How To Date Vintage Clothing

I am by no means an expert in vintage clothing. But, I have been collecting for just shy of 20 years. Lately, I have seen quite a few listing and questions from people who are either just starting to get into vintage, starting to sell, or purging a relatives items. Most often these items get listed as the wrong decade, because the person is going just by shape or guessing on a label. I've tried to point some of these in the right direction, but doing it one at a time can be quite difficult. So, even though there are many blog posts out there on how to date vintage clothing, I'm going to do one too. I am going to focus on the 1950s, because that's what I know the best. Here are the easiest ways I know to find out if a garment is from the 50s or later. 

Zipper Type - One of the first things I learned, and still the first thing I look for, is the zipper. 9 times out of 10 if the dress or skirt has a metal zipper, it is from the early 60s or older. Though as most of us know, zippers are fairly easy to replace. Metal zippers do tend to last longer, but that doesn't mean they don't have to be replaced after 60 years. Also, living among a large Chinese population, I have seen garments from Hong Kong that used metal zippers into the 70s. So, there are some exceptions. But, most of the time this is a good indicator of age. 

Zipper Placement - Another good indication of the age of the garment is the placement of the zipper. Most pre early 60s dresses had left side seam zippers. It wasn't until the 60s that back zippers became a common practice. Occasionally there will be an older dress with a back zipper, which I have seen most often in cocktail and formal dresses. But, if the zipper is on the left side of a dress, than most likely it is pre 60s.

Union Label - This is the item that I point out to a lot of people. Not all garments had a Union label, but when they do, it is easy to narrow down the time frame. There is a great resource out there, with pictures, that I often refer to (click here). I have been wrong thinking an item was late 50s only to find a Union label that said otherwise.  Now, of course, if an item is hand made, it isn't going to have a Union label. Having a Union label is always a bonus. 

This label indicates that this garment is from 1963 - 1974.

Fiber Content - Though polyester was invented in 1941, a version of it was not used in fabrics until the early 50s under the name Dacron which was mostly used in knitwear. The infamous polyester as we know it was used in clothing much more in the mid 60s and later. Also, in 1960 fiber content labels were required in garments. So, if one exists, it is most likely not older than 1960. 

Sizing - Vintage sizes were different than modern vanity sizing. A size 2 did not exist in the 1950s. Matter of fact, Marilyn Monroe was said to be a size 12, which is by far different than modern size 12s. Like today, women's sizes were even numbers, the most common sizes being from 12 to 20. If a garment has a number smaller than 10 (9 in juniors), most likely that item is not from the 1950s. A 1950s size 12 measures approximately 34 inch bust, 25 inch waist, 36 inch hips. If a garment says  it is a size 12, but is much larger than these measurements, then it isn't from the 1950s.

This label comes from a dress that has a metal side zipper, but the fiber content on the label makes this dress most likely from the early 60s. 

Typically these five items will get you in the ballpark on dating an item. If none of these items apply, feel free to reach out to any of the vintage bloggers out there. They will be more than happy to share their knowledge with you. After all, if we weren't passionate about it, we wouldn't blog about it.

1 comment:

  1. Great information! I much prefer a side metal zipper. Thanks for sharing all this useful tips!