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Ladies, pretend you have time traveled back to 1965 and must buy some clothes

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

You don't want to stand out. So, click here to find your size.

The fact is that back then if you made some of your own clothes, the pattern you bought was approximately the same size as your off-the-rack clothes.

Pattern makers didn’t change their sizing over the last 50 years, but the ready-to-wear fashion industry did. They added inches to each size so we would feel good about ourselves and spend more money.

In 1965 the average woman wore a size 12. Yeah, but her measurements were 34-26-36.

They say that growing old isn’t for wimps. Well, neither is facing the reality of how much larger we are than 2 generations ago.

I don’t sew very often anymore. Yet when I do, I understand the psychology of the ready-to wear fashion industry.

After losing the weight and landing right in the middle of my recommended BMI range, I’m in the minority of American women today. Some people even call me “skinny” or “scrawny” or worse, but all I’ve really accomplished is to turn myself into the average woman of 1965.

I’ve been told that no one was a size zero in the old days. They’re right. Those measurements used to be called size 8.

There has always been some variation among manufacturers. Usually the more expensive the item, the smaller the size. “Sizing creep” goes way beyond that. Disguising how much our bodies have expanded is not helpful although it does maximize profits.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Well, that brings me right back up the 4 sizes I lost over the last 50 pounds.

    If only we wore pants like men, the size is the inches, then it would be so much easier.
    1749 days ago
    Yep, I still wear the same size as in high school, anywhere from 2-4. However, I'm 25 pounds heavier. When I try on vintage clothes, I'm a 10-12.
    1750 days ago
    What drives me crazy is the inconsistency among manufacturers. It is such a pain to have to try everything on. Yes, I am lazy, and I dislike clothes shopping. But if sizes were the same across the board, shopping would be so much quicker and easier, and with much less trying on. The situation now is insane. Even for my son - he can wear pants from 10 to 14, and yet from one maker, a 16 is too small.
    1750 days ago
    yep, upper teens and early 20's I wore a size 8 and I weighed about 111 to 113 pounds, now 50 years later, I weigh 125 to 127 and wear size 8 same size, but then my pants were tight, (I liked them that way) and now they are almost baggy, ( I also like them that way) emoticon and I never actually ever thougth about this before right now, Thanks for opening my eyes,, of course I knew my body was way different back in the 60's but how about that
    1751 days ago
    In 1966 I was a standard size 12, (34,24,36 as it was in the UK,) I now fit into a Marks and Spencer's size 14, which used to be 36,26,38, only I am 42, 32,43!! Crazy! I wish they would standardise their sizes, I just want clothes that fit.

    If you look at patterns from the 30's a 'normal' woman was even tinyer. Standard knitting patterns are to fit a 32" bust, and the 'larger woman' is a 38"

    Yet TV programmes in the UK, like 'Supersize, superskinny" tell girls of what was a standard size then, that they are 'dangerously underweight'

    even more crazy!
    1751 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/3/2013 6:54:55 PM
  • MARYBETH4884
    Thanks, I know things had changed in sizing but didn't know exact specifics. Now with this chart I do!
    1751 days ago
  • OWL_20
    Clothes sizes always bother me, mostly because what's a size 12 in one pair of jeans is not a size 12 in another pair. If that makes sense! And I have to question why I feel so bad when a certain size doesn't fit anymore. Loved your blog and it made me think of a project I had started a month--need to haul out the sewing machine again!
    1751 days ago
    When I was in my 20's my mother always told me "when I was my age I had a 19 inch waist". I reminded her they didn't make those anymore. She was always on diets to gain weight...guess I didn't inherit those genes. Oh well.
    1751 days ago
  • SHEL_V2
    Great thing to share, and for those of us who are over 40 to project back to how much sizes have shifted during our lifetimes. However, I don't see the size creep as being entirely about the manufacturers. The shape of their customers has changed dramatically over the years, and that results in a larger number of different shapes. They're having to find some way to keep us all dressed and for them to stay in business. When overweight and obese customers were not a significant part of the population, more of us wore fewer sizes.
    1751 days ago
    I know! It really is crazy. When I was 18 years old, I weighed 97 pounds and wore size 10. I was tiny. Now, at 105, I'm larger than I was at 18 (more fat, less muscle) and wear size 2, sometimes 4.
    1751 days ago
    Well, I just went to the site, and it sure isn't for me!!! I'm way to tall, but I have to thank God for my height, as I wouldn't have it any other way!!!

    Be blessed,

    - Nancy Jean -
    1751 days ago
    My goodness!!! I remember making clothes for me, and I only did it because it was a home economics project for school. I didn't understand what I was doing and the teacher wasn't any help either. It took me 2 weeks, just to pin and cut out my pattern, and then another 3 weeks to figure out what I was suppose to do with the material. I remember having to use the seam ripper, so many times, I wish I had stock in the company!!!

    I understand about the sizes. I'm so tall and not very many companies made anything for tall women. It was years before I discovered Lane Bryant. What a feeling of relief!!! When I was overseas, I cherished their catalogs and bought often from them.

    When I came home, the Lane Bryant here, was a heck of a lot more expensive than the catalog, but it didn't take long for the catalog to catch up. I'm not able to even afford a pair of their pants.

    Now my, mom had the opposite problem. She was an itty bitty little thing. The had a store about 30 miles from us called The 0, 1, 2, 3 Shop. That's where she bought her clothes and she wore a size 0. She tried shopping at Sears and Penny's but the dresses in the Misses and Women's sizes were way to big. She would have to go to the kids section to find something to fit, but it didn't look right, as it was made for kids!!!

    Good for you for achieving to become the 1965 average woman. That's so cool!!! I love it!!!

    I'm going to the sites to see where I am with my size. I've lost so much weight, I have no idea what I wear!!!

    God bless you,

    - Nancy Jean -
    1751 days ago
    I will be a size 12/14 with these measurements, but I buy size 4 or 2 nowadays (and I have even bought 00's two weeks ago). I knew there was a difference, just did not realize how much!
    Thank you for sharing.
    1751 days ago
    We recently binge-watched all 6 seasons of Mad Men, and it was a joy to see all the clothes that I used to wear in the 60s. And women like Joan weren't that far from the norm!
    1751 days ago
  • JANET552
    Thanks for sharing. It certainly does make shopping frustrating. In my closet I have 12s that fit well and 14s that are too tight. Go figure.
    1751 days ago
    Obviously 00, 8, 12, 22, there are all random numbers which have no corresponding actual unit of measurement. I would have been a 10-12 then and am a 6-8 now. I agree with MJREIMERS, I see how emphasis on thinness hurts my 5 daughters. Even my normal/under weight 5 yr old worries she is fat! (and this from a homeschooled kid with little TV exposure) It is about health, not size, cancer patients and famine victims are thin too, should we laud them for having small measurements? Some of the thinnest people I know are alcoholics. Marilyn Monroe would be considered unacceptably fat by cultural standards now. Then, also consider how well being so beautiful and successful worked out for her, no health and longevity there. I have never met someone who needed to lose weight, who wasn't aware of it. It is not culturally acceptable, more just accepted as inevitable, like your car breaking down. Yet, since the advent of BMI, the ideal has gone from a range, to people feeling like the bottom of the range is the correct number. I see this when I read the message boards here; people of a normal healthy weight feeling they are not acceptable, haven't made it, until they are at the bottom of the BMI range. I have an overweight friend who feels that since she cannot meet the ideal of weighing less than 100 pounds, or at least is not willing to do the starving it takes to reach there, that anything else is failure. Thus, she makes no lifestyle changes. I think many overweight or sedentary people feel that since they can't be "thin" or "athletic", and honestly not everyone is cut out to run marathons or play competitive sports, there is no point in changing anything. This is the trend we need we need to fight not size creep. Small healthy changes, reap big health benefits should be our motto!
    1751 days ago
  • CHERYLA2012
    Vanity Sizing is making huge inroads in men's apparel as well. My husband used to be able to try on one pair of jeans and then buy additional pairs off the shelf. Now, we are finding "rise" issues and he is having to try on each pair. He wears a 32-inch waist jean, which is a pretty standard size.

    1751 days ago
    Yep in 1967 I was a size 9, the smallest I'd been though our my teens and early adulthood. In the past 17 years the smallest I was was an 8-but I was bigger than in 67. Go figure, it's evil and demoralizing especially if you sew and have to buy your "real size".
    I agree with others the size on the label doesn't matter, it either fits or it doesn't.
    emoticon emoticon

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1751 days ago
  • KANOE10
    Good blog. You are right..the added inches on sizes are strictly for people can deceive themselves and feel good.
    Interesting and informative blog.

    1751 days ago
    We keep talking about vanity sizing, but will the manufacturers ever listen? By the Simplicity table, I started out at 22-24 and would be a size 12 now. The clothes at the upper end must not have changed as much, because at my heaviest I was buying size 20-22 pants. Now my off-the-rack sizes, depending on manufacturer, range from 6-10 or XS to M
    1751 days ago
    I love the comment about the two sizes: fits and doesn't fit!

    Yes, size creep is demoralizing. I keep some clothes for a long time, so there's everything from size 12 to size 4 in my closet.
    1751 days ago
    I would be an 18 in those measurements - which is why I can never find vintage clothes that fit :)

    I try to remind my mom of that fact when she's frustrated at not being able to find anything small enough to fit her. She wore a size 4 wedding dress (that was taken in! in!) in 1977 and she's not much bigger now than she was then.
    1751 days ago
    I buy 14's off the rack. If I went by that chart I should be an 18. If I bought an 18 now I'd need more than one belt to hold up all the pieces! No wonder some of my "older" patterns need so much adjusting!
    1751 days ago
  • DR1939
    It certainly makes shopping interesting when the sizes creep almost yearly.
    1751 days ago
    Wow, I would have been a size 22

    1751 days ago
    Men's sizes don't seem to have changed. They've just targeted the vanity of the ladies!
    1751 days ago
    I have mentioned this same thing before. I wear a size 00 now, yet that size 8 skirt from 1980 is snug. When I sew I buy a size 12 pattern and make adjustments for my aging body. Marilyn Monroe was actually a perfect size 12, I remember it well. Today she would wear a 2. As far as I am concerned there are only two sizes: "fits" and "doesn't fit". The numbers are irrelevant to me, but evidently not to the buying public. Manufacturers make money by giving people what they want, and it would appear that people want to feel thinner than they really are.
    1751 days ago
    Size inflation! emoticon
    1751 days ago
    It is all so ridicules..... I would never have been a size 0! I'm 5 ft 8 and my wrist circumference is 8.25 inches on the bone ...... size 11 wide for shoes.....
    If I believed all that growing up I'd have very serious body issues.... I was always put in the back of the group photos for being tallest girl. We are all different, I'm not a number on my clothes.
    1751 days ago
    emoticon This is sooo good! I'm going to show my girls! I really don't understand the industry making vanity sizing. If we had kept the "old" sizes, it would be no big deal. The pressure to be thin is everywhere and I've personally seen how it affects our girls.

    We need to stress healthy and strong over skinny. It's not easy! I appreciate this blog!
    1751 days ago
    so true. thank you for sharing
    1751 days ago
    My mother was very very proud to be a size 16, like Marilyn Monroe!!

    And . . . . given that my body type is pretty "straight up and down" with my waist measurement most resistant to reduction . . . I'm somewhere between a 14 and a 16. Not the 8s (and sometimes 6s) I pretty consistently select off the racks.

    Who'm I fooling? Me I guess!!
    1751 days ago
    Yeah, and that's about the size I wore in high school... 14's moving into 16's. By today's tape measure, a 14. In the store these days? A 6. Hmmmm!

    And you know what? It's not the number, it's the fitness that makes the fit.
    1751 days ago
    emoticon for the emoticon moment,no wonder we're larger!
    1751 days ago
    I haven't had a 26" waist since I was 10!!!
    1751 days ago
    thanks for sharing . I think all sizes should be the same and it wouldn,t be so confusing when clothes shopping. some size 12's fall off me and some size twelves wouldn't fit my skinny 12 year old grandaughter. we should get back to the basics
    1751 days ago
    1751 days ago
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