Vintage Sewing Hacks: Know Your Size

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If you love sewing vintage, then you probably have come across a variety of pattern sizes. Modern clothing sizes for girls and women are labeled as girls, juniors, misses and women. Some add the term plus size to women’s sizes. During the 1950s and 1960s patterns were sized differently than they are today. Once you get out of the little kids sizes, vintage patterns are designed with 8 different body types. Although the sizing varies somewhat between the different pattern manufacturers, it is important to understand the sizing, so you know what to expect from your vintage pattern.

 

Before you decide on which pattern size to look for, you have to know your measurements. Take the following measurements and keep them stored in your phone or sewing box, so they will be easily accessible when you need them. You will need to know your height, waist, hip, and bust measurements. Your back waist measurement—from the base of your neck to your waist—is good to know. If you are a full figure or plus size, it will also help to measure your bicep because sleeve and arm scythe (arm hole) adjustments will most likely be necessary.

 

This is how Simplicity sized their patterns from the1950s into the mid 1970s. After that, they went to something closer to modern patterns. The other major pattern companies: McCall’s and Butterick followed similar pattern sizing. Vogue, as expected, was a different beast. I’ll cover vintage Vogue pattern sizing in another post. The 8 figure types are not based on age, although the terms seem to suggest it. Instead, these terms are used to describe body types. Women with tiny frames or very athletic builds might take Junior Petite through Teen sizes. You may also take a different size depending on the item you are making. If your top and bottom are different sizes, go with the size that will require the easiest alterations. For example, I take a different size in tops than I do in pants or skirts. Because I never wear dresses or skirts that are fitted through the hip (like a sheath dress or pencil skirt) I use my bust size to determine my dress size. One other thing to note about measurements; always take your measurements with the undergarments you usually wear. If you never leave the house without Spanks, then take your measurements while wearing them. It will save you a lot of headaches when you go to fit your garment.

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The 8 Different Body Types used by Simplicity Patterns in the 1950s and 1960s

The 8 Figure and Pattern Types:

 

Misses-Women

For women who are around 5’ 6” tall. This pattern type is for taller women with a well-proportioned figure. Simplicity says this is the “average” American woman. Sizes 10-50 are covered in this pattern type. Bust measurements range from 31-52 inches. Waist measurements range from 24-46 inches. Hip measurements from 33-54 inches and a back waist length of 15¾ – 17¾.

 

Junior

Junior sizes are designed for women who are shorter than 5’6”. They are still proportioned for a well developed figure, but with a higher bustline than the Misses-Womens. The waistline is more defined in this pattern type. Simplicity says that this is a average figure with a slightly shorter waist. Junior sizes range from size 9-15. It covers bust measurements from 30½ – 35 inches, a waist of 23½ – 27 inches, and a hip measurement of 32½ – 37 inches. The back waist measurement is from 15 – 15¾ inches.

 

Half-Size

This is for shorter women that have a well developed figure. The average height for this pattern type is 5’3”. The shoulders are narrower than Misses-Women sizes and larger at the waist and hips in proportion to the bust measurement. Simplicity calls this a stocky figure. Half sizes range in sizes from 12½ – 24½. The bust measurement is from 33 – 45 inches, waist from 27 – 40 inches, hips from 37 – 49 inches, and a back waist length of  15¼ – 16¾ inches. Half sizes are always marked as half.

 

Teen

In order to distinguish Teen sizes from Misses-Women sizes, the size is followed by the letter “T”. For example, size 14t. The height for Teen sizes is the same 5’3” as in Half sizes, but the Teen sizes are designed for a less developed figure. They will be smaller in the bust and hips than a Half size. The bustline is higher than Half or Junior sizes.  Many adult women with tiny frames can wear a Teen size if they find they have to alter the bust darts and hips in a Junior size. Teen sizes run from 10t – 16t. The bust measurements range from 30 – 36, waist 24 -28, hips from 32 – 38, and a back waist length of 14¾ – 15½.

 

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This is a size 12s, a Sub-Teen pattern from the late 50s or early 60s.

Sub-Teen

This is for a shorter frame. The average height for Sub-Teens is about 5’1”. It is designed for women shorter than Teen size. The waistline is larger compared to the bust which can give some styles a short-waisted look. To avoid confusion between Sub-Teen and other sizes, Sub-Teen sizes always contain the letter “S”, For example, size 14s, will always be a Sub-Teen size. Sizes range from 8s – 14s. Bust measurements range from 28 – 33 inches, waist from 23 – 26 inches, hips from 31 – 36 inches, and a back waist length of 13½ – 14½ inches.

 

Junior-Petite

The Junior-Petite patterns are designed for figures slightly shorter than Sub-Teens. The Junior-Petite size is designed for a more shapely figure than Sub-Teen, with the waist proportionally smaller to the bust and hips than the other sizes. All Junior-Petite sizes include the letters “JP” after the size. For example, size 11jp. Sizes are odd numbered and range from size 3jp – 13jp. Bust measurements range from 31 – 33½ inches, waist from 22½ – 25 inches, hips from 32½ – 35 inches, and a back waist length of 14 – 15¼ inches.

 

Chubbie

Personally, I am glad that the pattern companies have done away with this term. What girl would want to wear clothing in a chubbie size—how could it not make them feel fat? Chubbie sizes are for girls who are about 5 feet tall. They are for a rounder figure than Girls sizes. The back waist length is slightly longer that Girls sizes even though the height is the same. The Chubbie sizes are always listed as half sizes followed by the letter “C”. For example, size 14½c. Starting with Chubbie sizes, the bust measurement changes to a breast measurement. Sizes range from 8½c – 14½c. Breast measurements range from 30 – 34½ inches, waist from 28 – 31 inches, hips from 33 – 37½ inches, and back waist length from 12 – 14 ¼ inches.

 

Girls

This is for girls 5 feet and slightly shorter. These are the smallest of all of the 8 body types. There are no underarm darts for fitting the bodice. Girls sizes range from 7 -14. Breast measurements are 25 – 32 inches, waist is from 22½ – 26 inches, hips from 27 – 35 inches, and back waist length from 11 – 13¾ inches. Anything smaller than a size 7 is considered children or toddlers, and sometimes they are listed as ages like 4 years instead of a numeric size.

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A 1960s sizing chart for Simplicity patterns.

Thanks for viewing, until next time;

The Granny.

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