Tag Archives: Ladies’ sizes 1920s

“Size 16 Years.” What Does That Mean?

When you’re looking at vintage magazines, catalogs, or patterns, sometimes you run across an item that says “Sizes 14 to 20 years” or “Size 16 years” — as if all 16 year-olds were the same size! Surprisingly, even magazines that sold patterns by mail, like Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal, rarely explained pattern sizes in terms of measurements. Often you have to look at an actual pattern envelope to find a chart of size, bust, waist, and hip measurements.

This McCall pattern from the 1930's says Size 18. In the 30s, women would have known that this is a "Misses" pattern, rather than a "Ladies" pattern, and that it was for ages 14 to 20 years.

This McCall pattern from the 1930’s says “Size 18.” But what does that mean?

Back of envelope, McCall #6815.

Back of envelope, McCall #6815.

Here are the “Corresponding Measurements:”

Corresponding Measurements chart from McCall #6815

Corresponding Measurements chart from McCall #6815. McCall, unlike Butterick, did not say “Misses” and “Ladies,” but notice the sizes: 14, 16, 18, then 36, 38, 40, 42. Size 18 and Size 36 both have a 36″ bust.

This particular design was available in both Misses’ (14 to 18 years) and Ladies’ (Bust measurement 36 to 42 inches:)

Enlargement of "Corresponding Measurements" and Sizes chart, McCall #6815

Enlargement of “Corresponding Measurements” and sizes chart, McCall #6815. The only difference given between Size 18 and Size 36 is 1/2 inch in skirt length. There are no waist measurements — a hold-over from the 1920s, when they were irrelevant.

This McCall pattern assumes that, even in those narrow-hipped thirties’ fashions, the average woman would have hips three inches bigger than her bust.

Note that the smallest size, 14, is two inches shorter  (46″) than the 16 and 18 (both 48″ long), and the Ladies’ sizes are mostly 48 1/2″ long. I wonder if size 18 had a shorter “nape to back waist” measurement than size 36, which had the same bust (36″) and hip (39″) measurements; issuing two different patterns for the sake of a 1/2 inch skirt length measurement seems silly.

Every pattern company (and catalog company) had its own version of “Misses” and “Ladies” sizing.

Size and Measurement chart from Ladies' Home Journal pattern #1583, early 1920s.

Size and Measurement chart from Ladies’ Home Journal pattern #1583, for a Ladies’ Dress, very late 1910s or early 1920s.

The Ladies’ Home Journal made all of its Ladies’ patterns the same length regardless of size: “Center-front skirt length from normal waistline is 39 inches.”

This Standard Designer pattern from the 1920’s . . .

Standard Designer pattern #8626, 1920s.

Standard Designer pattern #8626, 1920s. (I love that fabric design!)

. . . assumes that a 15-16 year old girl will be 2 inches shorter than a 17-18 year old, and four inches shorter than a grown woman:

Measurement and size chart from Standard Designer pattern #2826

Measurement and size chart from Standard Designer pattern #8626. Notice the difference in “Skirt Length Finished at Center Front below Normal Waistline;” 28 inches for size 16 Years, and 32 inches for all Ladies.

Pattern sizes were not standardized among companies until the late 1960’s, which is why the dark pink “New Sizing” box on an envelope is sometimes used for dating vintage patterns.

Simplicity pattern #7528, dated 1968. "New Sizing" box at upper left.

Simplicity pattern #7528, dated 1968. “New Sizing” box at upper left.

By the 1960s, the word “Misses” on a pattern meant what “Ladies” or “Women” used to mean:  bust sizes from 34 to 40 inches. (The larger sizes, 42 and 44, had disappeared. )

Size and measurement chart from the back of the envelope for Simplicity #7528, dated 1968.

Size and measurement chart from the back of the envelope for Simplicity #7528, dated 1968. “Juniors” is now the term for smaller, shorter sizes.

Misses’ Sizes for Butterick in the Nineteen Twenties

In the 1920s, Butterick sized its Misses’ patterns from 15 to 20 years, and Ladies’ patterns from 33″ (or 34″) bust to 44″ or larger. From comparing many pattern descriptions in Delineator, I’ve gleaned that Butterick’s Misses’ patterns used the following bust measurements in the 1920’s :

Butterick’s 15 years = 32″ bust

Butterick’s 16 years = 33″ bust

Butterick’s 17 years = 34″ bust

Butterick’s 18 years = 35″ bust

Butterick’s 19 years = 36″ bust

Butterick’s 20 years = 37″ bust

What’s more, Butterick often used the phrase “for misses 15 to 20 years, also small women,” which made me wonder,

“What was the difference between a Miss with a 34 inch bust, and a Lady with a 34 inch bust?”

You have probably already deduced that skirt length has something to do with it, but I got my first hint from the Ordering page of the 1917 Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog. [Women’s and Children’s Fashions of 1917:  The Complete Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, from Dover Books.]

Perry, Dame & Co. catalog, 1917:  "How to Order Your Right Size." p. 146.

Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917: “How to Order Your Right Sizes.” p. 146.

Like Butterick, Perry Dame & Company distinguished between Misses’ and Women’s sizes. And, like Butterick, Perry, Dame also added the phrase “and smaller women” to some of its listings for Misses.

These dresses are for “Women:”

Women's Stylish Dresses, Perry, Dame & Co. catalog for 1917.

Women’s Stylish Dresses, Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog for 1917.  “Sizes: 32 to 46 bust measure.”

Like Butterick and other pattern companies, Perry, Dame & Company sold Women’s dresses by bust measurement — “32 to 46” in this case.

These dresses are for “Misses and Small Women:”

1917 Perry, Dame catalog; dresses for Misses and Small Women.l

1917 Perry, Dame Catalog, p. 28; dresses for Misses (14 to 20 years) and Small Women.

All the dresses on this page are sized “14 to 20 years.”

Text of Dresses for Misses and Small Women, p. 28, Perry, Dame catalog.

Text of Dresses for Misses and Small Women, p. 28, Perry, Dame Catalog.

For the costumer, knowing whether a dress was meant to be worn by a teenager or an older woman is very important. However, it’s clear that it is the size range, not the style, that marks these dresses as suitable to Misses, since they are also appropriate for Small Women.

These Perry, Dame skirts are also offered in both Women’s and Misses’ sizes:

Women's and Misses Skirts, Perry, Dame catalog 1917, p. 51

Women’s and Misses Skirts, Perry, Dame Catalog 1917, p. 51 [“Wash” or “tub” means “washable.”]

The catalog assigns different numbers to this skirt, depending on whether it is in Misses' or Women's sizes. p.51

The catalog assigns different numbers to this skirt, depending on whether it is in Women’s Sizes or “Misses’ and Small Women’s Sizes.” p.51

A woman with a waist between 22 and 28 inches would order either skirt #5A32 or #5A62, depending on the length she needed. Women’s lengths ranged from 36 to 43 inches. Misses’ and Small Women’s lengths ran from 33 to 35 inches, a considerable difference — 6 or 7 inches — if you had a 28″ waist.

Deduction:  Misses Are Shorter Than Ladies

Women's Dress Sizes vs. Misses' Dress Sizes,  Perry, Dame Catalog, 1917. Exerpted from page 146

Women’s Dress Sizes vs. Misses’ Dress Sizes; Perry, Dame Catalog, 1917. Exerpted from page 146. All Women’s dresses have a 40″ skirt length measurement. All Misses’ dresses are shorter.

Each company had its own size and measurement ideas, but the common assumption seems to be that women with a larger bust measurement will also be taller — which is not necessarily true.  In fact, in the nineteen twenties and thirties (and later), older women — women born before the end of the 19th century — were more likely to be short, because of a less nutritious diet during childhood. (Many families lived on bread and soup for several months each year.) And most older women are aware of our tendency to burn fewer calories and to put on weight after menopause. Lynn, at American Age Fashion, has been following the question of patterns and ready-to-wear suited to the needs of the short and rotund. You can follow her research by starting with “Hunting for Half Sizes” (Lynn has made this into a multi-part series. Just search her site for “half sizes.”)

I’ve also noticed that, in the 1920’s, younger women were not necessarily shorter; but they wore shorter skirts than older women. To some extent, the 1920’s styles which seem most attractive to us today are the ones initially worn by Misses and teens.

Two Ladies' patterns and a Misses' pattern, Dec. 1925. Butterick fashions from Delineator magazine.

Two Ladies’ patterns, left, and a Misses’ pattern, Dec. 1925. Butterick fashions from Delineator magazine. The Miss is showing a lot more leg.

(Teens had been called “flappers” as early as the 1910’s.) You can see more Misses’ styles for 1925 by clicking here.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Fall Fashions for Young Women, 1925

Fall Fashions, October 1925. Butterick patterns featured in The Delineator.

Fall Fashions, October 1925. Butterick patterns featured in The Delineator. “The Fashionable Young Girl Chooses New Ensembles for General and Better Wear.”

By late 1925, the tubular twenties were beginning to give way to dresses and coats with some flare or pleats below the hip, and occasional back fullness in the skirts. However, some of these styles have a hem circumference that barely exceeds the hip measurement. Although the title implies that these patterns are for women 20 and under, many were also available in women’s sizes.

Butterick Dress patterns 6306 and 6322. Oct. 1925.

Butterick Dress patterns 6306 and 6322. Oct. 1925.

Butterick 6306 (left) : “A new sleeve distinguishes this one-piece dress which fits closely at the hipline. The lower edge is straight and the dress slips over the head. . . . [Size 16 years has a] Lower edge 42 ins. It is for misses 15 to 20 years, also ladies 38, 40 bust.

Butterick 6322 (right): The bolero front of this slip-over dress makes it appealingly youthful. The one-piece back has an inverted plait [pleat] down its center. . . . [On size 16 years,] Lower edge, plaits out, 56 inches. The dress is for misses 15 to 20 years, also small women.”

Back views No. 6306 and 6322. Oct. 1925.

Back views No. 6306 and 6322. Oct. 1925.

This looks like two views of the coat, but the one on the right is a dress:

Butterick coat pattern 6302 and dress 6299. Oct. 1925.

Butterick coat pattern 6302 and dress 6299. Oct. 1925.

Butterick 6302 (blue coat):  “The flared coat is popular for the new ensemble costume. This one puts its circular flare across the back and keeps the front straight. . . . [Size 18 years’ ] Lower edge 2 yards. The coat is for misses 15 to 20 years, ladies 38 to 44 bust.”

Butterick 6299 (blue dress):  “The circular flare attached across the back makes this one-piece slip-over frock particularly chic with the new back-flared coat. The front fits closely at the hipline. . . . [Size 18 years’ ] Lower edge 43 1/2 inches. The dress is for misses 15 to 20 years, also ladies 38 to 44 bust.”

Butterick coat 6303 (left) and dress 6310 (right.) Oct. 1925.

Butterick coat 6303 (left) and dress 6310 (right.) Oct. 1925.

Butterick coat 6303:  “This straight line coat  with a dress to match its lining makes a very smart general wear ensemble. Use tweeds, cashmere cheviots, novelty weaves or camel’s hair, with plain or plaid twill flannel for lining. . . .  [For] 34 bust or 17 years . . .  Lower edge [is] 44 inches. The coat is for misses 16 to 18 years, ladies 33 to 52 bust. [A surprisingly large size.]

Butterick dress 6310:  “With two box plaits in front and one in back this slip-over one-piece dress makes a bid for chic. . . . [On size 17 years ] Lower edge, plaits out, 59 ins.  This dress is for misses 15 to 20 years, also small women. [Misses’ sizes had a shorter torso length than ladies’ sizes; size 20 years fit a 37″ bust.]

Back views of coat 6303 dress 6310.

Back views of coat 6303 & dress 6310.

This dress, with its sheer sleeves and self-colored embroidery, is an afternoon dress, and the coat shown next to it is also for “more formal” wear:

Butterick dress pattern 6235 and coat pattern 6298. October 1925.

Butterick dress pattern 6235 and coat pattern 6298. October 1925.

Butterick dress No. 6275:  “A lovely afternoon frock has a circular flounce across the front. The embroidery is decorative. Work in self-color. This one-piece slip-over frock fits closely at the hipline. Lower edge 43 1/2 inches. . . . It is for misses 33 to 35 bust or 16 to 18 years, also ladies.” [The embroidery was probably worked in silk floss, like this early 1920s blouse.]

Butterick coat No. 6298:  “The new and graceful coat with a circular flare across the front makes a rather more formal ensemble with a front-flared silk dress to match its lining. . . . The coat is for misses 15 to 20 years, ladies 38 to 44 bust.

Back views dress 6275 and coat 6298. October 1925.

Back views dress 6275 and coat 6298. October 1925.

On these two garments, all the flare is in the front, and the back is perfectly straight, as in most earlier twenties clothing.

This charming fall illustration shows two girls and a fashionable Boston terrier dog. Notice how much shorter their skirts are than the others pictured; that’s because these are girls 8 to 15,  not “misses 15 to 20.”

Butterick coat pattern 6335 and dress pattern 6309. October 1925 Delineator.

Butterick coat pattern 6335 and dress pattern 6309. October 1925 Delineator.

Butterick coat 6335:  “As an ensemble costume this coat with its circular flare attached across its back is excellent with the dress shown beside it. The coat is for juniors and girls 8 to 15 years; hat for girls 2 to 12.
Butterick dress 6309:  “A straight band lengthens the long upper part of this slip-over dress. With the coat beside it, it makes a smart ensemble costume. . . . The dress is for juniors and girls 8 to 15 years; hat for girls 2 to 12.

Back views 6335 and 6309.

Back views 6335 and 6309. Here they are shown on younger girls.

Their hat was also made from a Butterick Pattern:

Butterick hat pattern 6237 for girls 2 to 12. October 1925, Delineator.

Butterick hat pattern 6237 for girls 2 to 12. October 1925, Delineator.

The six-gored hat pattern was described separately elsewhere in the October issue:

Butterick hat pattern No. 6237 for girls 2 to 12. October 1925.

Butterick hat pattern No. 6237 for girls 2 to 12. Delineator, October 1925.

It’s interesting that there is no brim in back. Although a home stitcher could not stretch a felt shape into a cloche, four or six-gored hat patterns allowed women to make their own 1920s hats. Click here for images of another 1920s Butterick hat pattern.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Dresses for Flappers, July, 1926

Butterick Patterns for Misses Age 15 to 20. Delineator, p. 27, July 1926.

Butterick Patterns for Misses Age 15 to 20. Delineator, p. 27, July 1926.

By the summer of 1926 the “look” we associate with the 1920s – short skirts, no waists, and a horizontal line across the hips – was truly the dominant fashion. These dresses for Misses – i.e., women aged 15 to 20 – look fresh and youthful, especially in contrast to the long, tubular fashions of 1924.  Seeing these designs in color is a treat, and a reminder that the clothes worn in silent movies were not actually black and white.

Top of Page

Top of Page 27, Delineator, July 1926

Misses’ Pattern Sizes in the 1920s: “What Does Size 16 Years Mean?”

In Butterick patterns, a Misses’ size was shorter than a Ladies’ size. Misses patterns were sold by age [!]; Ladies’ patterns were sold by bust measurement. For most of the 1920s, “Size 15 years” equated to “petite with a 32″ bust.” “Size 17 years” meant a petite with 34″ bust, “19 years” fit a 36″ bust, and “20 years” was a petite 37.” Often a style is described as “For Misses and small women;” several of these styles say they also come in Ladies’ sizes 38 and 40.

The usual run of Butterick Ladies’ sizes in 1925 was 33″ through 44.” Articles in Butterick’s Delineator magazine sometimes gave fitting advice for short women, but special patterns for adult women who were 5″ 4″ or shorter had not yet appeared.

Bottom of Page 27, Delineator, July, 1926.

Bottom of Page 27, Delineator, July, 1926.

Flapper Dresses

The dresses on page 27 were for young women – for flappers. Styles for mature women were subtly different, as were the proportions of the fashion figures that illustrated them. These two dresses appeared on pages 27 and 28 of the same issue.

 A pattern for Misses (# 6924) and a similar pattern for Ladies (# 6914.)

A pattern for Misses (# 6924) and a similar pattern for Ladies (# 6914.)

Obviously, the Misses’ illustrations are much less distorted.

The Individual Dresses with Their Descriptions

1926 july p 27 color top 6913 white w red6913 — Embroidery splashes the white frock with color. Work in Satin-stitch. For this slip-over one-piece princess dress with inverted tucks or shirrings use Georgette, silk or cotton voile, batiste, radium, taffeta, satin crêpe, etc. of one material, etc…. Lower edge 58 inches…. For misses 15 to 20 years, also small women. [I confess that I love this dress – and the appliqued hat. You wouldn’t need to embroider the sleeves to reproduce it; # 6921 shows that making lower sleeves from a different fabric was in style.]1926 july p 27 color topmiddle yellow 6935

6935 — A transparent hem, rising in front, is the latest Parisian offering in evening frocks This slip-over orange dress closes under the left arm, has a basque and a lower edge scalloped or straight. Lower edge 2 7/8 yards…. For misses 15 to 20 years, also small women. [This dress is interesting for many details. It is an early example of the short-in-front-long-in-back evening dresses of the late 1920s. It is clearly inspired by Jeanne Lanvin’s robes de style. And it has a side seam fastening – presumably snaps – under the left arm, which should be of interest to vintage dealers trying to date dresses with side openings.] Dress 6935 may be described as “orange” in the text, but it really did look yellow-gold in the magazine.

1926 july p 27 color top rt 6921

 

6921 — The Gipsy girdle encircles this attractive slip-over frock with touches of jade-green. It has a straight gathered skirt and is delightful for radium or satin crêpe with contrasting organdy, batiste, or Georgette, etc. Lower edge 60 inches…. For misses 15 to 20 years, also small women.

1926 july p 27 color btm left coat dress 6904

6904 coat dress — Cool and very smart in town is the coat frock with its saddle shoulders and straight gathered skirt attached at a low waistline. The separate one-piece slip has a camisole top. The color is fuchsia…. Lower edge of slip 44 inches…. The coat dress is for Misses 15 to 20 years, ladies 38, 40 bust.

 

1926 july p 27 color misses smocked dress

6927  — Green-striped, smartly bosomed, this one-piece slip-over frock gives the effect of a two-piece style. A cluster of box plaits is inserted at the front. Use flat crêpe, Canton crêpe, satin crêpe, heavy crêpe de Chine, silk broadcloth, shantung, washable silk crêpe, etc. Lower edge, plaits drawn out, 57 inches. The dress is attractive for misses 15 to 20 years, also small women.

6903 — Tiered circular ruffles are attached across the sides of this slip-over one-piece tan dress. Plain or printed silk voile, crêpe Roma, etc., with taffeta tie collar, etc., or satin crêpe with reverse side, are smart for it. Lower edge 44 inches….Chic for misses 15 to 20 years, also small women.

6924 — Crêpe de Chine, heavy Georgette, silk or cotton voile, silk-and-cotton crêpe, pongee, etc., with smocking or shirring and contrasting collar and cuffs are smart for this type of one-piece slip-over frock with straight lower edge. The colors are pervenche blue and tan. Lower edge 51 ½ inches. …For misses 15 to 20 years, ladies 38, 40 bust.

1926 july p 27 color btm rt 6902

6902 — A new silhouette, hip-flared, is illustrated in the slip-over blouse of this two-piece bois de rose frock. The straight skirt with a box pleat at front is attached to an underbody. It is smart for flat crêpe, Canton crêpe, heavy crêpe de Chine, satin, etc. Lower edge, plait drawn out, 51 inches…. For misses 15 to 20 years, also small women. [An underbody means the skirt hung from the shoulders, not the waist. The back view — at the bottom of this post — shows a flared peplum. The color “bois de rose” was very chic,  a grayed red, less coral than it appears here. ]

Design Tricks to Make Twenties’ Dresses More Flattering

Designers are aware that a horizontal line across the widest part of a woman’s body – the hip – will add pounds, visually. That’s why late twenties styles can be so cruel to a less-than-boyish figure.  Pattern manufacturers were aware of this problem; Butterick patterns in average sizes assumed that the hip was two inches larger than the bust, as they do today.

So it’s useful to pay attention to the many ways these authentic 1920s designs drew attention away from the horizontal hip line that defined the era. Notice all the optical tricks that direct the eye toward the face, or create a slenderizing vertical line to add height and draw the eye toward the center of the torso.

Long bows and ties lead the eye up and down.

Long bows and ties lead the eye up and down.

A row of vertical buttons; a vertical center front closing emphasized by a white frill.

A row of vertical buttons; a vertical center front closing emphasized by a white frill.

A strong color – or white – near the face; a V neck; a contrasting collar.

A strong color – or white – near the face; a V neck; a contrasting collar. The green ‘buckle’ at the center of the dress on the left is also a clever way to draw our eyes to the center of the body.

A center front opening that runs from the neck to the hem, creating a strong vertical line.

A center front opening that runs from the neck to the hem, creating a strong vertical line.

Back Views and Alternate Views

Back and alternate views of page 27 patterns, July 1926.

Back and alternate views of page 27 patterns, July 1926.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Hats, Vintage patterns