A few weeks ago I mentioned having some vintage (circa late 1950s, early 1960s) dresses that I've been considering selling through Etsy. They're all labeled with what I'd consider fairly large sizes (14, 15, 16) so the question was what's the modern equivalent.
The Younger Daughter suggested I bring them to Texas at Thanksgiving. She'd try them on, and we'd be able to extrapolate from her size to the dresses' sizes. So I did -- brought half a dozen dresses, and to say a size 16 from from 1960 is not a size 16 in 2008 is an understatement.
Both of these dresses are labeled as 16s. Tammi wears about an 8. The top dress, the pink polka dots, fit fine, although she did have a little trouble figuring out the mysteries of a side placket zipper (she'd never seen one before). (The dress has never been worn -- still has the tags from Gimbels department store -- but I have no idea why.)
This beautiful blue linen dress, on the other hand, although labeled as a 16, is more like a 6. Tammi was able to get into it, but it was obviously small -- among other clues, it flattened her chest into oblivion. Which was a shame, because we agreed it's a gorgeous dress. Fine quality workmanship, wonderful detailing (triple darts on the bodice), and a style that a person could actually wear into work today, if, of course, a person had an office job. Although it looks like a straight skirt, there's actually a deep pleat in the back that provides enough material to make it possible to sit comfortably.