Saturday, November 3, 2012

History of Sewing - 1950s Vintage Pattern Sizes and Body Types

1950s Pattern Sizing

In this, my third post on vintage pattern sizing, it's time to examine the 1950s. The decade starts out looking much like the 1940s, but in the middle of the decade, things will change!

In the early and mid 1950s, pattern sizes remain consistent with sizes in the late 1940s. Categories remain the same: Women (or Ladies), Miss, Junior (or Junior Miss), Teens, Girls, Children, Infants, Boys, Men. And sizes remain the same for these categories. The Half-Size is still a relatively "new thing" but makes gains during this decade.

Misses and women's sizes run in even sizes from 10 to 46, and a size 16 is still a bust 34, waist 28, hip 37. Teen and junior sizes run in odd sizes, from 9 through 19. The junior figure is defined as a shorter-waisted figure than the miss, as well as slighter in other respects.

Pattern sizes from McCall's Complete Book of Dressmaking 1951

 An early 1950s Junior pattern from McCall's

A Note about the Half Size

The junior figure is not to be confused with the half size figure. Half sizes are defined as figures that are shorter than regular size figures, and are usually slightly larger at the waistline and hip line. Half-size gals had the option to either buy a half-size pattern or purchase a regular pattern and alter it, using the directions in the following image.


Sizes Change in the Mid 1950s!

In the mid-to-late 1950s pattern sizes begin to change, apparently in response to size changes issued by the US Bureau of Standards. I have read various sources on the Internet that place the date of this change variously in 1957 or 1958, but when I view the patterns themselves (and their copyright dates), I see the change starting to occur as early as 1955 and definitely implemented by 1957. Regardless of the precise date, the effect of the change has hips at only 2 inches (5cm) larger than the bust. Bust 34 is now a size 14 instead of size 16. The waist drops 2 inches and the hips shrink one inch. Here is a comparison:

 1930s-1955 1955+
Size 16
Size 14
Bust 34
Bust 34
Waist 28
Waist 26 
Hip 37 
Hip 36

Body Types

From Vogue Sewing Book 1958, you can see the familiar body types that we know from the 1940s: Junior Miss, Teen, Miss, and Women:

The Vogue Sewing Book 1958, like sewing books of all eras, provides instructions on how to measure yourself.

 Pattern Sizes

But now note the new sizing!


  1. Great post! Love the information you have given here. I remember when I used the "Half-Size" patterns and I also remember altering regular patterns to fit. Still do!

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  3. Thanks, Judith! The evolution of pattern sizing is so interesting. I love that pattern companies gradually start recognizing body types. It's great to hear from someone who used the Half-Size pattern. Fit is so important!