While I was at Circa Vintage last week Marion and I got to talking about the difference in dress sizes now and in vintage clothing; vintage clothing is usually much smaller then modern sizes as the modern body shape has changed and is generally bigger, so you wouldn't necessarily buy your standard dress size when shopping for vintage clothing
When you go shopping for your wedding dress it’s not as simple as just knowing your dress size; there are standard sizes but the measurements used for this will vary from designer to designer and from shop to shop. The reason is that there is no universal standard size that all fashion houses copy. The general sizes are used as guidelines; each company will tailor its own basic block (Block is the term given to the basic pattern from which other patterns are adapted and graded into other sizes) for use with its designs. They will also modify their sizes to fit in with the market they are targeting. So for example a shop that caters for a younger clientele will be smaller than one which caters for an older clientele.
The cut and style of the garment will also affect the size and how it fits. A Bias cut dress will stretch and therefore have a lot more give in it then a fitted corseted style.
Standard dress sizes don’t take into consideration body types either they are generally based on an hourglass ratio. So if you’re busty with a small waist, the waist may end up being too big. It can help knowing your measurements as well your dress size as this is often a better indication of how a dress will fit. Catalogues give good guides on how to take your measurements. If you are a ‘non-standard’ ratio consider getting your dress made to measure as it may end up being more cost effective then having a lot of alterations made to a standard dress size.
Also worth bearing in mind as you try dresses on is that many bridal wear shops stock European (within Europe size charts vary too) and American brands which have different sizing charts. So for example a UK size 12 will be a US 10, France 40, Germany 38, Italy 44 etc.
Good bridal shops will know what the fit is like on their different labels and will be able to size you accordingly, so do trust the assistant. This is particularly important if you are shopping and/or having to order in dresses for your bridesmaids; don’t just take their word for it, try getting them measured.
So when dress shopping try on a variety of styles and don’t get hung up on the label. Your ‘dress’ size is only a guide to know which dresses to try on first, chances are most dresses will need altering. Don’t be tempted to buy a dress too small because you always wear size 10 say, it’s far easier to take a dress in then to let it out; and if anyone is impolite enough to ask tell them the American size, it will be one size smaller.
Image courtesy of Marianne Taylor