12. Always go by the measurements provided, not the size marked.
Still unsure if an item will fit you? Measure the clothing you own, pieces you love and wear regularly, the things that fit you the best. Now compare those measurements to the listed measurements of the item you want to buy and to the measurements of your own body.
Sellers will provide as many resources as they can to help, but in the end it is up to you to determine what will work for your body and lifestyle.
How to Measure Your Body & Find Your Actual Measurements
Reminder: Your actual measurements are not the measurements of a garment that will fit you! Please see Determining Fit below.
Already know your measurements? See Determining Fit below.
It is important to know the true measurements of your body. The most reliable way to get this information is to have a professional tailor or seamstress take your measurements. Most people don’t have access to a professional, so we’ve provided instructions for how to measure yourself. It can be difficult to get some of these measurements alone, so we suggest having a friend assist you if possible.
You will need a flexible measuring tape (not a metal tape measure). Don’t have a measuring tape? You can use a piece of string, ribbon, or twine and a yard stick.
Measurements should be taken over bare skin or undergarments. You should not take these measurements over clothing.
Before you get started: Make sure you are wearing the proper undergarments. If you are measuring yourself for a specific dress and you know you will be wearing shapewear under it, measure yourself with the shapewear on. Prefer boxers over briefs? Make sure you are wearing those boxers when you measure yourself.
Let's get started!
Neck or Collar:
This measurement is typically used for men’s dress shirts, but it comes in handy for some women’s clothing too! Keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor, measure around your neck where a button down shirt collar would lay. Remember not to keep this measurement too tight.
Chest or Bust:
Keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor, wrap it around the fullest part of your chest, under your arms. Make sure the measuring tape isn’t too tight to take a deep breath, cough or sneeze.
This is a measurement for women’s clothing. Keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor, wrap the measuring tape around your chest under your bust, exactly where your bra strap would lay.
This is a measurement for women’s clothing. Making sure to lay the measuring tape across the largest part of your bust, measure from your bra strap on top of your shoulder down to your natural waist.
This is the natural waist measurement. Keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor, measure the narrowest part of your waist, below your ribs and above your navel.
This measurement is taken at the widest part of your hips. Keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor, stand with your legs naturally together and measure around the widest part of your hips and buttocks.
This is the measurement from shoulder to crotch. Take the measuring tape from the top of your shoulder (next to your neck), all the way down to the center of your crotch (where the seams of pants would meet). Make sure the measuring tape lies across the widest point of your chest.
This is not a set measurement and it can vary greatly even on the same person. The rise determines how far pants come up on your waist. Keeping the measuring tape perpendicular to the floor, measure from the center of your crotch (where pants seams meet) up toward your naval. This is typically used to determine fit more often than to define a body measurement.
This is not a set measurement and it can vary greatly even on the same person. The rise determines how far pants come up on your waist and the back rise helps determine how much room you will need in the seat. Keeping the measuring tape perpendicular to the floor, measure from the center of your crotch (where pants seams meet) up over the largest part of your buttocks, to the natural waist. This is typically used to determine fit more often than to define a body measurement.
The inseam is the measurement of your inner leg. Keeping the measuring tape perpendicular to the floor and your legs standing naturally together, hold one end of the tape at the highest point of your inner thigh and measure to the ground.
Your outseam is the measurement of your outer leg. Keeping the measuring tape perpendicular to the floor, measure from your natural waist to the floor on the outside of your leg.
Stand with your arms relaxed at your side. Measure from the top of your shoulder to your wrist.
This measurement is typically used only on men’s dress shirts. Measure from your spine at the back of your neck, to the edge of your shoulder. Follow your arm down along the bend of your elbow to just below the wrist where you would want a shirt-cuff to sit. Bend your elbow a bit more than usual to allow for ease.
Bicep or Upper Arm:
Measure the largest part of your upper arm while flexing.
Measure the smallest part of your wrist.
Keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor, stand with your legs slightly apart and measure the top of your thigh at the widest part.
Reminder: Now that you know your body’s dimensions, remember - your actual measurements are not the measurements of a garment that will fit you!
Please see Determining Size & Fit in the next section.
Determining Size and Fit
You must know the measurements of your body before using this guide. If you do not know your measurements yet, please see Finding Your Actual Measurements/How to Measure Your Body in the previous section.
Determining fit is subjective. Everyone has different preferences, personal style and lifestyle needs. This guide will give you the basics, but in the end this is a personal decision that you will need to make. New to buying pre-owned? It may take some trial and error and that’s ok! We’ve all been there. It can take a few tries to find your footing, but once you do there will be endless offerings of unique fashion out there to discover.
What is “Ease”: Ease is the amount of room you have between your actual body measurement and the clothing you wear. It is extremely important to know what ease is and how much you prefer when trying to determine garment fit.
Know how and where you will be wearing these garments. Are you going on a fancy dinner date or are you going to a bonfire? Will you be sitting quietly or playing touch football? These things matter when determining fit! If you know you like to be active or may need to move a lot when wearing these clothes, take that into account and allow for extra ease.
Find a Good Tailor or Seamstress: Vintage garments were made to be tailored to fit. Having a professional available can help perfect the fit when you receive your garment.
Let's get started!
Neck or Collar:
You should allow a minimum of 0.5” of ease between your neck measurement and the collar of your garment. This will give you a traditional dress shirt collar fit. If you desire more room, take that into account when viewing measurements.
Chest or Bust:
Allow enough ease for a deep breath, cough or sneeze. Are you buying a sweater that you will layer over a shirt? Looking at a blouse that fits loosely at the bust? Keep in mind the style of the garments and how it will be worn, and make sure to allow for ease.
General rule of thumb is to allow:
1” of ease for suit vests
2” of ease for blazers and suit jackets
4” of ease for outerwear jackets (like jean jackets)
6” of ease for outerwear coats
For garments that have a tight underbust, sellers will provide this measurement. If you wear these items too tightly, you will pop a seam if you sneeze.
An empire waist will typically fall near the underbust. Use your underbust measurement to determine fit.
This measurement is very important, especially if you have a torso that is longer or shorter than average. It will help you to determine fit for items that have a fitted and defined waist. Use this measurement to determine where the waist will land on your body.
When you see a waist measurement for a garment, it may not correspond to your natural waist measurement. You may need to use a combination of measurements to determine fit. Pants are a great example of this. Use the rise measurement to determine where the waist of the pants will sit, then measure your waist at that point.
Leave a minimum of 2” of ease. Take into account bending over, sitting, walking up stairs, etc. Garment hip measurements are typically taken 9-10” below the garment’s waist measurement. Remember that vintage pants did not usually have stretch like most modern pants do. Use the style of the garment to help determine fit. Is it a pull on style with no waist opening? You may need to fit your hips through the waist to pull it on.
This measurement will help you to determine if a one piece style garment like a bodysuit, swimsuit, jumpsuit or coveralls will fit. Make sure to account for enough ease to bend over and sit down without hurting yourself. Items that are too tight in the torso will pull up the crotch seam making for a very uncomfortable experience.
The rise determines where the waist of the pants will rest on your body at the front. Measure this distance on your own body, from the center of your crotch (where pants seams meet) up toward your naval. When you reach the right rise, measure your waist at that point. This will help determine where the pants waist will sit when worn and if the pants waist will fit.
The back rise determines where the waist of the pants will rest on your body at the back. This is a very important measurement to know as it will help you determine if the pants will fit your butt. Measure this distance on your own body, from the center of your crotch (where pants seams meet) up, across the largest part of your buttocks. When you reach the right rise, measure your waist at that point. This will help determine where the pants waist will sit when worn and if the pants waist and butt will fit.
Inseam & Outseam:
When using an inseam or outseam measurement to determine fit, make sure to take into account the shoes you will be wearing and where you want the hem of the pants to fall. If you want to buy tapered or cropped pants, you will need pants with inseam/outseams that measure shorter than your own. Wearing platforms and want bell bottoms that hit the floor? Measure your inseam and outseam while wearing those shoes to determine where the hem will fall.
Shoulder to Cuff or Collar to Cuff.
This measurement measures the sleeve of garments and the sleeve only. Most items will have a shoulder seam and the sleeve will be measured from shoulder seam to the end of the cuff. Some items will have batwing or raglan sleeves with no shoulder seam, so they will be measured from the edge of the collar to the end of the cuff. Keep in mind, full sleeves like bishop or balloon sleeves may measure quite long, due to the extra fabric used to create fullness, but will usually have a fitted cuff to keep the wrist in place.
This measurement is typically used only on men’s dress shirts. Make sure to allow for enough ease to bend and use your arms.
Bicep or Upper Arm:
Leave enough ease in sleeves so you don’t tear the fabric when flexing. This may not seem like a big deal, but if your sleeves are tight and you lift a child, pull open a heavy door or carry a heavy bag, you may pop a seam!
Leave enough ease that you don’t lose circulation. Many cuffs are adjustable by moving a button or snap. If this measurement is close, contact the seller to see if alteration is possible.
Know your limits! If your pants are too tight and you squat down to pick something up, you might have a seam blowout. Leave enough ease to bend over, climb stairs, and sit comfortably.