Dating Vintage Clothing: Label Method

by on March 9th, 2015
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With vintage clothing being all the rage nowadays, it’s hard to know whether or not if its from the era being stated. Most times it’s inaccurately dated by sellers based on the clothing’s appearance, which is an understandable mistake as dating vintage clothing isn’t a for-sure thing. Other times people will purposely trick the buyer. A piece of clothing can be made to appear older than it is by replacing the buttons with older buttons, or if a label gives away the era, it will be cut off. Thankfully most vintage sellers are honest and try to date the clothing as best as possible. But in the event that someone might be trying to sell you a fake or if you just want to be sure of the clothing’s age, there is a way to date it for yourself. If the piece of clothing has a label, then it may give you more information than you realize.

The label may seem like a pointless tag, especially with modern clothing, but a label that’s still intact and readable on vintage clothing can be a big help in dating its age. If a clothing has care symbols on it, it is most likely made after 1971 when the care symbols were issued by the Federal Trade Commission. Also, a piece of clothing was not required to label its fabric contents until after 1960, with the introduction of the USA Textile Products Identification Act. So if it has neither care symbols nor fabric content information, it is probably pre 1960s. But this isn’t always true (clothing from the 50s or 60s may have fabric content information) though it is good for a rough estimate.

Another thing to take notice of is the label design. Designs from the 50s and 60s were usually written in cursive and pretty simple. The 80s are easier to identify as usually the tags are “bigger”. Also the 80s brought along more colorful and funkier tag designs. The 90s are probably the easiest to spot as Made in China is a dead giveaway (older pieces of clothing were mostly made in the U.S.A). An important part of the label, is of course, the brand name itself. Using a trademark search engine, you can type in the brand name and see when the trademark was first filed and whatnot. Though unfortunately, not all brand names are listed.

The fabric material content itself can also help identify the possible era. For example, when polyester was first introduced, it was called Dacron, or Dacron Polyester. This would be roughly around the 50s and maybe 60s. Also popular materials from the 50s/60s are rayon, nylon, acrylic etc. Popular material for the 70s through 90s can be a mixture of fabrics so looking at just the material isn’t always helpful.

If a label has a RN number (A registered Identification Number), you can run the number through a RN number search engine as well. It isn’t fully accurate though as sometimes the number isn’t there, or is now a different brand. But if it does give you a year, it doesn’t meant that is the year it was made-it is just the first year that the company began using that number. The RN number can help give you the earliest possible creation method. You would need other factors to help better accurately date the piece of clothing.

The clothing label won’t get you an exact year, but it will help give you an idea of what year it came from. And who knows what you might find out about your clothing!


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