Vintage Sewing

Half size patterns

August 18, 2007

So I’ve recently taken the plunge into actual vintage patterns, rather than reissues. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to work on this little number I purchased on ebay:

Now, I purchased a few patterns at great prices off of ebay, and was amazed that I got no competition on any of them. My wife asked me what a half size pattern was, since all of the ones that I had won were labeled half size. I figured “meh. must be halfway between two sizes.”
Of course, I finally googled it, only to find that they are made for people under 5’3″. I’m 5′ 8″. I feel like a real idiot.
Anyway, I decided to make this dress tonight, and ended up lengthening it a little bit, to make up for the half sizedness, only to find when I had finished that the waistline was somewhere around my hip bone. I not only feel like an idiot, I now look like one, too.
I ended up shortening the straps, and it looks decent. (Has anyone else noticed that when a dress looks a little off, shortening the straps ALWAYS fixes it?)
So, the point of all this rambling is this: has anyone used a half size pattern? Are they in any way different from a regular size pattern? Was it all some elaborate plot by the pattern industry to make women of short stature feel like they were being represented in the market?
Thanks, all. Hopefully I’ll have some good pics of the quasi-disaster dress shortly, and photos of other dresses I’ve made if only people would stop outbidding me.

  1. Half sizes were supposed to be for shorter women, as well as more “matronly” than the juniors/misses sizes. I’ve found that it still varies a lot by time period and pattern company – you need to not only compare your measurements to the pattern measurements (in this case the most relevant one would be the back waist length), you need to flat measure the pattern in a few additional places to see how it correlates with your own body. And it depends where your height is – you may be taller in the legs than in the torso, say. Anyway, I’m 5’10” and have successfully used half size patterns, and will likely continue to buy them as they’re often the only plus-size option in some vintage styles.

  2. I checked in my sewing library and came up with this from “Clothing Construction” by Evelyn A. Mansfield and Ethel L. Lucas, 1st pulbished in 1953: “About 5’2″ to 5’3″ without shoes. Half-size patterns are designed for a fully devloped but shorter figure. It has narrower shoulders than the Misses’ and the waist is larger in proportion to bust than other mature figure types.” So, they’re made for a “mature” figured petite; I also noticed the neck to waist lengths are a bit shorter than the Misses’ sizes. The basic measurements probably varied a bit from pattern company to pattern company but that’s where the half sizes fit into the scheme of things. Today they might be labeled as a “Womens Petite”

  3. I am a perfect example of a half-size pattern person and wish that they were still available because the amount of adjustments I have to make with a half-size is greatly reduced. To me, they seem to be geared for “real women.” I am 5’3 and very curvy with “girls” that aren’t as “perky” as they were 20 some years ago.

  4. I also want to clarify that half sizes weren’t just for the larger short women. The “women’s” patterns that are available in modern patterns generally start at a certain size that can be too big (and they think our shoulders get wider for some reason).

    Vintage half-size is just what it says, patterns for a mature (read, over 30) figure.

  5. I made up a half size pattern recently, in one of the Anne Adams (mail order) patterns with a 38″ bust. I too was a bit concerned since although I am 5’6″ I am quite long waisted, it worked out fine (luckily, as it was one of those that you can’t really adjust the waist length on). I’m over 30 as well, so maybe that is why they fit!

  6. I have come across these patterns. Those of us who are around that height like them! I find them fairly often from the 1950s and 60s when they made sewing patterns in a lot of “flavors”. That is the same era when the pattern companies produced “Chub-deb” or “Chubbie” patterns for young girls.

  7. Looks like you got all the answers already. Boy, I’m less than 5’1″ and I would love to find half-size patterns!
    Looking forward to seeing your dress.

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