How to Identify Vintage Clothing Tags & Labels – Expert Tips

how to identify vintage clothes

Recognizing vintage clothing labels can offer various advantages, such as distinguishing between authentic vintage items and contemporary second-hand clothing. Verifying claims of selling genuine vintage attire becomes more feasible by tracing clothes labels. This knowledge proves valuable for individuals seeking authentic vintage pieces, ensuring they make informed purchases. Whether exploring a vintage clothing store in person or browsing online, the following tips and tricks serve as a helpful guide to identifying vintage clothes.

What is Vintage Clothing?

Vintage clothing refers to second-hand garments that are at least 20 years old, reflecting the style of a particular era. These clothes are often unique, possessing a timeless or sloppy appeal, and can be sought after for their classic designs or historical significance.

Best Ways to Spot Vintage Clothes

Identifying vintage clothing tags can be an exciting and valuable skill for enthusiasts and collectors. Vintage clothing often has unique tags that reflect the era in which the garment was produced. Here are the best ways to help you spot vintage clothes tags:

Decoding Copyright Years:

Vintage clothing labels often conceal valuable clues within their copyright years. While not ubiquitous, a copyright year can provide crucial insights into the garment’s production era. Be mindful of unconventional formats like “SP78,” which signifies the brand’s seasonal collection from 1978. However, it’s essential to note that copyright years may denote the brand’s inception rather than the garment’s specific creation date.

Vintage clothes copyright Years

Origin: “Made in USA” or “Made in Mexico”:

The geographical origin of a garment serves as a pivotal marker in vintage clothing authentication. Labels bearing “Made in USA” or adorned with the American flag herald an era when domestic production prevailed, typically around the 1960s to the 1980s. Conversely, garments boasting “Made in Mexico” evoke the cultural zeitgeist of the 1950s, echoing the allure of Mexican textiles amidst a burgeoning travel landscape.

vintage clothes Made in USA

Union Tags:

Union labels, such as those from the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), offer a poignant glimpse into labor movements of the past century. Ranging from the 1920s to the 1980s, these labels authenticate the vintage status of a garment while also reflecting the evolving landscape of worker rights and industrial regulations.

vintage clothes Union Tags

Half Sizes:

The emergence of half sizes around the 1940s catered to the sartorial needs of shorter women, leaving an indelible mark on vintage clothing labels. The presence of “½” alongside the size denotes a garment tailored for shorter lengths, echoing a bygone era of tailored elegance spanning from the 1940s to the 1970s.

vintage clothes Half Sizes

Lot Numbers:

In the bustling factories of the 1970s, lot numbers served as meticulous records of garment production. The presence of these numbers, coupled with their cessation with the rise of foreign production, aids in dating vintage garments to the pre-1979 era, offering a window into a bygone industrial age.

vintage clothes Lot Numbers

Address Annotations:

Vintage clothing labels bearing addresses evoke a sense of nostalgia, harkening back to an era when designers proudly stamped their geographical roots onto their creations. The absence of zip codes suggests a pre-1963 vintage, offering a tangible connection to the geographical and temporal tapestry of fashion history.

vintage clothes Address Annotations


The iconic Woolmark logo, introduced in 1964, symbolizes a paradigm shift towards natural fibers amidst the burgeoning synthetic fabric market. Different iterations of the Woolmark logo denote varying wool blends, offering a nuanced perspective on the evolution of textile preferences over the decades.

vintage clothes Woolmark

Material Brand Names:

Brand names like Lycra, Nylon, and Polyester encapsulate a legacy of fabric innovation, each bearing distinct historical footprints. From Nylon’s inception in 1939 to Polyester’s disco-era prominence, these brand names serve as poignant markers of textile evolution, enriching the narrative of vintage clothing labels.

vintage clothes Material Brand Names

Remnants of Lost Nations:

Vintage clothing labels often bear the vestiges of bygone nations, offering a glimpse into geopolitical shifts and colonial legacies. References to countries like Newfoundland and French Indochina evoke a sense of historical intrigue, enriching the tapestry of fashion with geopolitical narratives.

vintage clothes Remnants of Lost Nation

Odd Sizes and RN Numbers:

Odd sizes and Registered Identification Numbers (RN) offer invaluable insights into tailoring trends and regulatory frameworks. The presence of odd sizes predating the 1980s signifies a bygone era of sizing conventions, while RN numbers encode a garment’s manufacturing epoch, guiding discerning collectors through the annals of vintage fashion history.

vintage clothes Odd Sizes and RN Numbers

Care Labels:

Care labels, mandated by the US Federal Trade Commission in 1971, emerged as custodians of garment preservation and consumer empowerment. Their absence or presence of care symbols delineates vintage garments pre- or post-1971, underscoring the evolution of consumer rights and textile care practices.

vintage clothes Care Labels

How to Tell if Something is True Vintage?

If you want to date vintage clothes, check labels for brand and origin details and examine stitching quality. Vintage items often have distinct labels reflecting their era and may show hand-stitched seams. Assess the overall design, considering trends from specific decades, such as collar styles and silhouettes. If the garment aligns with period trends and displays signs of aging, it’s likely authentic vintage.

How to buy vintage from a personal sustainable wardrobe?

To buy vintage clothes from someone’s sustainable wardrobe, you can directly reach out to the owner through social media or a resale platform. Inquire about the specific item you’re interested in, negotiate a price, and arrange payment and shipping. Ensure clear communication and trust for a smooth transaction.

How to identify vintage clothing age?

To determine the date of vintage clothes, check the label, typically found inside the garment, which often includes details about the brand and manufacturing location. Different label styles were prevalent in specific decades, providing a clue to the clothing era. Additionally, inspect the stitching; hand-stitched seams may indicate earlier decades, while more refined machine stitching is characteristic of later periods. Look for unique design elements, such as collar styles or zipper types, that align with specific fashion industry trends of different eras. Combining these details will help you estimate the likely production date of your vintage clothing item.

How to read vintage clothing tags?

To read vintage clothing labels for age, check brand, manufacturing, and design details. Different label styles were popular in specific decades, so compare them with historical fashion trends for a rough estimate of the garment’s age. Online resources and vintage fashion guides can be helpful references.