How To Date Vintage Clothing

Last updated on April 8th, 2024 at 12:19 pm

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Discover the art of dating vintage clothing with expert tips and tricks. Unveil the hidden clues and learn how to identify the era in which a vintage garment was made. From examining the lining to checking the RN number, this guide will equip you with all the essential knowledge to help you date vintage clothes like a pro.

Time needed: 10 minutes

How old is my vintage garment?

  1. Firstly, there are certain clues that will help you establish the era when your vintage garment was made. Dating vintage clothes is both an art and a science and it can take years of experience to master the skill, but I want to focus on the main signs that will get you started.

    We will look at:
    ☞ ZIPPERS
    ☞ LINING
    ☞ SEAMS
    ☞ CARE TAG
    ☞ WHAT’S ON THE LABEL (TESS)
    ☞ RN
    ☞ ILGWU UNION TAGS-for American garments
    ☞ WOOLMARK LOGO
    ☞ FABRICS
    ☞ VINTAGE ADS how to date vintage clothes

  2. Secondly, search through fashion archives and you might find an ad or editorial that features garments identical to or at least similar to the one you are researching.


    You should check archives of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Wear Daily, Sears Catalogs, NYPL Digital collections, and Newspaper Archive. I found my Handmacher suit in an ad in Harper’s Bazaar from 1952!1950s Handmacher suit

The Intro to Dating Vintage Clothing

What does the word vintage actually mean?

The word ‘vintage’ refers to the year in which wine was produced.
Etymology in a nutshell: From Old French vendange (wine harvest), from Latin vindemia-grape gathering (from ‘vinum’ wine).
☞Ah, yes! It gets much more complicated when it comes to fashion and you will get a different answer depending on whom you ask.
☞ For many, the garment has to be at least 40 years old to qualify as vintage.
☞ In recent years, the word vintage replaced the term ‘second-hand’ to make it more appealing to the buyer. You will often see in editorials the word ‘vintage’ used to describe a designer piece from a few seasons ago.
☞ The reason why a lot of us in the vintage community started using the term ‘true vintage’ is to separate us, the wearers of 1930s-1950s garments from those who refer to clothes from the 90s and 00s as vintage.

1930s winter garments

What’s the difference between a vintage and an antique garment?

☞ Generally speaking, a piece of furniture or a garment has to be at least 100 years old to be an antique.
☞ True vintage (the 1930s-1950s), vintage (1960s-1980s), retro (imitation of a style from the past).
☞ To describe the years 2000-2020 in fashion, I will quote a character from The Devil Wears Prada.
‘If she deosn’t like it she shakes her head. Then, of course, there is the pursing of the lips.’ And that means. ‘Catasrphe.’
Needless to say, I’ve been pursing my lips since the late 90s.

The Art of Identifying Vintage Clothes

It’s not always easy to identify the era in which a vintage garment was made. It’s a very tricky and daunting task indeed, especially when there are no tags attached. And that’s the case with a lot of garments from the 1930s-1950s. Clothes were often handmade, or perhaps the tags simply did not survive the wear and tear of time.

Some of my most valuable 1940s skirt suits were bespoke and undoubtedly made for well-to-do clients.

As much as the topic of the history of vintage clothes is a never-ending learning curve for me, there are certain ways by which I’m able to date most but not all of my collected pieces. 

Readers have asked me many times to write a post about that very topic and I hope my tips will be useful! 

The older I get, the more vintage I buy and the deeper I fall into the rabbit hole of research, the more I realize that there is still so much to learn.

Before you continue reading my post, please, do understand that when dating vintage garments, you should look at many different clues. Don’t obsess over just one. Also, I regularly update this article so do subscribe to the post notification. 

Dominique de Merteuil
How to date vintage clothing

RELATED

If you love vintage fashion as much as I do, you might also find this article interesting!  HOW TO TAKE CARE OF VINTAGE CLOTHES!

How to date vintage clothing! In the pictures, I’m wearing a dress from circa 1955.


How to Date Vintage Clothing with the Help of Zippers, Lining, Care Tag and More.

ZIPPERS HELP WITH DATING VINTAGE CLOTHES

I find zippers fascinating and they certainly deserve a separate chapter or even a post. For the time being, you have to forgive me for giving you just a couple of simple clues on how to date a vintage garment thanks to zippers.

  • Though the metal zipper was invented in the 1800s it was only first used in women’s clothes in the 1930s and placed either in the side seam or centre back of the dress, usually very short in length, concealed with a flap of fabric, as it was considered vulgar. You see, zippers made it too easy to take one’s garment off and clearly a real lady wouldn’t be in a hurry to undress. Or would she? 🙂
  • I really struggle to find 1930s evening gowns that would be the right size and have a zipper, without which putting on a velvet or liquid satin gown is almost impossible, at least for me.

And that brings me to the topic of alterations. I would like to remind you of what I said earlier about looking at more than one clue when dating vintage clothes. You might find an original 1930s dress or a 1940s skirt with a modern zipper.

  • Contrary to the popular belief of many people on the internet that 1930s clothes did not have a front zipper, there are MANY examples of 1930s dresses, blouses and patterns with a zipper placed in front.

Elsa Schiaparelli used colourful plastic ‘Lightning’ zippers in her 1935 collection and shocked everyone by placing them in very visible parts of her clothes.


She wasn’t the first designer to use a fastener in a woman’s garment though. In 1933 the American couturier, Charles James incorporated a long zipper in his spiral wrap-over dress which he named the ‘Taxi’.

  • You will often find a metal zipper in women’s clothes from the 1940s in the side seam, sleeves as well as on the back. All of my 1940s dresses have either a zipper or buttons placed in the side seam. 
  • In the 1950s it was popular to place a long zipper at the centre back of the dress but always concealed. Don’t be surprised to see a 1940s gown with a long zipper that runs down the back.

Stills from “Blithe Spirit” (1945) depicting not one but two dresses with a very long zipper on the back.

How to date vintage clothes like a pro
Stills from “Blithe Spirit” (1945) How to date vintage clothes! How to date vintage clothing.
Blithe Spirit 1945
How to date vintage clothes! The zipper.
  • Plastic zippers replaced metal ones after 1963

NOTE that some zippers might have been replaced at a later stage! I’ve seen many 1940s dresses with a contemporary zipper.

Lining

LINING OR LACK OF IT CAN HELP ESTABLISH THE ERA OF THE VINTAGE GARMENT

In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, women always wore slips and half slips with skirts and dresses. Of course, slips were still popular in the 1960s and 1970s but most skirts came with a lining.

Tip* If you find a skirt suit that looks like a great example of one from the 1940s but the skirt is fully lined, then you can be sure that it’s from the 1970s or later.

I have several skirts and one dress from the late 1950s with a half-lining, like the one in the picture below.

How to date vintage clothes

How to date vintage clothing!

The 1950s Copeland Skirts of California with a lining at the back of the skirt.

Seams

This is actually the most difficult part for me to identify a vintage garment, as I don’t know how to hand-sew, I’ve never used a sewing machine and even attaching a simple button is like a mission impossible.

So… For me looking at different types of seams is like trying to read hieroglyphs. The one thing I’ve learned really fast though is that if a garment has unfinished seams it‘s most likely from earlier than the 1950s.

The three seams you should familiarise yourself with are French, pinked and Serged seams.

  • In a French seam, which I call the invisible seam, the raw edges of the fabric are completely enclosed and this type of seam was used from the 1900s through to the 1940s.
  • You will find pinked seams on a lot of 1950s garments that were cut with pinking shears and the easiest way to identify them is by the zigzag teeth cut of these shears.
  • Serged seams, which are overlock stitches, replaced the pinked seams in the 1960s when the Serger sewing machine became widely available and affordable. 

TIP *Please note that the overlock/serger machine was developed in the 19th Century by Merrow Machine Company and a line of  “A Class” machines was produced in 1932. Don’t be surprised if you find an overlock stitch in garments pre-dating the 1960s. I’ve seen it on breeches and a skirt from the 1930s.


How To Fix a Hole in Vintage Clothes Without Sewing

If you are as hopeless when it comes to stitching, sewing and mending, as I am, you will LOVE the Bo-Nash Fuse It Powder!

fix a hole in clothes without sewing.

 How to Date Vintage Clothes-Care Tag

  • In 1971 the Federal Trade Commission issued the Care Labeling Rule. The rule states that manufacturers have to tag their apparel with at least one cleaning method such as “dry clean only” or “machine wash cold”.

The Care Labeling Rule has been in effect since 1971 and requires manufacturers and importers to attach labels with care instructions for garments and certain piece goods, providing instructions for dry cleaning or washing, bleaching, drying and ironing clothing.

FTC
  • There are a lot of 1970s dresses inspired by the 1940s but if you see a tag bearing the words “dry clean only”, and the dress happens to have a lining, and it’s made of polyester, you can be sure that it’s NOT from the 1940s! 
  1. The lining would be your second clue that the dress is not from the 1940s.
  2. The polyester fabric would be the third clue.
How to date vintage clothes
1940s Koret Of California label with “Hand Washable” written below the brand’s logo.

Tip for Dating Vintage-Care Tag

* Care instructions on clothing from the 1950s and 1940s were not that uncommon but the wording on the tag will be most likely  ” DRY CLEANING RECOMMENDED” rather than “DRY CLEAN ONLY”. I once bought a deadstock 1950s dress with a removable care tag attached to the dress and kept the tag. I will post a picture of it as soon as I find it!

If you happen to have a vintage garment predating the 1950s with ‘dry cleaning’ as a recommended method of cleaning on a tag, please let me know! I would love to post more examples on my website.

A couple of days ago, one of my favourite vintage shops in the UK, Gingermegs Vintage, listed this beautiful 1940s dress by Dorothy Hubbs. As you can see, the tag on this 1940s dress reads Dry Clean Only. So there you have it, there are always exceptions to every rule.

how to date vintage clothes
How to date vintage clothes! The 1940s dress by Dorothy Hubbs. Pictures courtesy of Gingrmegs Vintage.

The Dorothy Hubbs Brand & Lucille Ball

On a side note, all the dresses that Lucille Ball wore on the tv show ‘ I Love Lucy’ were by Dorothy Hubbs.

We read in the book “The Real Story of Lucille Ball’ that

“On television, Lucy also wears the “I Love Lucy” dresses made not by her dressmaker but by Dorothy Hubbs Inc. and sold in three thousand stores around America.”

Care Symbols Will Help You With Dating Vintage Clothes

According to GINETEX ( the International Association for Textile Care Labelling), the care symbols were introduced in 1963.

The wash codes symbols on garment labelling changed in 1976, 1980, 1982 and again in 1994. I will add pictures depicting care symbols in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in due course.

Hot to date vintage clothes
My Vivienne Westwood blazer from around 2008 depicts care symbols.

Textile Fibre Products Identification Act

The Textile Fibre Products Identification Act was introduced on September 2, 1958. You will see a content disclosure in the labelling of American garments from the 1960s and onwards.

Public Law 85-897

AN ACT

To protect the producers and consumers against misbranding and false advertising of the fiber content of textile products, and for other purposes.

Public Law 85-897 – SEPT. 2, 1958

Care & Fibre Content Labelling in the UK

According to the information I found on GOV.UK, the label must show fibre content, including fur.

I found on the website of Bolton Consultancy Ltd which specialises in care labelling that,

During the 1960s the UK adopted the national care labelling scheme and the Gyntex symbols but in the UK the textile care instructions are not mandatory.


You might be interested in my article on how to clean vintage clothes headache-free!

DISCLOSURE; As of October 2021 (three years after I published this article), I’m part of the Shop Style Collective affiliate program and I get a commission for purchases made through some of the links in this post. When you purchase a product via the link in my post you are helping to keep my website alive for which I’m very grateful!

I handwash all my vintage lingerie in Eucalan Wrapture which I wholeheartedly recommend to all of you!

best detergent to clean vintage
How to clean vintage!

How To Get Rid Of Yellow Stains from Vintage Clothes & Linens!

Retro Clean is my secret weapon in removing yellow stains on vintage and antique washable linens and clothes!

Best product for removing yellow stains from white clothes.

My little miracle worker made all the stains disappear.

how to remove yellow stains from clothes and linens
Retro Clean removed all the yellow stains caused by my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from my bedspread.

 

WHAT’S ON THE LABEL-HOW TO DATE VINTAGE CLOTHES!

  • If you see a brand’s name on the label, I strongly recommend that you check if it’s listed on the Vintage Fashion Guild’s website, as it’s a good source of information and they have pictures of vintage tags so you can compare it with the one sewn in your garment.
    • TRADEMARK ELECTRONIC SEARCH SYSTEM (TESS)
  • ‘It’s all in the name.’ If you are lucky enough to have a manufacturer’s or designer’s name attached to your garment, check TESS to see when it was registered. It won’t help with establishing the exact date of when your vintage piece was made, but you will at least find out when the brand was registered. This is a database for American companies.
  • Example of a St Michael Label courtesy of Emma from NYLON NOSTALGIA. You can read an in-depth article about how to date St Michael labels on her website!
1950s St Michael label courtesy of Nylon Nostalgia
Example of a vintage St Michael Lingerie Label courtesy of Nylon Nostalgia.

CC41-The Utility Clothing Scheme

CC41 (Civilian Clothing, Orders 1941) – the utility logo (Rationing of clothing started in 1941 and lasted until 1949). The utility clothing scheme started in 1942 and lasted till 1952. Garments with the CC41 logo on them were synonymous with good quality for a low price.

CC41 logo on one of my 1940s skirts.

CC41 tag on a skirt

RN-On Vintage Clothes

Registered Identification Number

  1. Very helpful in determining the age of your vintage garment are RN numbers (issued by the Federal Trade Commission to businesses in the U.S. that manufacture, import or sell; textile, wool or fur products).
  • RN numbers issued from 1952 through 1959 starting at 00101 continued to 04086.
  • If the RN number is 13670 then your garment is younger than 1959!
  • Please remember that the RN number does NOT show the number of when a garment was made, but the date of when the RN number was issued!

Tip* I use RN database to find more information.

LOT Number on American Garments 

I had to mention the LOT numbers because the LOT tag appears on some of the vintage clothes and a lot of people ask about them, but I would ignore them as a clue for dating vintage.

  • The lot numbers were a way for manufacturers to keep track of their garments. I’m still gathering information on when they were first used and if they really ceased to exist post-1979. 
  • Mary,  in the comment section, pointed out that LOT numbers didn’t cease to exist after 1979 and are still in use. I have never seen a tag with a LOT number on contemporary American clothes so this topic needs further investigation.

ILGWU Union Tags (International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union)

Union Tags

  • 1900 – 1936 ILGWU AFL  (The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union was formed in 1900)
  • 1933-1935 NRA (National Recovery Act) with Blue Eagle
  • 1936 – 1940 ILGWU CIO
  • 1940 – 1955 ILGWU AFL
  • 1941 – New York Dress Institute Label created
  • 1955 – 1995 ILGWU AFL-CIO  (In the picture below!)
How to date vintage clothes. 1955 ILGWU AFL-CIO

How to date vintage clothing! ILGWU AFL-CIO label was found on one of my dresses.

The union tag is not older than 1955 and not younger than 1963 as there is no R symbol or “Union Made” inside the circle.

You will see the words “UNION LABEL” right above the scalloped crest, a needle with thread and no R symbol, which appeared on this label in 1964.

  • 1963 -1973 ILGWU AFL-CIO (The R symbol appeared and the word UNION MADE is now inside the circle)
  • May 1960 – Coat & Suit Industry Recovery Board Label and the ILGWU label were merged.
  • 1974-1992  ILGWU AFL-CIO (Red colour is added)
how to date vintage fashion by union labels

Union label picture © Cornell University ILR School.

  • 1995 – 2004 UNITE!
  • 2004 – UNITE HERE

 “R” TRADEMARK

The Trademark Act of 1946 introduced the trademark symbol.

The Woolmark logo first appeared on tags of garments made of wool in 1964. Also, garments with a 100% Woolmark logo will be not older than 1964. The Woolmark blend logo was introduced in 1971. 

Through the years the logo has changed but you can see and compare the different tags on the Vintage Fashion Guild’s website.

How to date vintage clothes

This particular tag is from my 1952 Handmacher suit. As you see, it says “100% WOOL SUPER-FINE WORSTED.”

How to date vintage clothes
How to date vintage clothing!

Vintage Sizes

None of my dresses and skirt-suits from the 1930s and 1940s have a size tag, which shouldn’t come as a surprise as it wasn’t until 1958 that standardised sizes appeared on tags.

It doesn’t mean, of course, that size tags on clothes from pre-1958 didn’t exist. They did, but the number might make no sense to you as it won’t correspond to the sizes of contemporary clothes.

You might see letters instead of numbers. “SW” – a small woman, and “W” meant average size.

A lot of garments made post-1950s will have sizes ranging from 10 to 20. Size 10 would be an XXS.

In the US, as opposed to Britain, half sizes were used on clothes. Please remember that American clothes with half sizes were also sold in Britain.

When buying vintage online pay attention to the measurements given in the description, and allow 2 inches for ease of wear.

For example, if a blazer measures 36 ” across the bust it will be suitable for someone who is 32″ or 34″. Don’t forget to ask about the shoulder-to-shoulder measurement if it’s not already in the description. 


British Dress Sizes During WWII

Thank you Emma of Nylon Nostalgia for this press clipping!

Dress sizes in WWII in Britain

Instead of garments being known as S.W., W., or W.X., ore described by bust or hip sizes, they will be called by letters of the alphabet sizes A, B, C, C &c. For each of the sizes prescribed the garment will have to conform to certain minimum measurments. Altogether, 36 sizes have been laid dow, and it is hoped that the system will provide to supply women with garments which, because of their sizing, will give good coupon value.

Vintage Lingerie Sizes

On June 29, 1944 at the instance of the Office of Price Administration, a recommended commercial standard for women’s slips (made from woven fabrics), developed and adjusted through several conferences and through consultation and correspondence with industry and the trade, was circulated to producers, distributors, and users for written acceptance.(…) The standard is effective for new production from April 20, 1945.

U.S. Department of Commerce. Henry A. Wallace, Secretary
how to date vintage clothes
How to date vintage clothing

PURPOSE

The purpose of this commercial standard is to establish standard methods of measuring and standard minimum measurments for the guidance of producers, distributors, and users of women’s slips in order to eliminate confusion resulting from a diversity of measurments, and methods to provide a uniform basis for guaranteeing full size.

SCOPE

This standard covers standard methods of measuring and standard minimum measurments for women’s built-up shoulders, and strap-type, straight and bias cut slips, made from woven fabrics, in sizes 32 to 54.

COMMERCIAL STANDARD CS121-45

how to date vintage clothes
Vintage Lingerie Size Guide. How to date vintage clothing.

 How to Date Vintage Clothes by Fabrics

You can date vintage clothes based on the fabric they were made of which, obviously, isn’t possible when buying online, unless the information pertaining to fibre content is included on the tag.

Prior to 1958, garments did not have to have labels with fibre content. That changed when Congress passed legislation called, the Textile Fiber Products Identification ACT, which required all fabric manufacturers to include accurate fibre content on the label.

Rayon Fabric

Rayon, invented in 1846, was first manufactured in the United States in 1911. (very popular in the 1920s-1940s). Rayon, which was a cheaper alternative to silk, was called artificial silk until 1924. Other names used to describe rayon were; artificial silk, art silk, rayon silk, chemical silk, and manufactured silk.

In 1924, the National Retail Dry Goods Association appointed a committee to create a new universal name for the fibre known as “artificial silk’. Kenneth Lord of Galey and Lord, a leading fabric manufacturer, came up with the name “RAYON” which was unanimously accepted.

The First UK production of Rayon was in 19o5 Courtaulds.

History of Rayon

THE MOST POPULAR RAYON PRODUCERS WERE;

“Viscose Co. with its President, Samuel A. Salvage who was named by a rayon trade paper as “the father of the American Rayon Industry.” Viscose was the property of the English Courtalds’ Ltd. and was the largest producer of rayon in America.

Celanese Corporation of America was third in output (35,000,000 pounds annually according to The Literary Digest from January 16, 1937), but best known to consumers because of brilliant marketing campaigns. “The company has always insisted the its Celanese is not rayon.” Celanese is the Celanese Corporation’s trade name for acetate discovered by the Dreyfus brothers, Henri and Camille.

By 1937, most rayon is still produced by the viscose processes.

The du Pont Rayon Co., which manufactures rayon by both, acetate and viscose processes, declares that rayon yarns of the acetate type are more immune to stains from perspiration, grease, ink, fruit juices; they absorb less moisture and have superior draping qualities.”


Acetate Rayon Fabric

The first UK commercial production in 1921 Dreyfus as Celanese.

The first US commercial production of Celanese was in 1924 by Celanese Corporation.

Nylon Fabric

1939 – Nylon (nylon was first commercially used in 1939 by E.I. du Pont) Qiana, a silky nylon fibre was developed in 1962 and introduced by the name of Qiana in 1968 by DuPont. That particular material was very popular in the 1970s in the production of faux-silk men’s shirts with bold patterns. A la Travolta “Saturday Night Fever” 😉

Nylon; Bri-Nylon and Perlon were first commercially manufactured in the US in 1939. DuPont.

Acrylic Fabric

1950 – Acrylic (DuPont created the first acrylic fibres in 1941 and trademarked them under the name Orlon. It was developed in the 40s, commercially manufactured in 1948, and wildly available in shops in the 1950s. The early Orlon did not hold dyes and was mainly used for curtains in a beige colour.

Regina Lee Blaszczyk wrote in her article, Styling Synthetics: DuPont’s Marketing of Fabrics and Fashions in Postwar America that, “In 1953, DuPont introduced another type of Orlon fiber, which found its way into the knitting industry. Italian knitwear had stimulated the demand for sportswear sweaters, and Orlon proved to be the ideal fiber for mass-market knitters looking to capitalize on the fad for ladies’ twin sets.”

It’s a soft and warm wool-like fabric used for example as an alternative to expensive cashmere)


1950s Haute Couture in Synthetic Fabrics by DuPont

ORLON FABRIC IN HAUTE COUTURE

Between 1952-1954 DuPont collaborated with Parisian Haute Couture designers such as Dior, Chanel and Givenchy.

Givenchy incorporated Orlon acrylic in his 1954 collection, and by doing so cemented the fabric’s position in the world of luxury wear.

“Hubert de Givenchy finds the way to keep this shirtwaist dress looking young and bouffant-he chooses Orlon acrylic fiber, here combined with silk in a douppioni surah. He says that because of Orlon, this surah can cooly glide through a day in the sun-or even careful handwashing-and still look as fresh, frosty, and shimmering as the day it was photographed in Paris.”

Givenchy 1950s spring collection
How to date vintage clothing

In 1955, Givenchy designed beautiful sweaters, cardigans and skirts made of Orlon for the American Talbott firm.

How to date vintage clothing guide.


Spandex

Spandex was invented by Joseph Shivers, DuPont in 1958. The fabric was first commercially used in the US in 1959 by DuPont.

Lyocell (Tencel, Ecovero)

Commercially available since 1988, Courtlands UK.

1961 – Polyolefin/polypropylene (in 1966, polyolefin was the first and only Nobel Prize-winning fibre).

If you see rather unusual names of fabrics it usually means it’s vintage. For example;

Dacron Polyester

Dacron Polyester was developed in the 1940s but first appeared in garments in 1950. The fabric started gaining in popularity when the Brooks Brothers introduced the polyester-cotton permanent press shirt.

Polyester was very popular in the 1970s but was first commercially used in 1953 and Celanese was an acetate fabric softer but stronger than satin or taffeta and most importantly much cheaper.

 Search For Vintage Ads

When you are lucky enough to have a tag with the brand’s name attached to the garment, look through Pinterest or Google for vintage ads with the brand in question and even if you don’t find the exact same model of a dress, suit or a coat that you have, it might help you to narrow down the date.

Being the tenacious person that I am, after two days of searching and going through countless  Handmacher ads, I found a picture of my Handmacher suit in Harper’s Bazaar from 1952!

1950s Handmacher suit
1950s Handmacher suit. How to date vintage clothing.

How to date vintage clothing! In the picture on the left, I’m wearing the exact same model of the Handmacher suit which I later found in Harper’s Bazaar from 1952.

Follow me on Pinterest

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/itsbeyondmycontrol

The 1930s Fashion Illustrations

I published a post depicting fashion illustrations from January 1930 to September 1939. If you subscribe to my newsletter, I will send you 10 PDFs over the next 10 weeks with over 600 fashion illustrations from the 1930s.

the 1930s fashion history timeline
The 1930s fashion history timeline. How to date vintage clothing!
the 1930s fashion history timeline

I sincerely hope that this post was useful to you! If you enjoy my articles, please consider a donation to my book fund. Thank you!

Dominique x


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61 Comments
  • Juan
    March 19, 2024

    Dominique, Thank you for this wonderful blog on dating vintage! Lots of useful information I’ll be able to utilize in dating and identifying my vintage collection as I prepare to sell most of my pieces. I have been collecting vintage ever since the late 1960’s and know most of my collection is primarily “true vintage” with the bulk of items being from the 40’s and 50’s. I had initially planned to sell this collection through Etsy in 2013-2015, but things got put on the back burner and subsequently didn’t happen.
    I am currently in the process of downsizing and have been doing research online in the last few days to see what is available out there in the vintage clothing market. I was surprised to see how little is available! Many of the shops on Etsy I was initially following no longer exist as well as other websites and resources I had gleaned information from. It appears the pickings and choices out there have become mighty slim these days! Compared to what I am seeing online, I have a pretty high-end collection comparatively and it looks like getting my Etsy shop up and running is about the only option. Thanks again and I will be referring to your website often!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      March 22, 2024

      Thank you so much for this lovely comment! You made my day!
      Sadly, a lot of vintage shop I have been buying from for years no longer exist so it’s becoming more difficult to find great pieces from the 1930s and the 1940s. Vintage and antique fairs are often the best places to find incredible pieces but that option mainly works for people in London or Toronto.

  • Daisy
    March 4, 2024

    Hi! Your blog has been incredibly helpful for me being able to date my clothes but I recently bought two blouses from two separate sellers online, both are definitely vintage and the seller for the first blouse dates it to the 1940-50s however I’m not entirely sure- it has a label with the brand ‘peacock’ on it and stating it to be hand embroidered, made in china and 79% polyester and 21% cotton, it has no wash instructions or other traces of old labels . One thing I found interesting was that it has ribbon on both insides on the shoulder that is sewn on one side and attached to a press stud on the other, I’m not sure if this could be a clue to its age but regardless I’m pretty curious about what it could be used for.

    For the second blouse it has very little information it has a small label stating it’s size, the materials of 65% polyester and 35% cotton and then it says it was made in Thailand, the buttons are also plastic, it also has embroidery on the front and I would say that was also hand made as the loose threads are still there-looking at it I would say it is roughly 50s or early 60s but I honestly don’t know

    Any help would be greatly appreciated as I’ve been completely stumped with these

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      March 11, 2024

      Hi Daisy,
      I’m thrilled to hear that you find my blog useful!

      “Made in China”
      During the Second Sino-Japanese War in the early 1940s, Chinese civilians initiated a boycott of Japanese and foreign-made products, which popularized the term “Made in China”. This term is now commonly used to indicate the country of origin of a product, especially in the manufacturing industry.
      You will find the Made in China label on many American clothes from late 1980s onwards.

      “Polyester”
      Even though Polyester was invented in mid-30s, it was introduced to American consumers in 1951 (ad with the headline “Miracles can happen” appeared in New York Times) as Dacron. In the UK it was known under the name Terylene.

      P.S. The press stud under arms might be for dress shields.

  • Lydia
    October 15, 2023

    Hi Dominique! Thanks so much for your insightful post.
    I was wondering if you could shed light on a vintage children’s peacoat I thrifted. It’s a beige, seemingly wool coat with brown velvet collar detail and 8 brown covered buttons; no pockets; silky beige/yellow lining. I do see some serged stitching on the lining. The inner bottom edge has a tag that reads Carrcraft Originals® and then a small side tag reading, “HAND FINISHED Lot [blank] Size 3. The backside of that tag has 44 stamped in red. Besides that, the only tag or information is a small rectangle of cloth stapled to the lining, hand written in pencil, saying 1913.
    Initially, I thought that might mean it was made in 1913 (and I hunted down old Sears catalogs to see if the style was plausible for a children’s coat), but then I realized the ®symbol wasn’t established until the 1940’s.
    If there are any other insights you can provide about this mysterious little coat, I’d be so happy to hear!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      October 15, 2023

      Hi Lydia,
      I’m not sure if this will be useful to you but, I found in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office from March 1947, that Carrcraft “For ladies and girls sportswear-namely, suits, coats, and slack suits. Claims use since Jan. 5, 1945” According to TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) the first renewal date for the trademark was on June 17, 1967.
      I found several Carrcraft coats for children from the 1950s and 1960s so it would make sense that the one you found is from the 1950s or the 1960s. I’ll let you know if I find anything else.

      • Lydia
        October 16, 2023

        Thank you so much for this insight!! I was able to find some comparable ones from the same brand on Poshmark. Not the exact style but similar, and based on that I’d say mine is 1950’s. I just find it interesting that is has no tags to denote material, care instructions or where it was made.

        Again, thank you for the help!!

        • Dominique de Merteuil
          October 16, 2023

          I’m glad that you found the information useful! Care instruction tag wasn’t mandatory till 1971 and the fibre content disclosure tag since the early 1960s. The Textile Fibre Identification Act was introduced on September 2, 1958. This is why it would make sense that the coat you have is from the 1950s. Also, it’s possible that there was a detachable care tag pinned to the garment. I had that with several 1950s Old New Stock dresses.

          Oh, isn’t is fun to play a Vintage Garment Detective! 🙂

  • Sharon
    March 17, 2023

    Hi Dominique. I’ve just picked up a fully beaded & sequinned black sleeveless top. The label says The Knitwear House, Huppert, 64 Regent Street, London, W1. There’s no sizing label, no care label. It’s fully lined, hidden seams, concealed metal zip. I’ve Googled but can’t find much about the company. Any idea?

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      March 18, 2023

      Hi Sharon,
      I found several press clippings, mainly from Country Life, dated 1960, 1961 and 1963, mentioning Huppert at 64 Regent Street. Oddly enough, I found only one ad (from the 1960s) featuring Huppert’s knitwear, which the company was known for. Most of the pieces still available for sale are from the 1960s. I’m sorry, but that’s all I found in the five minutes that I had. I will investigate further and let you know once I find something more interesting.

      • Sharon
        March 18, 2023

        Thank you xx

  • Crissy
    February 12, 2023

    Hi,
    I really liked a vintage Ralph Lauren wool
    Plaid trousers. I has the ILGWU scalloped tag but the opening is on the side but no zipper -just a clasp and a button. Is that typical then? Is it worth $110 dollars? Thanks

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      February 13, 2023

      Hi Crissy,
      For full disclosure, I don’t buy anything made post-the late 1950s anymore. Aside from the 90s couture pieces by designers such as Galliano, Westwood or Mugler, I’m not that familiar with the value of clothes post the 1970s. My very stylish mother is a fan of the Ralph Lauren brand and has many plaid pieces ( all of them made of wool) from the 1990s and 2000s, and I can tell you that they are of good quality and great design. The average price of Ralph Lauren trousers is around $400, so if the pair you found is in mint condition, made of good quality fabric and you love them, $110 is definitely worth the price.

  • a
    February 4, 2023

    I have a top that says LOT and a number on the tag (so presumably a LOT number), and its from sometime after about 2003…

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      February 4, 2023

      Thank you for your comment!
      May I ask what brand it is and if it really says ‘made in the USA’? Most American brands started moving their production overseas in the late 80s, but I’m curious if there are any exceptions. If you tell me the name of the brand and if it’s indeed manufactured in the USA, I will get in touch with them (if they still exist) and inquire about the LOT number!

  • Alana
    December 20, 2022

    I am stumped! I have a presumably velour housecoat labeled Dela-Ann. Rn tells me 1956. Tag says hand washable and seams are pinked but VERY unfinished. I can find no other info about this piece of clothing! HELP!!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      December 20, 2022

      According to TESS, the Dela-Ann brand was first used in commerce in 1948 and registered on October 9, 1956. The registrant on file is HAGE & AZRAK CO. Firm 164 Atlantic Ave. Brooklyn NY.

      All the Dela-Ann house coats I’ve found online that are currently for sale (or sold in the past) are from the 1960s. I suggest you use GEM App to look for available Del-Ann house coats and compare them to yours. I don’t know how familiar you are with the popular designs of house coats in the 1940s, the 1950s, and the 1960s so have a look at the Vintage Fashion Tips category on my website. Perhaps, the article entitled ‘How to Shop for Vintage Lingerie. Expert advice!‘ might be useful to you for comparing robes from different decades.

      I haven’t had time to look for ads for Del-Ann but I will when I have a moment.

  • Abby C
    November 1, 2022

    I have a completely beaded flapper style dress that I bought at a thrift store in SoCal almost 20 years ago. There is no designer label, no size, no RN. The only tag found is a thick white tag extending about 1/2” from the seam & 1” in width that reads on one side “100% silk lining rayon” and the backside reads “professionally dry clean only made in India”. There is a metal zipper on the side & the straps are halter style (also fully beaded) with 2 metal closure hooks. Is there any way to find more info on this dress?

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      November 1, 2022

      Hi Abby,
      Based on your description I can tell you that the dress is not ‘true vintage’ (the 1920s to the 1970s).

      You bought it around 2000, and my guess is the dress is from the 90s. The “flapper look” was ubiquitous on the runway in the 90s. Try Pinterest or Vogue for the 20s-style dresses in the 90s, and you might come across something similar. Your dress might be a designer piece with a tag cut off on purpose, or it’s a copy of a designer piece.

  • Alison Cloonan
    October 4, 2022

    What a great detailed post and full of great information. Loving the vintage fabric and illustrations.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      October 5, 2022

      Thank you so much!
      It’s an important topic considering the increasing popularity of vintage amongst people who are only starting their adventure in buying clothes from past decades.

  • Goldie Kean
    April 9, 2022

    Arr yes, thank you, I happy to find you. My history may interest you as I also have become a dress detective due to searching fruitlessly for the couture garments my mother made when partner to a couturier in Johannesburg in the late 1940’s. I was brought up on tales of hems being re-sewn 15 times before perfection was reached. Of diamond barons wives ordering gowns covered in beaded fish scales, Of the parties and artisans of that era. Coats that were made in the atelier that she wore during the war that never crumpled after long train journeys sleeping in them. So sad it appears nothing is left of their work. I also was taught by her and in my way made a small ripple in the 70’s. Now to the present day in the South of France where I’m finding some real gems. The nostalgia for my families past is burning agin, thank you. Goldie Kean.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      April 9, 2022

      What a fantastic story! It’s hard to believe that all the couture pieces perished. I bet with you that some of them survived and are part of a private collection. May I ask for the name of the couturier?

  • Isobel Barrett
    February 28, 2022

    Great information and written in a light hearted manner. I have learned a lot from you. My background is in theatre and over the years have accumulated quite a number of vintage pieces. At the moment I am sifting through them to find out the best way to treat and care for these precious garments.

    Thank you again

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      March 1, 2022

      Thank you for your lovely comment!
      I wrote an in-depth article about how to store vintage like a pro, so please check it out as my tips and recommendations might come in handy.

  • Janett
    February 2, 2022

    Very informative article! I’m learning so much about vintage fashion thanks to your blog!

  • Alison Cloonan
    January 1, 2022

    What a great post with some great help and tips. I find dating vintage clothing very difficult also we get alot oc St Michael’s so will checkout the other link. Thankyou.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      January 1, 2022

      I’m thrilled that this article is useful to so many people! It’s not always easy to date vintage garments, especially when they have been altered many times over. Emma, at Nylon Nostalgia, wrote an in-depth post about the St Michael label.

  • Autumn Reed
    October 2, 2021

    Thank you for this article!! It is very thorough and helped me get some idea about the date of a vintage dress I just found at an antique store. It is 100% wool, made in Italy, size 8 and the brand says “Romia”. I can’t find much online except one shirt on Ebay with the same label. It is a tight, short sleeved, “pencil” dress, with a matching cape and tie that I assume goes around my neck but I am not sure!! Wondering what you think? 🙂 I thought it was 50’s or maybe even 40’s but then you said the bit about sizing so I am not sure.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      October 6, 2021

      Thank you!

      Does it say “Romia” or “Roma” or maybe something entirely different? I can’t find a brand under that name. Impossible for me to say without seeing the garment or images. Try to find images of similar dresses to yours on Pinterest.

  • Deanna J. McFarland
    June 23, 2021

    Hi, I just wanted to write to let you know how much I appreciate your knowledge of vintage garments and the willingness to share! I found your blog informative and straight to the point (which I love). I do love vintage fashion–learning about it. I troll the thrift stores looking for a good vintage garments. I then research the garment which helps broaden my knowledge:) Thanks again for sharing your love and knowledge! Warmest regards, Deanna

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      June 24, 2021

      Deanna, you made my day with your kind comment! I’ve been buying, wearing and writing about vintage for longer than I would like to admit, but I shall never stop learning and sharing my knowledge with my wonderful readers.

    • Stephanie
      August 25, 2021

      I picked up a Cynthia Howie dress at Goodwill. There is a ILGWU tag and the store tag (Seiferts) states it is a 1958 style. However the Garment tag says “Dry Clean Only.” Along with Made in USA and style# 1950-2,
      Can I assume that this is not a real period based dress?

      • Dominique de Merteuil
        August 25, 2021

        Hi Stephanie,
        I’ve found many dresses by Cynthia Howie currently listed on eBay and Etsy, and they are all from the 1980s or later. Several of them are in the 1950s style. If the ILGWU label on the garment is in; white red and blue colours, and Made in U.S.A. is in red, you can be guaranteed that it’s NOT from the 1950s. Hope that helps.

  • Lori Binetti
    May 24, 2021

    Hi , love the info provided. TY . I recently inherited a few Vintage garments. I believe from what I read there is one garment that had a union tag on it from 1955 . I’m not sure how to appraise this ! Do you know anyone that could help! Thank you!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      May 24, 2021

      Hi Lori,
      Happy to hear that you found the article useful!

      If you are a new vintage buyer or seller, I strongly recommend that you look on Etsy for similar garments to yours! You mentioned a Union tag, but are there any other tags? The brand’s name? The price of a vintage garment depends on many factors. The overall condition of the piece. Is it NOS (new old stock), immaculate (hardly ever happens), good, fair, sold As-Is? The design of the garment matters, the colour the size etc.

      You might find this article useful! The Value of Vintage Clothing: Demystifying Modern Cost of Vintage!

  • Alison Cloonan
    April 17, 2021

    Great blog and very interesting reading as im just learning on how to date tweed jackets and alot if them have the 100% pure new wool label. Great read thank you.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      April 18, 2021

      Thank you, Alison!

      I’m thrilled that so many people find this article useful.
      I see more and more 1970s jackets and coats with the Wolmark logo sold as 1940s even though the Woolmark logo first appeared on tags of garments made of wool in 1964. There is, of course, nothing wrong with jackets from the 1970s, but when they are advertised as 1940s and sold for the price of a 1940s garment, that is simply not fair.

      I have the 100% pure new wool label on a lot of 1940s and 1950s suits!

  • Penny
    February 1, 2021

    Jacket with woolmark label numbered 506393
    No other label
    Can the designer be identified from this?

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      February 2, 2021

      Hi Penny,
      Get in touch with someone at Woolmark. They might be able to help. Every brand needs to pay a licence fee in order to use the Woolmark logo. It should be in their database.

  • Vermilion Novak
    October 30, 2020

    Loved this article! I’m always drawn to vintage looking dresses when i’m out and i want to make a custom one for myself so i’ve been trying to identify the era’s that are my favorite. I had never looked at the tags until today for some reason and discovered two of my dresses are from the ILGWU. The dress that i am struggling with the most is a wedding dress that doesn’t have any tags on it, so i’m inclined to believe it was tailored for someone. It does have a long metal zipper down the back that is covered by a flap filled with fake buttons. There are pads underneath the sleeves that are surged but other than that all the seems are pinked. Would love to hear your thoughts!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      November 1, 2020

      Thank you for the lovely comment!
      I’m thrilled that the article turned out to be useful to so many people. I will be adding more tips in due course.

      Without seeing the dress in question or at least pictures, I can’t help you, I’m afraid. I’m not surprised that the wedding dress doesn’t have any tags, a lot of wedding dresses were and still are custom made. Any idea what fabric is the dress made of? A long zipper at the back would suggest a dress that’s not earlier than from the 1950s. Zipper and its placement can be a good indication of the era when the garment was made, but it’s not always that simple. I have seen examples of the 1930s dresses with zippers at the back, although they weren’t very long! You can find authentic zippers from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s at a vintage fair, Etsy or eBay. It’s possible for a dress to be from one era and the zipper from another.

      Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous people out there who make vintage reproductions, use true vintage buttons or zippers and sell the garment as vintage.

      Let’s not forget about the possibility of alterations that could have been done much later. You have to look at each clue individually and start putting them together, like a Vintage-fashion detective. 🙂 Take a close look at the zipper. What brand is it? Compare it to vintage zippers on Google! There a few vintage-zipper experts!

      I suggest that you take as many detailed pictures of the dress and post them on the Vintage Fashion Guild Forum.

      Dx

  • Gayla Esch
    January 2, 2020

    I am so glad to have stumbled onto your blog post on how to ID and Date vintage clothing. This was so interesting, and was a reminder of the clothing my grandmother and mother wore in the mid 1950s. I have made my own clothing, and that my daughters clothing, and so I was quite surprised that plastic zippers were used as early as the 1930’s. Wow! Great article!

    Gayla
    TheJewelSeeker on 21VintageStreet

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      January 2, 2020

      Hi Gayla,

      Your comment made my day! I’m thrilled to hear that people find my articles helpful. I envy anyone who is capable of making their own clothes. Sewing is definitely not my forte. I can’t as much as attach a button. 🙂

  • Ann Elkington
    October 29, 2019

    In your descriptions of seams, above: A French seam is, in a way, self enclosing, and is always in the inside of a garment, while another kind of self enclosing seam, the flat-felled seam, is often found on the outside of the garment. For example: the outside leg seams of some types of jeans. This is what I was taught, but if there are others out there who have more info, I am perfectly happy to be corrected.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      October 30, 2019

      Thank you for your comment!!!

      As I explained in my article, identifying different types of seams is rather difficult for me. Most of my clothes are from the 1940s and have an unfinished seam.

      “In a French seam, the raw edges of the fabric are fully enclosed for a neat finish. The seam is first sewn with wrong sides together, then the seam allowances are trimmed and pressed. A second seam is sewn with right sides together, enclosing the raw edges of the original seam” The Fashion Dictionary: Fabric, Sewing and Dress As Expressed in the Language of Fashion Mary Brooks Picken (1957)

      I don’t own a pair of jeans so can’t really comment on the flat-felled seam. From what I’ve read it’s a very strong and durable seam so it makes sense to use it on jeans.

      It’s my understanding that flat-felled seam shows stitching on the right side while a French seam does not.

      It’s all a learning curve but if I can’t see the stitching on a garment, usually lingerie, from the 1930s I know that it’s a French seam. 🙂

      Dominique

  • Cara
    August 31, 2018

    Love the article! Had no idea about RN!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      September 4, 2018

      Thank you!

      • Mary J Wickham
        August 9, 2021

        This information is false, please do not spread this on your webpage and remove it.
        “The lot numbers were a way for manufacturers to keep track of their garment. These numbers stopped being used in 1979.”
        Lot numbers/tags DID NOT STOP in 1979, in fact they are still issued today.
        You cannot use lot numbers as a tool to date a garment, especially if you think they ceased in 1979, you will be wrong all the time in your dating of items over that date with a lot number.

        • Dominique de Merteuil
          August 9, 2021

          Hi Mary,

          I pride myself on accuracy with my information and your comment certainly raised an interesting point. Does the lot numbering still operate on American garments? I own a few pieces by contemporary designers, by my standards at least, meaning post-1990 and they do not have lot numbers on the tag. Mary, if you have any examples of any contemporary American garments which have lot numbers on their tags, please do share with us and I will investigate further. Mary, when I’m wrong about something, I’m the first person to admit it and if what you’ve told me is accurate then I will admit my error and credit you for the new information!

          Please do understand though, that when dating vintage clothes, one should look at many different clues rather than focusing on one. Half of my large collection of dresses from the 1930s and 1940s is bereft of any tags as they were custom made, and in the article to which you refer, I mention many ways to date vintage.

  • Laura
    August 25, 2018

    Very informative article! I’m learning so much about vintage fashion thanks to your blog!

    Laura