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Clues for Dating Vintage Clothing
By Karen Richards

With celebrities such as Barbara Streisand, Sarah Jessica Parker, Winona Ryder, Sharon Stone, Drew Barrymore and Michael Richards flaunting their trendy wardrobes vintage fashions have become very popular. Whether you want to establish a collection of clothes from bygone eras or you would just like a few unique pieces to add oomph to your wardrobe, it is interesting to know the history of your piece.

How do you know if the 1930ís silk charmuese nightgown advertised on Ebay is really from the 1930ís era? Now if you absolutely love the colour or style well maybe the age does not matter. If you do not want to pay a premium for something that is not as advertised, it is important to learn a few pointers.

There are numerous ways to date garments. You can shop with confidence when you know what clues to watch for.

For instance - How are the seams finished? Are they pinked, Frenched or serged? Sergers and overlock machines have been around since the 1950ís, but were not in homes until around 1964. Inspecting the seams of custom-made items may not tell you for sure when it was made, but it can let you know for sure when it wasnít made.

Examination of the seams on store bought, mass produced clothing of the 1950ís, shows that most were pinked. Overcast seams, welted seams or Frenched seams were usually only found on very expensive garments. Overlock seams did start showing up in lingerie during the 1950ís. By the early 1960ís all lingerie had overlocked seams, and the use of the overlock stitch was beginning to appear in other garments made of fabric that would frey easily.

A 1965 catalogue ad mentions that a garment featured overlocked seams, while another ad boasts overlock seams in 1960ís lingerie. The term is not a selling point in fashions of today as most attire has overlocked or serged seams.

Another indication of age is the use of the zipper. Patented in 1893 the first zipper was called a clasp locker. These zippers were not practical. Although a zipper was developed in 1913 with interlocking teeth, it was slow to catch on.

Zippers were first put in childrenís clothing in the 1930ís and replaced the button fly in menís trousers around 1937. There were a few zippers in women's clothing of the 1940's, but most garments still possessed button fasteners, until the 1950ís when they finally became popular.

Catalogues from the mid 1960ís boast about the wonders of nylon zippers. Nylon zippers were thought to be less bulky, easier to hide and more comfortable than the old metal zippers.

Keep in mind that the presence or absence of a zipper and the type of zipper provides clues to the age of the garment but that other factors still need consideration. As zippers can be replaced, metal zippers are not a guarantee that the item was manufactured before 1960. Similarly, a vintage garment may have had a broken zipper replaced by a nylon one.

These are just a couple of points to consider when identifying vintage clothing. Other factors to take into account are fabrics, styles and labels.

Use a bit of logic with what you learn to decide if the item is desirable.

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