How To Minimise Size Issues In Vintage Clothing

Same Size, Same Fit?Ordering clothes online is always a bit of a gamble. Even when buying from an established store, we can rarely rely on buying the same size each time and consistently getting a perfect fit. Every person can be a completely different shape, despite needing the same dress size. For example, three of us girls in the office are a UK size 10. Sarah works out at the gym so has definition and muscles, Alice has a youthful slim figure, and I am nearly 60 years old so even though we would all order the same size, the fit will change given our unique variations.

Aside from our figure types there are other considerations such as posture,  where the item will be worn i.e. dancing the night away or family meal,  fit preference - figure hugging or relaxed? These other factors influence our opinion of what constitutes a 'good fit'. If you love to wear true vintage clothing you can multiply those dilemmas by at least three. So how can we help?

By Helping You Understand Why Sizing Vintage Can Be Tricky

To exasperate the issues already raised, true vintage garments pre-1960s were mostly bespoke tailored for the wearer. A large percentage of the mid-century clothing we source has few or no labels. Garments were not only made to fit a persons figure and height but also reflected the fashionable silhouette of the era. For example the figure-accentuating bodice popularised by Lana Turner in the late 40s and 50s meant a blouse or dress bodice had to accommodate a bullet bra.

It wasn't until the mid-20th century, we saw the first use of standardised sizing for apparel, limiting the need for alterations and prior fittings.

By Taking Care With Measurements
We use our expertise from our 20 plus years selling vintage clothing to influence our interpretation of the numbers, in simple terms we know when to add a little ease and and when to use an exact measurement. As an example a garment waist tends to be an exact measurement - a 36" trouser waist should measure exactly that. Likewise a 16.5" collar should measure exactly that. A jacket chest on the other hand needs an element of ease for comfort, to fit other clothes beneath and so on.Ben Measuring A Vintage JacketNew Operations Manager Ben commented that taking measurements and determining the size of a garment has been the trickiest area to master. He went on to explain two vintage jackets might be labelled a 42" chest but an example from the 1990s actually measures 46" with one from the 1940s coming up at 41 1/2" at a stretch.Don't get us started on Batwing sleeves and Trapeze coats!

Where does the bust end and sleeve begin?Measuring Batwing SleevesReproduction Collections
One of the main reasons we launched a range of replica vintage clothing 15 years ago was to bring period accurate clothing to all shapes and sizes. That said it's still impossible to set a range of sizes that will catch everyone. We can process a return for a pair of men's vintage trousers that are 'too large' followed by the same style, same size 'too small' we can only do our best by listening to customers, looking for repeat feedback on sizing and refine our listings and size charts.

Revival & Socialite
This year we are working to close the gap on the differentials between our different styles. Historically we have reproduced our archive garments to the letter including measurements this is because we want to replicate the exact proportions of the original piece. The drawback with that is each one can vary significantly even between two similar styles. For example, the original owner of vintage tea dress A UK 10 might have had broad shoulders, whereas owner of vintage tea dress B UK 10 might have had a large bust. We would like to reach a stage where buyers can be confident if they buy two Socialite dresses that are a similar silhouette then the fit will be very similar too.

This requires hours of averaging measurements and lots and lots of size comparisons but we are getting there.

From Other Companies
Unlike most retailers we don't copy and paste the size charts other suppliers provide when we buy stock from them. We spot check their measurements first.  A lot of suppliers use generic size charts regardless of the style they are offering. It'd be great if that were true but in our experience of both retail and manufacturing, measurements inevitably vary across styles so we never assume they are accurate.

By Being Responsive & Providing Guidance
If you are still unsure there are many ways you can get in touch, we are always happy to assist with measurement checks or providing additional measurements. The most common request for advice comes from gentlemen unsure of sizing when selecting high-waist, long rise trousers for the first time.  They should sit on the natural waistline which is an alien concept to some chaps that wear a modern pant below the tummy. That waist circumference in those two places will be very different. Check out our measuring tips on each trouser listing.

There is no such thing as a perfect figure. Remember the feature you least like about yourself will be the asset someone else craves. Of course, everybody is different, it’s okay if you don’t fit into just one shape group. These guidelines are just a light hearted look at some ideas for women that might just help you feel your best.
Revival Body Shape GuideSo there you go, wear what you feel comfortable in and try to work with your body shape rather than against it.

I think we would all agree there is no fail safe method when buying vintage and reproduction vintage clothing but arming yourself with knowledge, taking a little time and seeking clarification where you think it might help could just lead to fewer returns which is a win for our shoppers, for us and moreover our planet by cutting down the number of times we transport the same goods up and down the country, the globe and back again!Try On Clothes At The Revival ShowroomOf course a way to avoid this altogether is by visiting our Yorkshire based showroom Tues-Sat inclusive. You can try before you buy to your heart's content. We hope to see you soon!


I bought a social lite dress a year ago. Was too long in the body…cost me £75 to have it altered…made me reluctant to buy any more as much as I’d love to 😢

Jane Rowe August 18, 2023

I am very shortwaisted, yet love the Socialite suit. Can it be adjusted?

Kathleen Frandsen July 18, 2023

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published