If you have ever purchased a piece of clothing, you know just how volatile clothing sizing can be. There are no regulated standards for sizing and over time, what little median standards there have been have shifted right along with society’s ideals revolving around body type and also with the style of clothing being made during each era. Vintage clothing is almost always smaller than what we have come to expect of clothing sizes today (it’s important to note that plus sized clothing has been around for just as long as itty bitty clothing). If you do a quick google search, you can find formulas for converting vintage sizing to modern day sizing but those sources provide a good guess at best. I’m going to go out on a limb and say there is no sure fire way to be 100% sure that a garment you are purchasing online, whether from me or someone else, will fit. But we can come pretty close by looking at measurements.
Here at Cicada Moon Vintage I always provide flat lay measurements. Flat lay measurements are measurements taken while a garment is lying flat. These measurements should be used to compare to measurements of similar garments of similar materials and cut. This can be a lot more accurate than comparing a garments measurements to body measurements since various fabrics and cuts will stretch and lay on every body differently. When you compare a garment to a garment you can get a better idea of actual fit since you will already own the garment being used in the comparison and will already be familiar with how it fits your body.
How to get your own flat lay measurements:
You’ll want to measure a few different items you already own to have a good reference when looking at flat lay measurements online. See the following graphics for a quick guide on how to take these measurements.
Don’t sleep on shoulder measurements! Sometimes a garment can look like it’s going to be a more generous cut than it actually is and that shoulder measurement can really help bring some clarity. For example, a caftan that is 25” flat across chest, waist, and hips seems like it would fit many bodies but if the shoulders are only 13” across its going to best fit a like a medium or smaller. Often when that shoulder measurement is smaller, the arm scye (arm opening) is both smaller and higher, and the neck opening may be smaller around making the garment super constricting if going above those recommended sizes. At the same time, a garment with a 22” shoulder measurement isn’t necessarily a plus sized garment. Dropped shoulders were really popular in the 80s and 90s! Be sure to consider all of the measurements together to get the best picture of how any garment will fit your body.
Cut and fabric content are the other 2 important factors to consider when shopping online. 2 midi dresses with similar measurements aren’t going to fit the same if dress A is a cotton empire waist dress and dress B is a satin polyester/spandex blend sheath dress. Knowing which fabrics have stretch and which don’t, can be very helpful. Remember to compare similarly cut items and pay special attention to where the waist falls on any garment. Shopping online has an element of forensic investigation to it. But don’t let this information turn you off of buying online. Most of this information is provided in each of my descriptions and if you still have questions, I am here and happy to help!