SIGNUP - FREE Membership and 1 FREE Sewing Lesson
| FAQ | Login
 

Forum > Vintage Sewing > Vintage Patterns sizes ( Moderated by JEF)

Please LOGIN or Join PatternReview
Go to Page:
Vintage Patterns sizes
Were women that much smaller back then
WantToSewAgain
WantToSewAgain
Advanced Beginner
California USA
Member since 6/15/11
Posts: 115
Send Message

      



Date: 3/28/13 12:18 PM

I am really intrigued by the styles of the 1940s and 1950s. I like the dresses and am thinking of attempting to sew one from an old pattern. But, when I look at the pictures on the pattern it appears that all women had itty bitty waists. It looks like they can put their hands around their waist. I'm not small now. But, even when I was an underweight teenager/young adult I didn't have that small of a waist. So, I was wondering did women really have that small of waist back then? Or, is that just the artist's rendition of what women looked like?

Regarding this, do you find that you have to purchase a much larger size of a vintage pattern than you do of a recent pattern?

HanPanda
star
HanPanda
Intermediate
Member since 4/27/08
Posts: 1129
Send Message

      
thumbsup 2 members like this.



Date: 3/28/13 12:30 PM

Ive been sewing from Buttericks 50's retro line, so I'm not sure how applicable this may be for you. But I find the sizing to be up to date and I sew the same size as I have been for my other, non retro patterns. I think the itty bitty waists is a combination of three things--artist interpretation, girdles, and dress design.

------
2014 resolution: keep track of sewn yardage!! I'm subtracting fabric given away from my yardage in. Yeah!
In: 94.5 yards
Sewn: 73 yards

I'll try anything once :)

Please excuse my typos...sometimes it is harder to go back and edit on mobile than it is worth!

Andi
star
Andi
Advanced
New York USA
Member since 8/24/02
Posts: 1163
Send Message

      



In reply to WantToSewAgain <<
thumbsup 1 member likes this.


Date: 3/28/13 12:39 PM

I use the measurements on the actual envelope and always measure pattern pieces. A size 16 in 1930's patterns is different than a 16 in 1960's, 1980's etc. I think the reproduction vintage from the big 4 have been re-sized for current big 4 slopers. HTH

Elona
star
Elona  Friend of PR
Advanced
Member since 8/24/02
Posts: 8555
Send Message

      



In reply to WantToSewAgain <<


Date: 3/28/13 2:46 PM

They were smaller back then. They worked harder, ate less, and hit puberty later than women today (a fat-related issue).

Here are some details.

DonnaH
star
DonnaH
Intermediate
Texas USA
Member since 10/1/03
Posts: 1365
Send Message

      



Date: 3/28/13 3:04 PM

I think HanPanda has it right. Yes, people (not just women) were generally smaller then, but they also had much, um "stricter" foundation garments. (and only the skinniest women went without - at least of those who had any pretense of being "fashionable")

And those garments were designed to help them try to reach that artists' goal of the itty bitty waist in the hourglass figure. Of course, then as now, the illustrations on the pattern were to make women think that they could look like this if they made this pattern.

CM_Sews
CM_Sews
Intermediate
California USA
Member since 9/18/04
Posts: 1797
Send Message

      



In reply to Elona <<


Date: 3/28/13 3:17 PM

They also wore girdles, some rather serious body compression garments. This is how you could wear one of those pencil skirt "wiggle dresses" with minimal wearing ease. When you sat down, there wasn't much body spread because your abdomen was compressed to a "constant" shape and size. On the other hand, a dear friend who wore these types of wiggle dresses in the 1950s told me that she seemed to be always on a diet - if she gained 5 lbs., she couldn't fit into some of the dresses, even with a girdle. (The Good Old Days were not always as "good" as they appear to us looking back though the decades with rose colored glasses.)

When you shop for vintage patterns, you'll see some pattern envelopes from the late 1960's and the early 1970's emblazoned with "Uses the NEW Pattern sizing!!" or some such (introduced in 1968). Many/most young women stopped wearing girdles in the 1960s. The New Pattern Sizing used a slightly larger waist measurement.

However, the pattern illustrations are somewhat fanciful, and are influenced by the basic style of the era. For example, here are two pattern envelopes for the same sample apron pattern from McCalls. Notice how the illustrations differ. This is exactly the same pattern, but the women in the 1975 version seem more slender and willowy to me:

McCalls Butcher Apron Sample Pattern, 1975
McCalls Butcher Apron Sample Pattern, 1983

CMC

Elona
star
Elona  Friend of PR
Advanced
Member since 8/24/02
Posts: 8555
Send Message

      



In reply to CM_Sews <<


Date: 3/29/13 5:19 AM

It depends on what specific "vintage" period one is referring to. In the 30s and 40s, that girdled, compressed effect was not fashionable, since women had only been released from it a few years earlier by the Flapper movement, and during the War, rationing made high fashion not much of an issue.

My mother was a young working woman during WWII. I remember seeing her and her sisters, lean, petite young women, dressed like this, in simple garments requiring little fabric. Often, I was in the company of these ladies while they socialized and dressed up, and no foundations stricter than a bra were in evidence (my portly grandma was a different story--industrial-strength corsets there!).

However, after the War, when fabric restrictions were lifted, and full skirts and wasp waists were re-introduced, then yes, the bullet-bra, girdles, and waist cinchers like Merry Widows went mainstream, even among thin women.

In sum, I would say that if you get a real vintage pattern from the 30s up through about 1948 or 50, the draft will reflect the natural, average shape of women who were smaller and thinner than they are now. From about 1950 to perhaps 1960-65, corsetry and elastic foundations play a big part in sizing.

Miss Fairchild
starstarstarstar
Miss Fairchild
Advanced
USA
Member since 8/24/02
Posts: 7936
Send Message

      
thumbsup 1 member likes this.



Date: 3/29/13 7:24 AM

Following what Elona said (she and I are from about the same era), I too agree that women were smaller then. For one thing, they walked everywhere. For another, they ate differently--no packaged foods and no HFCS. Sure, girdles were "in", but overall, their size was still smaller. I remember when I was 15 my mother pulled out her trousseau and gave me a bathrobe she wore when she got married--at 27. It fit me fine.

------
"Play the cards you are dealt, but choose who is sitting at the table"..AARP magazine

SEE MY ETSY SHOP HERE: http://www.etsy.com/shop/AuntMaymesAttic
My blog: http://auntmaymesattic.wordpress.com/

lisalu
star
lisalu
Advanced Beginner
Georgia USA
Member since 10/5/08
Posts: 2254
Send Message

      



Date: 3/29/13 10:23 AM

If you think women were small in the mid-20th century, they were positively child-sized in the 19th century!

A couple of years ago I acquired a trunk full of Victorian clothing. There is a wedding dress from 1882 that wouldn't fit an average 12 year old today. Not only is the waist 22", but the bust is 30"! I was quite slender and petite when I was in my 20's (wore the equivalent of a size 2 today) but even then my bust measurement was 36"!

Part of this may be due to our better nutrition in childhood. I imagine a woman of marriageable age in 1900 who weighed 80 lbs may not have been as well nourished as a young woman of that age today.

------
Jim (Singer 301), Margaret (Singer 201-2), Betty (Singer 15-91), Bud (Singer 503), Kathy (Singer 221), Liz (Singer 221 Centennial Edition)
http://runningstitches-mkb.blogspot.com/

Pamela R
star
Pamela R  Friend of PR
Expert/Couture
Ontario CANADA
Member since 6/22/07
Posts: 678
Send Message

      



Date: 3/29/13 10:57 AM

My aunt (born 1909) once told me that a young woman was expected to have a waist to match her age, therefore when she married at 18, she had an 18" waist, and, by the way, she could tell no one that she was married , or she would have lost her job. No one knew until my cousin was on the way.

Go to Page:
Please LOGIN or Join PatternReview

printable version Printable Version

* Advertising and soliciting is strictly prohibited on PatternReview.com. If you find a post which is not in agreement with our Terms and Conditions, please click on the Report Post button to report it. Vintage Sewing >> Vintage Patterns sizes

 
adv. search»
pattern | machine | member
        
Online Class
Break your Serger Out of the Box
Break your Serger Out of the Box

Class Details

Online Class
Create a Jacket Muslin
Create a Jacket Muslin

Class Details

New Look 6516

photo
by: Sheila457

Review
BurdaStyle Magazine 12-2012-144

photo
by: AllNewtoMe

Review
Islander Sewing Systems Women's City Western Blouse Pattern

Islander Sewing Systems Women's City Western Blouse Pattern

More Info
Islander Sewing Systems Baja Shirt Pattern

Islander Sewing Systems Baja Shirt Pattern

More Info

Conditions of Use | Posting Guidelines | Privacy Policy | Shipping Rates | Returns & Refunds | Contact Us | About | New To PR | Advertising

Copyright © 2014 PatternReview.com® , OSATech, Inc. All rights reserved.