Vintage Clothing History Guide - Sizing & Body Shape

Vintage Size Labels

Over the years the average body shape has gradually changed which means a lot of vintage size labels, if present at all, are not relevant to today’s sizes. Do not be alarmed if you consider yourself a present day size 10, yet struggle to get that size 14 40s pencil skirt you just bought past your hips. Clothing manufacturers have gradually increased their measurements to flatter women into buying their clothes. At Revival Vintage we measure our clothes and give them a size closest to ones today.

Buying Vintage

Just like clothes, different body shapes go in and out of fashion. As you try and buy vintage clothes you get an idea of which decades produce the best clothes for you. But at the end of the day if you feel comfortable in it wear what the heck you like, these are only guidelines that might help you choose between things when buying vintage.

Shapes Of The Twenties

The straight up and down androgynous shapes of 1920s can be quite unforgiving to anyone with hips and a bottom. They can look incredible on a very slim boyish figure. If that's not you, you can always go for some classic accessories such as a cloche hat or embroidered shawl.

Flattering With Bias Cutting

The bias cutting of the 1930s can be flattering; it was designed to show off women's curves again. However, slinky fabrics like silk and satin highlight lumps and bumps. If you have a pear shaped figure try dresses in heavier fabrics such as linen or velvet. Pretty chiffon tea dresses suit most figures and come in a good range of sizes.

Forties Striking Suits

The boxy shapes of 1940s skirt suits look striking on slim women but can make the fuller figure wide all the way down. If you have a curvy figure, try the softer shapes of the 1940s dresses which skim over problem areas. Women who are bottom heavy might want to avoid dresses and suits with peplums which draw attention to the hips. A lot of 1940s pencil skirts hit the widest part of the calf. So again are better suited to a slim pair of legs.

Hourglass Figures

The styles of the 1950s are a curvy girls dream. They were designed to celebrate the hourglass figure. Full skirts skim beautifully over hips and thighs, while a fitted bodice highlights the waist which also suits a pear shape. If you are slim fitted shifts and pedal pushers will look nice.

The Boyish Twiggy Look

A return of the twentiesesque waist fewer shapes look best on a boyish Twiggy-like figure. A-line dresses are particularly flattering but unless you have slim legs you might want to give the minis a miss. Petite women look especially good (don't they always!) in early 1960s coats with their scaled down cut and details. If you have a full figure look out for tunic dresses which look great worn over trousers.

Bell Bottoms Or Kaftan?

Even if you pass on the polyester bell bottoms you should find other 1970s styles to suit you. Slim women look dainty in peasant styles but should avoid too many ruffles and flounces or they can look swamped. Draped jersey dresses flatter a curvy figure. Shirt dresses can be worn over a top and trousers for a slimming look. Beware of the false security of the kaftan it might seem like the perfect answer to cover everything and still have room to put away a five course meal but in the wrong hands it can end up looking like a tent.

Village Disco In My Batwing

I consider this least flattering decade to date. Although you wouldn't know it at the time when I was heading for our village disco in my batwing blouse and high waisted stone washed jeans. Designs generally were much exaggerated and seemed to magnify any figure faults. These garments are best worn as separates mixed with modern styles for a more flattering look.

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