What a 1960s shift dress can teach us about the growing movement with "vanity sizing."


I've written about vanity sizing in my book and also in my blog:


Zero Tolerance for Vanity Sizing

To streamline this post I'm going to repost two earlier vanity sizing graphics I created before I share the newest one with you:


The above two show the vast jump in sizing metrics between the 1950s and today. Now you can fill in some of that gap with sizing from the 1960s and 70s, but even better, I've pictured two sizing charts from the same manufacturer (which isn't always available) unlike the previous comparisons.
  



The Butterick shift dress patterns on the left are from the 1960s and the bridal dress patterns on the right are from the 1970s. No date is printed on either so I'm making an educated guess based upon the clothing and hair styles.



Shown are the backsides of each, the 1960s on the left, the 70s on the right.

Look at the differences in such a short period of time! Also notice they did away with a size 18 and introduced a size 8.

My takeaway from this is that your clothing size is not:

A measure of your health.
A medical consultation.
A substitute for a scale and tape measure.
A reflection of your worth.
A reason to beat yourself up.
A measure of reality. 

Have you ever gotten tripped up due to vanity sizing while trying to find a correct fit?

Comments

  1. This is why I have been a size 10 (North American) since the 70's and I weigh 55 lbs. more than I did in the 70's. When I think back it's portion size that seems to make the difference as I have always cooked from scratch. I bought some dessert dishes from Goodwill that literally hold a 1/2 cup serving and they seem minuscule compared to what people expect to be served today.

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    1. Sylviadh I have heard similar things about sizing from other readers who are the same size as their college days from decades past. As for portion control, it's definitely a piece of a bigger picture of the changes in how we eat and move since that time!

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  2. Boy,does that dress pattern from the 70s bring back memories! I made several in that style, including one I wore to a high school graduation party in 1972! I honestly can't remember what size it was, but from the information on the back of your package it looks like I would have been about a size 12.... probably a four today? I remember my first shift dress, which I purchased with my father in about 1966, at age 12, to attend an event for my older brother. He took me to JCPenney, as my mother was working, and I was so excited because it was my first junior size dress. Neither of us had any idea what size I would be. The woman helping concluded I was a size 9, and she was correct. It was a lovely blue and white gingham check with three-quarter-length sleeves, lace on the outer edge of the sleeve and the hem, and a pink ribbon around the bodice. I was only probably only 110 pounds, so I wonder what that size 9 would be today! Thanks again for the fun memories! Lois

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    2. Faulty memory from 50 (!) years ago. My first shift dress was actually a size 7 "junior petite", and I probably weighed less than 100 pounds. Guess that would be about a size "1" today? Now that the fashion industry has hit size "0", will we soon be seeing negative numbers?

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    3. Ah, nice memories.

      Today there is no sizing consistency whatsoever. Each manufacturer and retailer has their own gimmickry.

      As for the future of sizing, I'm going to guess that 000 sizes will become 00000 then maybe eventually something like XXXXX00000.

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    4. "Kisses and hugs"...how ironic! ;0

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  3. I went to design school in Los Angeles right out of high school (1990) and was amazed to learn that about once a decade the fashion powers-that-be (whatever and whoever that is) actually vote on sizing. This is why there are changes every decade. Someone actually decides this for the rest of us. It reflects current trends and beauty standards - such as who the current "it" girls are, pop culture, what silhouettes designers are into at the moment, etc. I think we all have become our own "it" girls. As a designer, I'm my own muse. There is a movement toward body acceptance right now and I think it's very positive; I think women are fed up with having their worth judged based on their size and appearance, and are tired of being told there is one right way of looking or one right body shape. I think there are as many ideals of beauty as there are women on the planet. At the same time though, I want to be the best I can be in health and in confidence. For myself, not Joe Blow in Timbuktu. I can accept my bank account just as it is, but if I want to maintain success or increase it, I have to check in with things everyday and find the right balance of discipline and enjoyment within my lifestyle and career choice. Avoiding my bank account is going to have negative consequences for my finances regardless of acceptance. I have found my scale empowering after years of avoidance. My weight fluctuated all over the place because I was afraid to step on. Then I started tracking things daily and learned so much about the ways different foods and lifestyle choices affect my body. Such good information. It helped that I bought a vintage 50s pink Detecto scale. An adorable scale makes it more fun.

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    1. By the way, do you make your own clothing?

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    2. Oops! Just found your comment where you shared about how you make your clothing. :)

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    3. This is why I love your work. It absolutely resonates with me. I've been making my own clothes since I was seven y/o and before that my mom made everything. Being that most of my clothing is custom made, I have to know what my measurements are and am aware of every change and fluctuation. Because of the amount of love and craftsmanship that I put into each item I have a great incentive to maintain my weight. When people ask what size clothes I wear, the fact is I wear size "me." Conventional sizing lies. I just cut the tags out of the stuff I do buy.

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    4. I love "size me!" That's so great! I wish I had your talent. I bought a new sewing machine once. It went onto craigslist not long after that. ha.

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    5. I want to make my clothes!! I read a book called The Lost Art of Dress by Linda Przybyszewki. It's a history on the ladies who put together home economics, and their unsung, often maligned contributions to making the humans of North America look stunning on a dime. I guess she's a college professor who requires her students to dress professionally or don't come to her class. It was awesome! You'd love it Averyl. Manufactures would never be able to pull these vanity shenanigans on these "Dress Doctors" because it was all about dressing in styles that presented a pleasing figure. They made sure girls graduating high school knew what would look good on them before they ever laid the money out to buy clothes.

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    6. Thanks for the recommendation, lo_lo! I like your term "vanity shenanigans" better than "vanity sizing!"

      I want to be able to order clothing from my vintage catalogs. :)

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  4. Why is it so much easier for guys? All they have to do is order by their measurements!

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    1. It should be this way for women too. Manufacturers have gotten so lazy with women's clothing. Men can get much better quality for the price too. Not right!

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  5. You must have been spying on me during a recent shopping trip with a friend. 'Vanity sizing' is frustrating! One company I'm an XL, another I'm a Medium, and another has me between a O/1X. We deserve better!
    Keep up your wonderful encouraging blogs!

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    1. That's crazy but totally believable! Yes we DO deserve better!

      And thank you. :)

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  6. Wow, I had no idea it was this extreme!

    I know for myself, that when I order clothes online, that I depend on a consistent size value. I have had to send back stuff because they are not always consistent, and I know it is so much better for a size being a certain size for men than women.

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    1. Most places now offer free return shipping, thankfully, but still, it's a real drag for sure!

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  7. Note about clothes from the late 60's, 1970's, and early 80's (childhood through college) I remember buying clothes twice a year, fall and summer.
    They were beautiful and well mades. (I was from a middle class family) Now days clothes are either cheaply made or crazy expensive. Seems like self worth is buying tons of clothes in a sub 6 size with someone name or logo on our backside. :)

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    1. That's so true about cheaply made or crazy expensive these days compared to our childhood well-made, USA made clothing that was accessible and affordable for the working and middle classes. I've been doing a lot of online shopping and will do a post on it soon.

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  8. I had to add another comment to this list, because this morning I was watching an old Perry Mason episode (I've really gotten into them lately, as I wasn't able to watch them as a kid...love those black and white images of Los Angeles, and the funny way they pronounced it, with a "hard" 'g' sound!). Anyway, Hamilton Berger was interviewing a witness and asked him if he could describe the woman he saw checking into the motel. The witness said something about her being a size 12, and Berger asked him what he meant by a size 12. The man said "about 5'6" and 120 pounds". Given our recent discussion, I had to laugh, not only about what size that would be today (a 2, or 0?!), but because that sounds almost anorexic, even by 1959 standards! I'm surprised he wasn't asked for the "girl's" 'vital statistics', since that seem to be important back then!

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    1. That's very telling! (I watch the old Perry Mason late at night when I can't sleep!)

      I just posted on my IG earlier today about the skirt I ordered online. Sizing was in waist inches, not sizes, so I thought that would be closer to reality. No way. A 28" waist measures 32"!

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    2. Ay, ay, ay! No wonder my husband doesn't try to buy me clothes for gifts anymore. He's probably terrified he'll insult me by getting the wrong size, through no fault of his own!

      Wonder what size Della Street is wearing, lol!

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  9. Very interesting post, Averyl! My girls are naturally thin. My oldest wears a size 00. Interesting that back in the 50's she'd be a size 9, which is what I wore when I was her age but that was in the early 80's. I have a bigger build and there is no way I was her size in high school.

    Sarah

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! (Good to see you!)

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