Tag Archives: women’s 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