A Quick Guide On How To Measure For Vintage Clothing

Buying genuine vintage clothing, such as that sold on The Strawberry Vintage Store, can be a challenge due to the variations in sizing. We try to help on the site by measuring all the critical points on out items, but sizing varies a lot in vintage clothing and because of this care needs to be taken when buying. Label sizes differ from era to era and manufacturer to manufacturer (a lot like today's clothing). For example, what was once a size 8 in the 1950s is now a size 0! Type of fabric and garment structure can also play a big part. A lot of clothing would have been custom crafted to fit a particular body shape, so therefore won't really fall into any traditional sizing category. These things all need to considered when buying and I will briefly go over these throughout the blog.

I hope you will find this information useful and informative.

Tape measures

So you love vintage and you want to treat yourself? However, the garment you have fallen head over heels with is online! After all, its the biggest shopping centre you can buy from, including our own store
The internet is adorned with thousands of online retro stores, all rich with individual pickings for you to spend hours flicking through.

So you have narrowed your search down and you're ready to click add to cart. But wait! It doesn’t have a size...Gah! Only measurements and you don't know yours. Does anybody? Apart from models and fitness fanatics that is. Fear not I can help. As a vintage retail seller and seamstress, I can give you a few hacks.

You Are Not Alone

First things first, you're going to need help. You can not get true measurements by yourself. They won't be accurate and you will end up with lovely clothes that don't fit. And that will be totally disappointing. So phone a friend to help. They are going to get up close and personal so choose wisely.

A good rule of thumb is, stand up straight looking forward with your arms down by your sides. No looking down at your mate who’s trying their best to wrap a tape measure around you. Next tip is always measure at the widest point. No matter if it's your hips, bust or thighs it's the widest point. The only exception to the rule is your waist, that's the thinnest part.

Go Bust!


Do you need to wear a bra? is the main question I get asked. My thoughts are yes but like always there are exceptions to the rule. But on the whole, I would advise you to wear the bra you use the most, that way your garment will fit comfortably and won't be too snug, like it could be if you didn’t have it on when calculating your size.

If you're looking at buying a corseted top or dress, something fitted with boning then I would say give the bra a miss. Structured pieces like this are made to be worn without a bra. It should be tight enough around your ribs to hold itself up and keep your modesty intact. If you do wear a bra with a corseted garment you run the risk of your bust looking like a shelf, particularly if you are blessed in that department.

So lift your arms and let the tape be placed around your bust then lower the arms back by your side and look straight ahead. The tape needs to be around the fullest part and fitted so the tape is level and against you all the way around and not to tight. Make a note of that and you're onto the next.

Pretty much the same rules apply for you men too, you need to be measured up at the widest part of your chest, this is normally in line with your nipples.

 Waist Want Not

woman girl waist measure

So then we move onto the waist. Here you will need to go for the thinnest part. Again its arms up, tape round and arms down, Looking forward. Don't forget not to tight but no baggy tape. Jot that down, then you're onto the next... Easy peasy right?!

The hips don't lie

On this one, you need to make sure that your legs are no more than shoulder width apart so your hips are not distorted and you're aiming for the widest part. It’s easy to get the tape wonky on this so a quick tip... stand with you back to a mirror with your helper facing your front. That way a quick peep in the mirror from your assistant and he or she can check it's all looking good.

The inside story

Now for the personal touch. You need to be shoeless and stood with your legs slightly apart. The start of the tape measure will need to be placed at the top of your leg by your groin (don't be tempted to hold that yourself as this will throw off the measurement) and in theory you can't because your arms are by your side and you are still looking straight ahead. Then your sidekick will need to run the tape down the leg till it hits the floor with the tape nice and taut. The figure that is just touching the floor is the one you need.

At arm's length

Arm length measurements may be required if you are planning on buying a jacket or coat.

This time hold your arm straight up from your side until it's at a 90-degree angle keeping the palms of the hands facing downwards towards the floor and the fingers straight. The tape should start in the armpit and run to your thumb knuckle. Did you know this is where a sleeve end should officially sit? Obviously this can be subjective to your own personal preference. Some people like the cuff to end at the wrist, you could always make a note of both whilst your at it. Then you can make a judgment based on what you are buying.

I like blazers to end at my thumb knuckle but coats or jackets with cuffs I like to be wrist length.

It’s all as simple as that. These are your main requirements for sizing.



Other lengths that may be useful to have are shoulder to shoulder, this is a case of running the tape from the knuckle on your shoulder to the one on the opposite shoulder. Waist to the floor for long skirts might be handy too, I recommended starting that one from the middle of your back (spine) at the waist then down to the floor. Thighs... not often needed, however, if you do need this it’s simply the thickest part of the thigh you aim for. Thighs differ slightly in size, so do both and use the larger measurement.

You should be pretty much be sorted after that. Don’t forget we tend to go up and down in body composition so you will do well to redo this procedure from time to time.

Clothing with stretch will give you a little more leeway in the sizing department, whereas other fabrics will have no room for error, especially around the waist so it maybe worth asking the seller if the fabric has stretch or if they consider it to be a sung fit. Hopefully now you are armed with your measurements you will be able to buy with confidence and not spend hours trolling the net only to find clothing that doesn't fit and be left feeling disappointed. Good Luck!

All our descriptions contain full flat measurements, as well as any labels, due to the differences in vintage and modern sizing. Shop here

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