Have you heard yourself say “Vintage clothing is so small – nothing fits me. How do I get vintage clothing in a large or plus size?” It’s hard enough to find vintage that is in good condition and a style that you like. Having to deal with size gives it that extra challenge. Our body size has changed over the years, not only are we taller and average weight has gone up but our expectation of how clothes will fit has changed. For example, 1950’s clothing was designed to show off an hourglass shape with a defined waist. This was achieved with padded bras and girdles or waist cinchers. The bodices were more fitted than we are used to now. So how do you go about getting vintage clothing that fits?
The first thing is to find your measurements and to be honest about them. It’s frustrating to try on things that you think should fit and they don’t. Take a blouse and a dress that fits you well. Lay the blouse down on a flat surface. Starting at the top, measure from the top of the Preloved clothing sleeve seam across the back of the blouse to the top of the other sleeve seam. Knowing this measurement will help you eliminate anything that will be too tight in the shoulders. Measure the blouse across the back from side seam to side seam right under where the sleeve comes into the garment (the armpit), double it- that’s your bust. Measure the blouse across the back from side seam to side seam at the waist and double it – that’s the waist. Take the dress and do the same measurements along with the hip measurement. You’ll have two sets of measurements that give you a range of what fits you. You can use these measurements as a guide when you shop online or in stores just be sure to bring along a tape measure.
There are more vintage businesses out there than ever before both online and in brick and mortar stores, along with thrift and consignment stores. Online use search terms like plus size, large size, big size, XL along with the word vintage and dress or skirt or clothing. There are web sites that specialize in plus size vintage. Check their link pages for other business that carry large size vintage. They’re all looking for the same customers and will link to each other. Check the measurements on the site to see if they get merchandise in your range. Watch for listings that give the bust measurements in the title or use terms like B44. This usually indicates that they know they have a larger size and want to catch your attention. Check auctions sites for specialty dealers or even people who are selling from their own plus size vintage collection.
Remember that plus size is a relative term. What is large in your mind is a medium to someone else. There are no set standards. Communicate with dealers, shop owners, sales help at consignment stores and let them know what you’re looking for. They know their own stock and may be able to help you pull things to try on. They can let you know when new merchandise comes in and maybe give you first pick because the larger sizes usually go first. Look at out of season clothing, they’re not being picked over as much and you may luck out and find that generously sized 50’s cotton summer dress while everyone else is looking at coats!
Should you believe size tags in vintage clothing? Take size tags in vintage with a grain of salt because sizes have changed and can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Plus or large size vintage dresses used to be called “half-sizes” so sometimes you see the “half-size” with the number. Tags that say 20 ½ or 22 ½ in vintage clothing fits about a size 16 or 18 in today’s clothing size. Also look for companies that made larger sizes like “Lane Bryant” or “R and K Originals.” When you see “sized to height” on a tag it means it is sized for a taller shape.