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How To Get The Proper Size In A US Navy Pea Coat

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South of Nashville
The first step in determining proper peacoat fit is to obtain your bare chest measurement. For an accurate chest measurement, stand in front of a mirror so that your side is facing the mirror. Take a cloth tape measure and measure at the widest part of your bare chest (or wearing just a tight T-shirt). Make sure the tape is level from front to rear (this is the reason for the mirror). Do not take a deep breath and do not exhale deeply--just normal breathing will do it. You may want to hold your breath for a few seconds while measuring. Relax your position and do this three times. All of the slack should be out of the tape, but it should not be pulled so tight as to indent the skin. Take the best measurement--one that is the same as at least one other measurement. Or, failing a reproduced number, take the middle number. Under no circumstances are we to use a pit to pit measurement in place of the chest measurement. A p2p measurement is only taken of the peacoat.

When I want a pit to pit measurement of the peacoat, I ask the seller to lay the coat face up on a flat surface, such as a bed. Stretch it tightly from side to side and pull the same amount of material evenly from the front and the back just below the armpits. Do not be concerned about any seams--disregard the seams. We want the amount of material stretched in the back to be the same as the amount stretched in the front. Then let the fabric relax and take the measurement. It should be a whole number and a fraction--such as 19.25 inches. Do not round off; we want the entire number. Try to be accurate to 1/4 of an inch. This pit to pit measurement tells us how the coat will fit in the chest, and if the stated chest size on the tag is accurate.

To find the actual size of a peacoat in the absence of a tag, or to check the accuracy of the tag, take the number as determined above. Disregard the fraction and multiply the whole number by 2. Then subtract 2 inches from the result. This (subtracting the 2 inches) will give the actual chest size of the garment, even though the measurement is taken from the outside. It does not give the interior measurement, but only the chest size of the peacoat.

As an example, I would expect a size 44 peacoat to measure a little over 23 inches across the chest--say 23 1/4 inches. Disregard the 1/4 inch and multiply the 23 by 2 = 46. Then subtract 2 inches, which gives a true size of 44. This method is helpful when there is no tag on the coat, or no chest size is stated on the tag. Keep in mind it doesn't give us an interior measurement of the coat, but only the accurate tag size of the coat, whether the original tag is present or not. In WWII models, the pit to pit number may be a whole number without a fraction as they were built a little more fitted than the post war coats.

It is best to use a cloth tape measure as this reduces the error inherent in taking measurements. Cloth tape measures are available online, at fabric stores and probably in the fabric section of stores such as Target and Walmart. You could use a piece of string and a yard stick, but that induces error in the measurements, and the string is stretchy--even more error. We need to be as accurate as possible in our measurements.

I have found that if one gets a peacoat the same size as one's chest measurement, there will be room for layering, such as a sweater, underneath. If one goes a size smaller, it will be a trim fit with no room for a sweater. For example my chest measures a little over 41" (I'm a tweener). A size 42 will allow for a sweater, and a size 40 will be a trim fit. Some, however, prefer to go two sizes down for a really trim fit. The problem we might run into is the sleeve length may be too short if we go down two full sizes.

US Navy peacoats have become larger in relation to their stated tag size over the years. The WWII models fit the snuggest. Then the vintage models get just a little larger. The vintage years are from 1945 through 1979. I have found that the 1979 coats are a bit larger than the coats from late 1940s. And the current issue coats have become a little more generous in sizing than the vintage coats. The current issue years are 1980 through the current production models.
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