Sizing Up Vintage Lingerie

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Our vintage Lingerie expert, Kimberly, shares her tips on how to make sure that vintage piece of lingerie is going to fit before you buy it.

I know that many times, the size tag on vintage lingerie items is virtually meaningless as far as comparing to today’s sizes. How can a person know they are buying an item that will fit?

Without any doubt, vintage lingerie as well as vintage fashions were cut smaller than todays sizing. The best way to achieve the most appropriate fit would be to measure accordingly.

For instance, when measuring for a full slip, you would measure your bust underneath your breasts as well as on the breast at the fullest point. Most slips come in bust sizes, i.e. 34/36/38 so once you determain your bust size, then you can proceed with a nicely fitted slip.

Keep in mind that most slips are constructed of nylon and there is a 2-4" stretch factor as well. So if you wear a 38DD, you would most likely choose a size 40 slip for the best fit, however, if you prefer a more snug fitting 'sex kitten' look, you might consider going with a size 38 or even 36.

Vintage Slips What is the best way to measure yourself?

Using a measuring tape, under your breasts, at the fullest point of your breasts (slips, tops, camisoles), from under your arm to your wrist (sleeves) around your waistline (normally 2-3" above the navel) around your hips and rear at fullest point (for hips) and from the inside of your leg at your hip joint to your desired length for inseam.

What is the appropriate way to measure a garment?

Bust measurement is normally underarm to underarm. Waist and hips laying flat seam to seam x2 and length is underarm to hemline.

How does one determine cup size?

The cup size is determined by this formula: Measure the the chest just below the breasts. Add the measurement of the breast at it's fullest point. For instance, if a lady measured 38" below the breasts and 42" at the fullest point, she would be a 38D.

Cup Sizes:

Up to 1" larger - A cup
Up to 2" larger - B cup
Up to 3" larger - C cup
Up to 4" larger - D cup
Up to 5" larger - DD cup
Up to 6" larger - F cup
Up to 7" larger - G cup
Up to 8" larger - H cup

Buy Vintage Girdles, Including RagoVintage Foundation Sizing:

Most girdles are sized by waist measurement-from 26 to 38 inches.

Many styles are made to fit small, medium, or full hip development. Hip development means the difference between waist and hip measurements. With a 26-inch waist and a 36-inch hip measurement, the development is 10 inches. A straight hip has a development of less than eight inches; average, from eight to 11; and a full-hipped figure, a development of over 11 inches. A short woman with a frankly hippy figure may need a longer girdle than a tall woman.

In general, to know the girdle length you need, you should measure yourself from waist to thigh. If the distance is 14 inches or less, you'll need a short girdle; 15 to 16 inches, a medium length; 17 or more inches, a long one. For more information on girdle sizing visit Girdlezone.

Without being a seamstress yourself, can you tell if a garment has been altered? If so, are there ways to see if that taken in waist can be letout again?

I always check the inside of the garment first to see if there is any noticeable alterations. You can usually tell by the un-matching stitching, cut off or 'rough' seams, hemlines, etc.

Normally you can let out waistbands and hemlines as well as other alterations as long as the garment has not been cut. Simply buy a seam puller at your local fabric store and be very careful in removing the stitching...with nylon it's usually un-noticeable, however, with some vintage fabrics like rayon or satin blends, it maybe better to leave the alteration alone as removing the stitching can leave holes where the fabric was sewn.

Are there any other warnings you can think of regarding size issues with vintage lingerie?

Just be sure to measure accurately and ask questions to the seller about exact measurements if they are not stated. Anotherwards, if a garment is tagged 'Medium', don't just assume since you normally wear a medium nighty, that a medium vintage is going to fit...ask questions about the bust length seam to seam, same with hips , waist line and inseam.

You can read more about Kimberly here, and you may visit her webiste for exquisite vintage lingerie items!


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