I've rounded up the most important tips I've found as a vintage shop owner about how to date your vintage finds.
When I was setting up my business, I really wanted to finding the best and most reliable resources so I could offer the best possible product to my customers.
This is especially important when dating vintage suits, because often vintage suits would have the alteration alteration date marked on a separate tag within the suit.
The date on the alteration tag can only be after the date of the ACWA tag and any garment that is not so can not be an authentic vintage garment.
Interest in dating vintage clothing is more popular than ever, and an easy way to quickly determine a date range is by looking at the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) Union Label.
Many individuals curious about an old dress found in a relative’s closet or a vintage coat purchased at a resale shop have contacted the archives to find out more about their item.
My day job is business research, so it was easy to find a lot of great sources. A dress with a tiny waist and huge, below-knee skirt screams 1950s, while a slim-fit dress with huge shoulder pads is probably from the 1980s. If your garment has "serged" seams, it probably dates to after the mid-1960s.
I read a ton of books and talked to lots of people. See the "Retro Fashion History" and "Vintage Fashion and Art" links below to learn more about silhouettes and see lots of great photos by decade. Serged seams were uncommon before the mid-1960s, when manufacturers began using sergers routinely to finish seams.
When ILGWU founders met on June 3, 1900 and named their union, they immediately adopted a label for it.
Early results were encouraging but use remained limited and after 5 years the first label drive ended with only one company in Kalamazoo continuing to use the label.
Since 1960, clothes have been required to carry labels saying the fiber content (with percentages) and place of manufacture.
If your garment has a retro-looking label without any fiber content, it might be older than 1960.
The first use of a union label was the Cigar maker's Union in 1874 when the boxes of cigars made under union conditions were tagged with a label.