Buying vintage online - sizing

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Part 1: Getting the right size

We all know sizes vary between different retailers so its no surprise that vintage clothing sizes vary even more…while it is common knowledge that Marilyn Monroe wore a size 16 in the 1950’s it isn’t often realised is that this is equivalent to a modern UK size 12!  Also many vintage clothes were handmade and thus fitted to the makers particular measurements rather than confirming to a standard “shop” size.

This can all be confusing and as such most vintage items on eBay are listed with the garment measurements rather than just the original size.  
In this guide I will explain both how garments are typically measured by online retailers and how to measure yourself when looking to buy vintage online.

How to measure yourself:
You will need a tape measure a pencil, a full length mirror, a piece of paper and, if you aren’t too flexible, a trustworthy friend…

Step 1 – measure yourself and write it all down:
Bust: across the shoulder blades at the fullest part of the bust, do not hold the tape too tight or you will squash your breasts giving a false reading
Waist: around the thinnest part of your torso – don’t suck your tummy in or breathe in, this needs to be a realistic measurement!
Hips: Around 6 or 7 inches below your waist at the fullest point
Sleeve and leg length – from shoulder to wrist and front inside leg to ankle
Step 2 – measure your clothes and write it all down
Take similar measurements from a couple of your own garments, ones which fit you well.  
Step 3 – Compare!
Look at the difference between your measurements and the garment measurements, the garments will be slightly larger and the difference will give you an idea as to how much bigger than you a garment should be to give you a comfortable fit.
Step 4 – Compare again!
This time compare your measurements with those of the garment you are looking to buy – try not to be tempted by too small or too large items as few vintage sellers offer refunds for items which simply do not fit.
Step 5 - ….and repeat!
You size will change over time – so please ensure you are aware of your current measurements when buying vintage.

How I measure garments:

I measure my garments laid flat, and then double where appropriate:
bust measurement is taken from underarm to underarm;
waist measurement is taken across the garment at the narrowest part of the waist (note if the waist is elasticated I give the measurement of the waist unstretched and the measurement of the waist fully stretched );
hip measurement is taken across the garment, 7 inches below the natural waist
length measurement - depending on the type of garment this is taken from neck to hem, shoulder to hem, waist to hem etc, this is included in my listings
outside arm measurement is taken from the shoulder to the wrist;
inside arm measurement is taken from the underarm seam to the wrist;

As mentioned earlier, the measurements I give are the measurements of the garment and you must allow yourself room to move and breathe. Therefore if you have a 28 inch waist, a garment that has a waist measurement of 28 inches will be too tight.

If you have any questions or suggestions for this guide please let me know!
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