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How to Tell if Something is True Vintage

I’ve written about my secrets for thrifting, and how to sell your vintage clothes. But let’s bring it back to basics for a minute: how do you even tell if something is vintage to begin with?

Before we get into my tips for identifying vintage, let’s talk about the definition of vintage. In order for something to be vintage, it must be at least 20 years old. However, you can have new vintage (ie: something from the 90s) or old vintage (something from the 1930s). And there are different techniques for identifying old vs new vintage. The newer a vintage garment is, the harder it may be to identify (mainly because it’s much closer in age and construction to contemporary clothing). But I do have some tried and true tips for helping you figure out if something is truly vintage, or merely vintage inspired.

  1. Look at the logo on the tag. If you don’t recognize the brand name, it might be vintage. If you do recognize the name, but the logo is different than what the brand is currently using, you may have found a vintage piece from a contemporary brand (this is always fun). Also check the label for Union insignias or the words “Union Made”.
  2. Flip the label over to see where the garment was made. Most older vintage is made in the US (if you’re in the states). We didn’t start majorly offshoring clothing production until the 90’s. But remember, newer vintage (80s/90s may have been made in China, India, or Pakistan).
  3. Check the fabric composition tag. Fabric blends tend to be modern (ex: 20% rayon, 80% linen), whereas 100% composition fabrics may be vintage. This is not a hard rule, as many modern brands also construct with unblended fabrics.
  4. Look for unique construction details and/or handmade sew jobs. If it’s handmade it’s probably vintage. You can usually tell if something is handmade if the fabric edges (inside a seam) are zig zag trimmed. This means they were cut with pinking shears.
  5. Check for a metal zipper. Most clothing made after 1965 will have a plastic zipper. Many vintage pieces have higher quality hardware in general, so keep an eye out on the buttons, snaps, and clasps.

Those are my top 5 tips for identifying true vintage. Do you have any that you swear by? Share them in the comments below!

How to tell if something is true vintage How to tell if something is true vintageHow to tell if something is true vintageHow to tell if something is true vintage How to tell if something is true vintage How to tell if something is true vintageHow to tell if something is true vintage How to tell if something is true vintageHow to tell if something is true vintage

Vintage blouse from Rawson | Vintage dress from Crossroads | Vintage bag | Suede mules from Nisolo

14 Comments

  • Lorena
    September 6, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Vintage Zara was made with higher quality standards and materials, and those say MADE IN SPAIN.

    Reply
    • clothesandpizza
      September 21, 2019 at 11:58 am

      Yes, of course. I should have been more clear. When I say “made in the USA” what I really mean is that older vintage products were made *locally*, as many brands were not manufacturing in India/Korea/China yet. So in the case of Zara, the tag would say Made in Spain, in the case of Chanel, the tag would say Made in Paris, etc. Thank you for pointing this out and for reading my post! xo

      Reply
      • Lindasawyer
        March 4, 2020 at 1:34 pm

        I have dressing gown brought in 1972 the colors are still there and I’m still wearing it

        Reply
  • Robin H
    August 6, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    I have what I’m sure is a pair of vintage flared plaid pants. My mom cut out the labels except for the fabric content. The button says Levi Strauss & Co SF Cal and appears to be copper. I think the zipper is metal. The pants are a vibrant orange, green, yellow plaid, and feel like a wool or wool blend. Did Levi’s make this type of pant and what year might it be? Also, is there a way to tell if something is vintage if there are no labels in the garment at all? Thank you.

    Reply
    • clothesandpizza
      August 6, 2020 at 4:55 pm

      Hi! I don’t know off the top of my head if Levi’s made that pant style, but they sound like they’re original/vintage to me. Yes, you can sometimes tell if something is vintage if there are no labels by the zippers (metal zippers mean the garment was made before 1965. You can also look at the seams – if it’s pinked (cut with those zig zag shears) it’s probably homemade (vintage), and if it’s not lined, it’s also probably made before 1970.

      Reply
      • Tammy
        August 23, 2020 at 12:32 am

        Hi there! Love your articles! They’re fun, interesting and informative.

        What I’d like to know is how to tell when jewelry is vintage? Whether it be good jewelry or costume.

        Thanks for your input!
        Tammy

        Reply
  • Sandra Moore
    September 28, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    I have been going through my Mothers (hoarders room). Lots of clothes from 50’s to well know. I even found my old Jelly Shoes from the 80’s. Lol I was wondering my Mom had made a couple of skirts in the 50’s she even has her Saddle Shoes. Would the skirts be worth any money??

    Reply
  • Terri
    March 25, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    I’ve seen vintage hunters turn their nose up/send back items calling them “fast fashion”, made in China/Japan/India etc, but what i’m confused about is in the 60’s/70’s/80’s fast fashion was very much a thing then, cheap clothes shops/markets stalls etc, so how does one distinguish between vintage “style” made recently and genuine 70’s fashion made in Asia etc. I have alot of items with chinese labels which i have no way of knowing a year of manufacture, so how do i market these items. any help would be appreciated

    Reply
    • Abby
      March 25, 2021 at 7:34 pm

      Hi! Like all retailers, vintage sellers often have niches (like only buying/selling clothing made in a certain time period or style), so it’s totally up to them to determine what they want to buy. You can follow the items I’ve listed in this blog post to help you determine if something is a vintage reproduction (made recently), or a genuine piece of vintage from the 70s.

      Reply
  • Daphne
    April 16, 2021 at 1:49 am

    Hi, I’ve found a pair of suede lace-up go-go boots with cord laces; they don’t have any branding anywhere, the bottoms have metal pins, and are smooth as can be. There is no wear, at all, besides some teal rust/corrosion on the lacing hooks. They’re very well-made too. Do you think they could be vintage? Or mock-vintage, retro? I was hoping to sell them, but need to price correctly. Would appreciate any insight, thanks, xoxo.

    Reply
  • Reggie Stallard
    May 5, 2021 at 11:22 am

    I have quite a few vintage purses and would love to know if they sell good or would you be interested in purchasing them? I have a few Aigner purses and some others that I have. So if you’re interested in purchasing anything I have please just email me.thanks so much and God bless you have a wonderful day.

    Reply
  • Teresa
    July 3, 2021 at 7:03 am

    I have a white Morgan and co. Dress that I saw on Etsy that says it’s vintage from before the 2000s. https://www.etsy.com/listing/799869324/vintage-gown-by-morgan-co-by-linda?ref=shop_home_recs_1&frs=1
    I was wondering if it was authentic?

    Reply
  • Mariah
    September 15, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    I have a bonnet and jacket that were my mothers in the 50’s and were passed to me and then to my daughter. I don’t know anything about them other then that it is made by S.J. Buchman CO.INC. That is the only tag i can find.

    Reply
  • Margaret Walser
    November 8, 2021 at 4:21 pm

    I have a navy Gucci pocketbook I bought in the middle 60’s that was barely used. How do I try to sell it?

    Reply

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