How to Wear Vintage Fashion for Your Size: Svelte, Balanced & Full Figures!

December 13th, 2010

A few weeks ago, one of the Sammy Davis Vintage facebook fans made a special request: How does a plus-size girl wear vintage?

I loved her question — reprinted below — because it inspired me to remember that vintage is fashion for everyone, and that Sammy Davis Vintage strives to make vintage fashion accessible to the contemporary girl — no matter her size or style!

Lauren’s question to me over Facebook:

Hey Sammy!

Hope you are well! I was just wondering, have you ever thought of doing a special on plus sized vintage wear? See, I would love to go thrift shopping but even back in the day there was a limited selection of cute vintage wear; it’d be cool to show girls of a bigger size that they can be cute and fashionable too with all of your creative tips. You always turn drab to fab haha! Just a thought. Talk soon I hope!!

- Lauren

__________________________________

After a ton of Googling, reading, writing and pulling pictures, I put together this handy guide on how-to-wear-vintage no matter your size. Find your modern day size and body type below. You’ll then find what your typical “vintage” size — usually 4-6 numerical figures BIGGER than your contemporary size, so while I’m a size 4 by modern standards, I’m more a size 10 by vintage. This sizing chart is most accurate for vintage pre ’80s.

Then, read on to learn what “vintage style” I suggest for you based on your beautiful bod and the potential for a beautifully vintage you. Full disclosure! You may not like the suggested vintage style. That’s OK! The true meaning of vintage is how it feels for you. My opinion doesn’t really matter! I’m just here to inspire, encourage and enlighten when I can.

Thanks to Lauren’s question, I’m now on a quest to visit Re/Dress, a plus-size vintage boutique in Brooklyn, New York. The store is packed with vintage dresses and other goodies in ALL shapes and sizes … I’m going to check it out soon and blog about what I found!

For some online plus-size vintage resources, check out Bally Hoo Vintage & Hey Viv! Vintage, two sites with tons of resources and shopping options for the fully-fun-positively-plus-sized gal!

Short, Svelte Figure

You wore junior sizes until college … and still like to squeeze into your old middle school threads every now and then. Mainstream fashion calls you “petite” – I call you packaged sweet!

1930s vintage dresses advertisement
Typical “Modern” Size: 0 – 2
Vintage Size Equivalent: 3-5
Height: 5” – 5’ 4”
Waist: 24” – 26”
Typical Online Vintage Store Size: Small
Your Vintage Era: You’re the poster girl for prim & proper 1930s. The era was characterized with delicate prints in small designs – think tiny flowers, tiny polka dots, and tiny paisley. Larger prints and belts of the 80s would overwhelm your sweet size. The 30s look has an almost “clean” look – puffed sleeves and white gloves add a humble glow.


Short, Balanced Figure

You’re curvy in all the right places without looking like a pin-up doll, but love heels for an extra boost in height and va-va-voom glam. You have a tough time finding your size in stores – it’s usually picked over!
Typical “Modern” Size: 2 – 4
Vintage Size Equivalent: 8 – 10
Height: 5” – 5’ 4”
Waist: 26” – 28”
Typical Online Vintage Store Size: Small

1920s vintage fashion drop waist pictures
Your Vintage Era: 1920s – ladies with boyish frames rebelling with short pleated skirts and pretty pixie haircuts. Accessorize with the perfect hat and tons of pearls. When wearing heels, opt for a drop waist skirt – they hang below the hips and have a flouncy feel to them. Without heels, a drop waist will hang and appear baggy on your smaller build.

Short, Full Figure

You’ve got the perfect bod for sassy style, but you can’t seem to find the right fit from the mall stores. You struggle to find the “perfect” fit as things can both sag or snuggle in all the wrong places.
Typical “Modern” Size: 4 – 6
Vintage Size Equivalent: 10 – 12
Height: 5” – 5’ 4”
Waist: 28” – 30”
Typical Online Vintage Store Size: Medium

1940s vintage fashion suits

1980s vintage structured blazer Your Vintage Era: 1940s & 1980s – the 40s embraced structured shoulders and two-piece feminine suits. The 80s embraced the defined structure and hints of style masculinity and then weaved its own fun flair with avant garde designs in bright colors and angles. Go with what feels best – and rock it!

Average, Svelte Figure

You’re every mannequin’s in-the-flesh dream! While you may long for some extra junk in the trunk, your athletic bod fits almost anything – including vintage. You could probably rock every era comfortably.
Typical “Modern” Size: 2 – 4
Vintage Size Equivalent: 8 – 10
Height: 5’ 4” – 5’ 7”
Waist: 26” to 28”
Typical Online Vintage Store Size: Medium

1960s vintage fashion mod dresses
Your Vintage Era: Swingin’ 60s! Twiggy wannabes of the 60s went mad for mod – short skirts and dresses in futuristic “modern” patterns. Average height girls like you can wear the mod look without worry – shift dresses and mini skirts happily show off your healthy build. Plus, add knee highs and buckled, square heels to seal the style.

Average, Balanced Figure

Your closet is full of clothes … because everything always fits! While your size tends to get picked over at sample sales, your standard size is easy to find and easy to style. Your friends always say that you “can get away with wearing anything,” – even daring cuts and designs.
Typical “Modern” Size: 4 – 6
Vintage Size Equivalent: 10 -12
Height: 5’ 4” – 5’ 7”
Waist: 28” – 32”
Typical Online Vintage Store Size: Medium

1960s vintage dresses mod fashion
Your Vintage Era: Swingin’ 60s! Twiggy wannabes of the 60s went mad for mod – short skirts and dresses in futuristic “modern” patterns. Average height girls like you can wear the mod look without worry – shift dresses and mini skirts happily show off your healthy build. Plus, add knee highs and buckled, square heels to seal the style.

Average, Full Figure

Hello, pin-up doll opportunity! While you might not aspire to be the next Bettie Page, you’ve got a womanly figure just itching to roar in vintage fashion that will accentuate your voluptuous beauty.
Typical “Modern” Size: 8 – 12
Vintage Size Equivalent: 14 – 18
Height: 5’ 4” – 5’ 7”
Waist: 30” – 36”
Typical Online Vintage Store Size: Medium/Large

1940s vintage fashion womens suits1940s pin up vintage fashion
Your Vintage Era: Girl, you’ve got the 1940s written all over you! If you’ve ever dreamed of being “pinned up” on the wall of a soldier’s space, well lady, you’ve got just the bod to do it! While I wouldn’t recommend bringing forth your vintage vixen from within at the office, opportunity to channel a more sensual side exists. Shop for vintage lingerie to wear as peek-a-poo accessories under lace tops and structured blazers. Buy “housewife-inspired” wiggle dresses from the 50s for a party, or a professional, clean cut two-piece suit blazer/skirt combo from the 40s in dark brown tweed. Add a matching jacket for the full effect!

Tall, Svelte Figure

You could have been a supermodel, but you decided that real life was a better option! You’re often the tallest girl in the room and the only one of your friends who can get away wearing lace onesies and jeggings without asking, “Does this look good on me?” Still, you’ve got a boy-ish frame and you’d love to find your body’s inner hourglass with some vintage fashion help.

Typical “Modern” Size: 4 – 6
Vintage Size Equivalent: 10 – 12
Height: 5’ 8” – 6’
Waist: 26” to 28”
Typical Online Vintage Store Size: Medium

1970s vintage maxi dresses
Your Vintage Era: The 1970s all the way! Prairie, maxi and lingerie-style dresses lay perfectly on your tall, thin frame. Channel some disco-dancing diva with a plaid leisure suit – bell bottoms look fab on your long legs!

Tall, Balanced Figure

You’re an hourglass figure just waiting to be unleashed! Thanks to a small waist and tall frame, vintage dresses of various sizes fit you like a gem. And if they’re too big, you can always belt ‘em tight!
Typical “Modern” Size: 6 – 10
Vintage Size Equivalent: 12 – 16
Height: 5’ 8” – 6’
Waist: 29” – 34”
Typical Online Vintage  Store Size: Medium/Large

1950s vintage fashion dresses
Your Vintage Era: The big 5-0! FIFTIES! A lady of the 1950s wanted a full figure and a tiny waist. She wore garters and corsets and “shapers” just to create – albeit painfully! – the illusion of an hourglass figure. But girl, you’ve got one naturally – congrats!

Tall, Full Figure

Apple, pear, hourglass … peach, grape, kiwi … whatever you wanna call your body type, you’ve got it and you’re ready to flaunt it! When you walk into the room, people notice you … you’ve got presence and you choose fashion to make you feel poised and proud.
Typical “Modern” Size: 10 – 14+
Vintage Size Equivalent: 16- 20+
Bonus Tip! Look for half sizes! Plus size was categorized by ½ after the numerical size – like 18 ½, 20 ½, and so on.
Height: 5’ 8” – 6’
Waist: 34” – 38”+
Typical Online Vintage Store Size: Large/Extra Large

1950s vintage fashion dresses
Your Vintage Era: The big 5-0! FIFTIES! A lady of the 1950s wanted a full figure and a tiny waist. She wore garters and corsets and “shapers” just to create – albeit painfully! – the illusion of an hourglass figure. But girl, you’ve got one naturally – congrats!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Facebook Comments

17 Comments

  1. Fantastic post! I am such a 50s girl, but I love 30s style too. Yay for vintage of all sizes!

    [Reply]

  2. Fi Figueroa says:

    What an awesome post! Maybe that’s why I love the 1940s so much. Lol subconsciously ive been loving a vintage version of my current figure :) thanks for the tweet shout out!!

    xo
    Previously Owned

    [Reply]

  3. That was so great and so true to size! Your homework…A++++

    [Reply]

  4. Kristen says:

    Great post! Just what girls of all sizes need to read to know what vintage fits their body type!

    [Reply]

  5. Lexi says:

    Thanks for the cool post. OMG this has helped me mentally. I feel so big when I get a size 18 and it fits and I normally wear a 10 or 12….but now I know that the sizes were much different. Thanks for sharing your info

    [Reply]

  6. kendra j says:

    Hey girl, I’m a 33yr old hairdresser who really found herself about a year and a half ago, through the beautiful asiles of Goodwill in Gallatin, TN. I have went absolutely vintage crazy since, with everything. I am totally running out of room for clothes and collectibles, but i can’t stop, it’s like a high when u find that one wonderful item that no one has. I Love that. I just wanted u to know how much & informative your web site & videos are. I really appreciate it all, Don’t stop spreading that vintage love” & keep up ur good work!
    Love, Kendra j

    [Reply]

  7. Helen says:

    Wonderful post! I adore 40’s fashion and apparently it loves me back!

    [Reply]

    Sammy Reply:

    I love that you feel the ’40s loves you … I AGREE!

    [Reply]

  8. VanillaFrosting says:

    Hahaha cute… but I can’t seem to find anything that describes me at all! 5’5″ with a 24″ waist and plenty of junk in my trunk (37″ hips) typically wearing modern sizes of 0-2 on top or for a-line or stretchy dresses, and 4-6 on the bottom. :P

    [Reply]

    Sammy Reply:

    Miss Vanilla, you have a POINT. Wow, what a BOD! Can you please buy up every single ’50s dress that’s a size 24 inch waist? I have a great idea for you. Do you know Vintage Vandalizm? You seem to share similar body types ;-)

    [Reply]

  9. […] How to Wear Vintage Fashion for Your Size: Svelte, Balanced & Full … 1970s vintage maxi dresses. Your Vintage Era: The 1970s all the way! Prairie, maxi and lingerie-style dresses lay perfectly on your tall, thin frame. Channel some disco-dancing diva with a plaid leisure suit – bell bottoms look . […]

  10. Delaney says:

    Hi :) Great article! I guess I would fall into the short, “full” figured category, as I have a 36 bust, 28 waist, and 38 hips and am 5’3″ (modern size small, vintage medium). I adore clothing from the 50s and early 60s, particularly full skirted dresses. I wear this silhouette often and find it to be flattering, but is it not really a good shape for my body type?

    [Reply]

  11. melanie says:

    omg, im 14 and i Really love the back in day clothing style !<3 people would be like yur wird and yu have to like todays style and im like well i like it but not as much as the 1950's ! if it were up to me , everybody wuld be wearing 1950's clothing!

    [Reply]

    Sammy Reply:

    Melanie this is the best comment I’ve ever received! Thank you so much! Let’s make this dream of everyone wearing ’50s clothing happen ;-)

    [Reply]

  12. What did “big” girls do as far as clothing in the “vintage” era? I don’t fit into any of the categories you listed above. I’m 5’5″ and 254lbs. Even going to the stores in this day and age it’s hard to find good fitting clothes. Even my bust size is difficult to find a good fitting bra (I’m a 42C, but when it comes to getting them hooked, it’s a tight fit going around my middle.) The cup size is fine though. Any suggestions?

    [Reply]

  13. […] GRAB THE E-BOOK: The 100 Best Vintage Shops Online   TIPS: How to Wear Vintage for Your Size […]

  14. Diana says:

    Love this information! Thanks for sharing

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

TEST TEST TEST