How to Identify Vintage Clothing: Vintage Tags and Labels to Look For

by Komail Noori on December 29, 2023

Vintage Clothing stores are not just racks of old clothes but are the doorway to the days of the past. But in the middle of this maze, how can you tell if vintage is real or not?

Identifying authentic vintage clothing isn’t just sifting through the dusty racks but also about decrypting the hidden clues in vintage labels and vintage tags so that you may become a detective and curator of your own style!

So, no worries if you are a crazy vintage shopper or just a newbie, this guide is your invitation to discover the true vintage pieces that are still hidden somewhere.

What Does Vintage Label Mean?

The tags hidden inside the garments aren’t just the identifiers but a secret map that points way to the origin of the garment and it’s journey throughout. But cracking the code is just like reading a forgotten novel!

But what is meant by vintage label? The answer is not just about the age which is at least 20 years old ( a usual cut-off point) but are also the portals to the previous eras captured in them the style and crafting of their time. Imagine a 1920 vintage flapper dress or a 1970 vintage prom dress adorned with a vintage label of Art Deco with dainty embroidery presenting a unique cultural story of the vanished world.

The magic of vintage labels is that they guide you to the vintage clothing age and its origin. The vintage label design and the label care instructions along with the material it is made from provide you with clues. For instance, the vintage labels of the era before 1970 were not federally mandated while that of 1930s were representative of size tags.

So, the next time you come across a vintage label, pause, and inspect carefully!

How Do You Identify Vintage Clothing Tags?

Solving the mystery of a vintage garment’s true age feels like cracking a coded message. But the vintage tags holds the key to empowering you to read it’s whispers through decades so that you make your wardrobe rich with the history of past in modern way!

Vintage Fabric Tags

They reveal about the material. Earlier, natural fibers like cotton, wool and silk reigned supreme but later the decade saw the rise of synthetics like polyester. Always remember, a garment made all with natural element leans heavily towards vintage.

Vintage Fabric Tags

Vintage Care Instruction Tags

They have been gone through dramatic changes and one should keep an eye on them too. A vintage tag that shows absence of federally mandated care instructions are representative of the 1971 era. Earlier, simple advice like “handwash with care” were embedded in the vintage tags speaking of the 1920s to 1950s era.

Vintage Care Instruction Tags

Brand Vintage Tag

They shows the makers of the iconic pieces. Diving deep into the history of the brand the evolution of the logo would be your detective story. For instance, the iconic Levi’s logo of “Two Horses” changed in the 1980s which offers a valuable clue about the vintage clothing age.

Brand Vintage Tags

How Do You Date a Vintage Tag?

Dating a vintage tag is just like putting the pieces of puzzle together. No single clue is definitive of the age. By the cross reference of various elements like the fabric composition, the construction technique, and the vintage label design along with the brand vintage tags, you can determine your vintage garment’s age.

How Do You Identify Vintage: Some Additional Tips

While decrypting the tags holds the key to determine the true vintage piece, the sharp ones still knows that the quest for identifying authentic vintage clothing goes beyond that. Below are some additional tips that may help you identify vintage clothing:

1. Copyright Dates

Some of the vintage labels have copyright dates embedded in them as a badge of honor representing their year of origin. For instance, a dress bearing a 1955 copyright date on the label is vintage regardless of other factors.

Copyright Dates

2. Country of origin

Labels proudly declaring their origin like “Made in USA”, or “Made in France” is another sign of vintage ancestry.

Country of origin

3. RN numbers

The Registered Identification Number (RN) adds as another tip in the identification of vintage clothing. They were assigned to the manufacturers and distributors since 1952 and are generally 5 to 6 digits long preceded by RN. As they were issued in 1952, the garments made before 1952 were assigned numbers ranging from 00101 to 04086 while in 1959 the numbering system was changed with the numbers starting from 13670. Hence a vintage cloth with a RN number of 17273 was made somewhere in the mid 60’s.

RN numbers

    To Sum Up….

    While understanding the story behind vintage labels and vintage tags is a crucial first step but remember, that these are merely the keys that unlocks the door for identifying true vintage. Keen observation and the love for the history of fashion is what needed to identify these treasured pieces. With a willingness and dedication to delve deep, you will soon become a custodian of fashion legacy. Online resources, forums, and vintage communities may be your invaluable allies in this journey.