New and having a hard time telling what's vintage

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Chatter - Anything and everything' started by CaptMicha, May 12, 2017.

  1. CaptMicha

    CaptMicha Registered Guest

    I've been reading and watching a bunch of stuff on how to tell, but I'm still having such a hard time! Pretty confused. I also have two books on order.

    A lot of vintage inspired modern stuff looks vintage, so that messes with me. So it's hard to tell by era styles. Particularly recreated 80's looks. I only knew they weren't from the 80's bc the tags said Charlotte Russe.

    Other problems are that a tag will be hard and crispy, with no dry cleaning mentioned on it, and made in USA, but then it'll have a plastic zipper. Plus they had plastic zippers since the 60's or mid 70's.

    Modern also has covered buttons and reinforced button holes, and also flat lining.

    Or a dress will have a metal, utility looking zipper (including teeth), but then some seams will have overlock stitching. And I don't understand why overlock stitch would negate it being vintage if a serger machine was invented in the 1800's.

    Hidden zippers are also a modern thing.

    Sewing machines were being used for a long time, so why would hand sewn indicate vintage?

    Modern tags also have large, stiff, embroidered tags. Why would vintage only have hand embroidered tags? They had machines for a while. Also, wouldn't it be really easy to create a stamp for labels? I've read that labels with print (except for union labels) mean that it's not vintage.

    So, I found a skirt with hand stitching. No tag. Thin fabric. But it could just be modern handmade. How do you know?

    I found a dress with a fully metal zipper, and it looked kind of industrial, down the back, but then the tag didn't look vintage. I think. I'm not even sure.

    I do look in the guild's tag database, but they don't have a full list.

    And it's not like I can return things for my $ back.

    I'm ending up wasting a lot of money and time and effort. Unfortunately, I have a very limited income (mistakes are very expensive to me) and am just starting out. I was hoping I could reinvest profit back into my hobby/selling.

    Any advice?
  2. yumyumvintage

    yumyumvintage Trade Member

    Go to a brick and mortar vintage store and handle real vintage. The last Brick and Mortar vintage store look at he fabrics and feel the clothing.

    Scouting vintage clothing is not an easy thing you have to learn alot. If I were you I would scout estate sales because the vintage is not usually mixed in with modern.... You might pay more but you wont waste your money. You will also get to learn the feel of old clothing.

    Buy some reference books toothats helps.
  3. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix Trade Member

    Welcome to the wonderful world of vintage! Yes, there is much to learn, but books and online sources can only teach you so much. And online sources can often be mistaken or have misinformation. In reality it takes many years of actually seeing the clothing in person, feeling the fabrics, and reading old catalogs and books, and after a few years you just can often just "tell" vintage by looking at it from across a room. Of course, that is not to say that even us experienced collectors will not get stumped once in a while. So don't feel to bad, just be patient and keep learning from your mistakes. We all had to do it and we all still are!

    You ask some good questions for the beginner. To comment on some things you posted and asked about:

    "Modern tags also have large, stiff, embroidered tags. Why would vintage only have hand embroidered tags? They had machines for a while. Also, wouldn't it be really easy to create a stamp for labels? I've read that labels with print (except for union labels) mean that it's not vintage."

    I do not know where you read that, but none of it is true. Machine embroidered tags have been around since the 1800s Victorian times. And printed (stamped on cloth) tags can go back that far also. It is pretty common to find machine embroidered tags on vintage and antique clothing. It is actually rather unusual to find hand embroidered tags on anything unless made by a home sewer who made the tag herself (or himself).

    Also, using zippers, tag types, stitches, serging, etc. as clues can be helpful in some cases, but not all, and it is no replacement for actually seeing the real thing and examining it up close. After a while you will get the hang of it.

    Hidden zippers are not a modern thing, but yes early zippers are usually more obvious. Overlock stitching does not necessarily negate a garment being vintage, but often the placement of the overlocking (such as on a hem) will indicate a newer or more contemporary garment.

    Vintage versus modern? The quality of most (not all) vintage clothing will generally be of a higher quality as far as workmanship, details, and materials. Modern Haute Couture will of course be finely made, but most off the rack of the last 20 years, even the expensive stuff with good labels, will not match the quality of say a basic store bought suit from the 1940s or 1950s. The details will eventually start to be clear to you over time. There is not replacement for experience and time.

    Hand stitching can be a clue but really since anything from any time period could be hand sewn it will not tell you a lot other than the fact it was hand sewn. It does not indicate vintage nor necessarily reflect the age of the garment. Unless of course if a garment is pre 1850s it will not have machine stitches unless they were added later as an alteration or repair. But antique clothing is whole thing to itself and you seem more interested in contemporary vintage.

    Please come back and ask for any help you might need. And good luck on the hunt!
    cmpollack and yumyumvintage like this.
  4. Circa Vintage

    Circa Vintage Trade Member

    Yes, there's certainly a lot to know but there are plenty of tips you can pick up as a novice. I've been collecting/buying/selling/restoring since 1980 and part of the reason why I find it so fascinating is because the diversity is enormous; you've never seen it all. Even though I've handled hundreds of thousands of garments from two centuries of history, I still get excited when I see something that I've never seen before.

    Identifying historic fashion is a jigsaw puzzle: you look at the fabric, construction techniques, detailing, openings, labels and style to make decisions about age and come to a likely date. Style is the most misleading of all the elements because unlike the others, which are affected by technology and society, styles are often revived: the cycle of fashion just loves reinventing what's been done before. So gaining knowledge in the other areas will really help you.

    A lot of newbies put faith in labels too, but they can also be misleading: it's easy enough to remove a label from one garment and attach to another, and if you're really motivated you can just fake them. These things aren't common, but they're common enough that you should always be aware, especially when you're looking at big ticket items.

    Zippers can also be misleading because they break and get replaced, and home dressmakers keep materials in their stash for decades. I still have ribbons that I bought from my pocket money, aged seven, to decorate my home made dolls clothes. One day I'll find the perfect use for it...and some sewers (like myself) prefer a particular type of zip. I hoard old metal zippers because when you're sewing it's so frustrating not to have what you need, and I use period correct materials for my restorations - but I also use metal zippers when I sew clothes from scratch because I don't like invisible zippers. Speaking of which, invisible zippers have been around for ages but only available in Australia since the '90s so that's another thing to take into account if you're dating Australian clothing. See how many things there are to think about?

    If you were in Australia, I'd recommend that you come to one of my talks because I often present about historical clothing and have a Q&A for people to ask whatever they want, plus I bring clothes and talk about the historical clues they contain.

    I'd also recommend my book "Love Vintage" but it's now sold out: it's full of info like this, all 35,000 words and 400 images of it. But there is something I can offer - here are some blog posts that might help. In particular, you might like these:

    Most importantly, if you're starting out -
    • don't buy anything in damaged or dirty condition unless you're confident that you can fix it (and it must be cheap if you're doing work on it as there's no guarantee) or you really love it.
    • And buy what you love until you're more knowledgeable, not on what you think will be saleable or sought after or a good investment.
    • Be careful if you're buying designer labels; there are a lot of fakes.
    • Also: never trust the seller unless you know they're someone who knows their stuff and has integrity. Sadly. there's a lot of misdated vintage out there, and it's up to you as the buyer to know what you're paying for. It's not like a normal shop where you can take it back if it's not what you thought it was. This is why I always recommend VFG members: we have to meet standards and abide by a code of practice so you know that you can depend on us.
    Other than all of that - enjoy! As Barbara says, it's a wonderful world and I feel very fortunate to do what I do. Vinties are the best people.
  5. Vintage Sparrow

    Vintage Sparrow Registered Guest

    Research and being here / meeting local vintage experts would be my suggestion. I'm new to learning about vintage clothes too. I've bought second hand as long as I've been buying clothes so some stuff I'm aware of, other things not so much. The only thing I'd suggest is just make sure you're getting your information from reliable places. One coat I listed today, I was sure was 80s, found a similar one with the same label at a local auction house website, also 80s, and another reliable site also 80s. Had I checked against some eBay listings or other, none VFG, sellers elsewhere, I may have ended up listing it as 1960s.

    With my other business (not clothing), they were awesome people within the community who'd message me on ebay when I'd listed something incorrectly or as unknown manufacturer and I'd return the favour, as some were more specialised in one part and some in another. It's good to ask when you're not sure about something.

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