Updated: Jan 20
When shopping for vintage high waisted denim shorts or jeans, figuring out your size can be very confusing! Since a good pair of vintage Levi's are a staple in any fashion-forward wardrobe, understanding your size is essential. We've created a hopefully easy-to-follow size guide to assist in measuring and shopping for this flattering and timeless style. For size conversion charts only, skip to bottom of post.
Measure your waist Using measuring tape (flexible tape measure), measure the circumference around your waist (the narrowest point between your ribs and hips). This is generally right above where your hips stop, above your belly button. Don't measure on top of clothing, and be sure to relax during this step (don't suck in or expand your belly). If measuring tape is not available to you, you can take something like a ribbon, repeat the step, and then measure it on a ruler or yardstick.
Determine your size If you are only shopping on our store, you're already done! You no longer have to roll the dice when ordering vintage high waisted jeans and shorts, since Thread On Arrival sizes all of these items by your waist measurement (i.e. if your body's waist is 29", you are a size 29 in our shop). Since the rise of the shorts varies from each pair, the short's waist measurement also varies, which is why you can't rely on these without considering the calculation (which is why we do it for you)!
If you'd like to know more, here is a more in-depth explanation: More often than not, high waisted clothing sits lower than your actual waistline. Because of this, the waist measurement on a pair that will actually fit you is often .5-4 inches (1.27-10.16 cm) bigger than your body's waist (I find that a 2 inch (5.08 cm) difference with an 11.5 inch (29.21 cm) rise is most common). It's also important to note that the shorter the rise (See Image 2) is on the shorts/pants, the bigger the short's/pant's waist measurement will be than your body's waist.
Here are examples of shorts/pants that would fit someone with a 26" / 66.04 cm waist:
INCHES: 10" rise, 29.5" waist (3.5" difference)
10.5" rise, 29" waist (3" difference) 11" rise, 28.5" waist (2.5" difference)
11.5" rise, 28" waist (2" difference) 12" rise, 27" waist (1" difference)
12.5" rise, 26.5" waist (.5" difference)
13" rise, 26" waist (0" difference)
CENTIMETERS: 25.4 cm rise, 74.93 cm waist (8.89 cm difference)
26.67 cm rise, 73.66 cm waist (7.62 cm difference) 27.94 cm rise, 72.39 cm waist (6.35 cm difference)
29.21 cm rise, 71.12 cm waist (5.08 cm difference) 30.48 cm rise, 68.58 cm waist (2.54 cm difference)
31.75 cm rise, 67.31 cm waist (1.27 cm difference)
33.02 cm rise, 66.04 cm waist (0 cm difference)
Compare Above is a general guide that can hopefully provide you with more assurance in terms of estimating what shorts or jeans will likely fit you. If you're still skeptical after doing the previous steps or just want reassurance, another thing you can do is compare your findings with another pair of high waisted shorts or pants that you already own or that you know fit you. In this instance, you will want to compare the rise measurement and possibly hip and leg opening measurements. See image below for waist, hip, and rise location:
Other notes When measuring the waist, make sure the denim is pulled straight and there is no droop/curve. This is important when using the system we've provided, especially with stretchier denim or material.
Consider Size Conversions Vintage tag sizes (such as "7" and "9" for a 26"/ 66.04 cm waist fit) are often inconsistent between styles, brands, and time periods, which is why it is better to go off of the exact measurements. It is also hard to assign waist measurements to modern sizes like "0, 1, 2, 3, 4" etc., because these may not be consistent between all brands, age groups (women's vs. juniors) and countries. However, if you are completely lost or have no way of measuring your waist, below are some estimated measurement-size conversion charts you may want to consider. When researching, we came across inconsistent findings, but used the most common sizes and conversions in the following charts. Keep in mind that the measurements refer to the body's measurements, not the clothes.
We hope this guide helped you find your size or cleared up any confusion you had!
You can shop our full collection of vintage Levi's high waisted shorts here.
If you have any other questions, just shoot us a message.
Fashion blog of Thread On Arrival, highlighting vintage clothing & thrifted streetwear in the latest news, tips and how-to's. Our store specializes in original & re-worked pre-loved women's & men's secondhand clothes, shoes and accessories from the 1970s, 80s, 90s & early 2000s.