The Ultimate Guide to Identifying True Vintage Clothing

ShoppingFashion / Style

  • Author Vintage Saf
  • Published July 6, 2024
  • Word count 943

I'm often asked how to tell if a piece is truly vintage or just a modern reproduction. Identifying authentic vintage clothing and accessories requires a keen eye for details and an understanding of the construction techniques, materials, and styles from different eras. I have been working with vintage for more than 20 years so a lot of my knowledge is now instinctive but there are some hints and tips I would like to share, read on to find out more!

In this comprehensive guide, I'll share my expert tips for distinguishing genuine vintage across the decades from the 1920s through the 1980s. Get ready to dive deep into the world of vintage fashion...

1920s Vintage

The Roaring Twenties gave us the flapper dress, embellished with beads, fringing, and dazzling embroidery. True 1920s vintage is often made of silk, rayon, or cotton. The silhouette is straight and shapeless, with a drop waist and no darts or shaping at the bust.

Inspect for flat construction with minimal tailoring. Bias cut dresses that skim over the body were popular. Seams should be straight with minimal ease for the slender, straight shapes of the era.

1930s Vintage

Style in the 1930s emerged from the austere flapper looks into softly draped bias cuts and more feminine shapes. Hollywood glamour took centre stage, with floor-sweeping gowns, sharply tailored jackets and beautiful jewels and headwear.

For 1930s dresses, look for rayon crepes, silk satins, and novelty prints. Dresses featured gathered details like shirring or pleats to add shape. You'll also spot deco geometric patterns and interests like glass buttons or buckles playing into the Art Deco craze.

1940s Vintage

With the onset of World War II, fabric rationing promoted practical but stylish fashions. Look for clever detailing like peplums, sculptural sleeves, and playful accessories that made up for limited yardage.

Authentic 1940s garments have impeccable tailoring with matched plaids, sharp darts, and careful construction. Wool and rayon were common, and you'll also see ditsy floral prints and ginghams as these were easier to match and therefore required less fabric overall. And of course, don't overlook the iconic "victory suit" with padded shoulders and a nipped waist.

1950s Vintage

The 1950s saw a revival of hourglass feminine curves after the minimalism of the wartime years. Full skirts, cinched waists, and bust shaping define the classic '50s look.

Swing and pencil skirts had stiffened petticoats underneath for extra volume and shape. Look for heavier fabrics like wool and cotton blends, as well as novelty prints featuring quirky shapes and vintage themes like cars or food. Shirtwaist dresses with collars were a favourite.

1960s Vintage

From the prim and ladylike early '60s to the vibrant mod styles later in the decade, this era encapsulates dramatic shifts in fashion. You'll see a variety of fabrics, textures, and psychedelic prints.

Early 1960s pieces have a clean, tailored construction with matching top stitching and lining details. As the decade progressed, experimental plastic fabrics and op-art patterns emerged. Identifying 1960s vintage can be tricky, so inspect the materials and construction closely.

1970s Vintage

The free-spirited 1970s saw an influx of bohemian and ethnic influences, with flowing lines and natural fabrications like cotton, crochet, and macramé.

Vintage 1970s often has a handmade feel, with unfinished edges and hand stitching. Look for bell bottoms, peasant blouses, and ubiquitous floral and paisley prints. Hippie details like wooden beads or embroidery can also signify the era.

1980s Vintage

With a revival of bold clashing colours, sharp shoulders, and avant-garde silhouettes, 1980s fashion stood out in stark contrast to the bohemian 1970s.

While shoulder pads were signature for the power suiting, you'll also see exaggerated proportions and angular shapes across garments. Look for high-shine fabrics like lamé and spandex blends that hold shape. Vibrant and neon colours, abstract prints, and heavy embellishments like sequins call back this daring decade. And when it comes to patterns and colour - clashing is everything!

Explore the Details

Beyond the overall era aesthetics, details like labels, zippers, buttons, and interior tags can further confirm a piece is true vintage and not a modern reproduction. Washing/care labels did not appear until 1963 with the establishment of GINETEX (International Association for Textile Care Labelling) so if the item has a care label then it has to be later than this.

Always inspect garments inside and out. A vintage dress or jacket should show signs of age and wear that can't be replicated by modern makers. Check for handmade details, irregular stitching, and the high-quality construction of yesteryear.

Original era-accurate labels and union tags are a dead giveaway you've encountered the real deal. Don't overlook the little nuances that modern fast-fashion couldn't recreate.

Vintage Shopping Tips

Now that you know a little more about how to spot genuine vintage, here are a few final tips for collecting authentic pieces:

• Shop from reputable and knowledgeable vintage dealers like My Vintage who have the expertise to really vet their inventory.

• Compare measurements to garments you already own to identify true sizing. Older clothing sizes vary greatly from today's sizing so do not shop by the label!

• Don't be afraid to ask questions! A good vintage seller will happily provide all the details about an item's history.

• Buy quality over quantity - well-preserved vintage pieces are an investment that only increase in value over time, quite the opposite of modern day fast fashion.

By developing an eye for real vintage construction and details, you can build a stunning collection of unique wearable history. At My Vintage, we meticulously source and research each piece to offer an unparalleled vintage shopping experience. We're passionate about clothing from the past to inspire the present.

Visit My Vintage for a wide range of original vintage clothing for men and women dating from the 1920s to the 1990s. Whether you're a vintage enthusiast or simply looking to add a touch of nostalgia to your wardrobe, My Vintage is the go-to destination for all your vintage fashion needs. My Vintage are fashions best kept secret!

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