A guide to vintage

Joe loves to blog and he’s at it again today … this time he’s looked into a guide to vintage – is that dress REALLY vintage? Ready…steady…GO JOE!

There are many reasons why vintage lovers love what they do, and it’s far more than just the style of the clothes.  You could easily pick something up from the high street that oozes retro glamour and it could’ve been made last week.  But no, it’s what vintage buys mean to us; they are beautiful works of art that were loved once and ought to be loved again.  They are they are pieces of the past, artefacts that no one else has but you and you alone.  And the purchase of these pieces are helping fund this community of vintage, building the network of recyclers to rival the mass-produced mainstream.  No one wants a replica when you can have the real deal.  And as a vintage buyer, you deserve to know that what you want is what you’re getting.

Vintage Shopping at Britain Does Vintage

Get checking those zips and fabrics!

But how do you tell?  Sometimes it’s straightforward.  You’ll look at the thin fabric and instantly know that that dress wasn’t made in the fifties.  If the quality is shoddy, there’s a lack of detail or a clear sign that it wasn’t handmade, it’s probably not the vintage piece you’re looking for.  But in other cases you can be fooled, and you really don’t want to go home with your one-of-a-kind purchase to see that lass from Hollyoaks wearing it on TV.  And if you read my previous blog on tips for traders, you’ll know I’ve had to put up with seeing a ton of people wearing my so-called vintage jumper on the York high street (it’s happened again since!).  I digress; let’s talk about some helpful hints that I’ve learned from experienced vintage buyers (unlike myself) in order to narrow down the real from the fake!

  • Do you know your eras?  Before you whack out your magnifying glass and go all Sherlock Holmes on us, make sure you have an idea as to what era you think you’re buying from/want to buy from.  Is it 1920s flapper fashion?  The Parisian couture of the thirties?  Fifties poodle skirts or the little black Hepburn dress?  Do a bit of research into what you want so you know what you expect to get.
  • What does the label say?  The labels are the first place to go when you’re checking out an item.  You’ve probably already looked at these for the size, but now is the time to double check and find out more about the piece.  Look at the size label again – pre 1960s dresses usually indicated hip size in inches rather than the numerical sizes we use today, but that’s not the case for every item (these numerical sizes have changed drastically over the years too, so maybe now is the time to try things on!)  Care labels were only introduced in the second half of the twentieth century, so their absence is a good indicator of the piece being made around or before the sixties.  Also check the designer’s label; the Vintage Fashion Guild has a fantastic resource which covers many makers’ labels from over the years, so hopefully you can match your item to one of these.  Of course, if your item has no labels at all, you may be lucky enough to have bought a one-of-a-kind homemade piece- congrats! BUT please, please look for any tale tale signs that naughty traders have ripped these labels out, these traders are few and far between and believe me Alex and Sam are working their socks off to make sure none of their traders are practising this woeful tactic!
Vintage labels

An easy tale tale sign to vintage garments!

  • What is the fabric like?  One of the biggest giveaways as to whether a piece is truly vintage or just a modern reproduction is the fabric.  For new vintage buyers this might not be easy to tell, but with time and practice you’ll begin to notice how much materials have changed over the decades.  Now is the time for you to use what you’ve researched and pair what you would expect from a certain era with what you’re getting here; for example, if you identify a piece as WWII era, you should be expecting durable fabrics such as wool.  Nylon and polyester are common fabrics for the sixties, but perhaps not as much in other decades.
    Side Note: this is also the perfect time to check the item for wear and tear, as well as marks and stains on the fabric.
Vintage fabrics

It’s all in the fabrics folks – so make sure you check what they’re made of!

  • Are there any other giveaways on the item?  Big things to look for include whether the zip is metal or vinyl, as vinyl zips were uncommonly used on clothes until the mid-1960s.  The position of a zip on a dress can show you whether it was made in the early fifties (sides of the dress) or the late fifties/early sixties (back of the dress).  Shoulder pads would suggest a 1940s or 1980s item.  Once again, any research you’ve done comes in handy here.
Zip ad

Zips can identify an era – check where they are and what they’re made from!

  • And, of course, you can always turn to modern technology.  This method hasn’t really been tried and tested and is more than likely still in an early stage, but there are tons of apps such as ASAP54 which work like the “Shazam of clothes”- basically you can take a photo of a piece of clothing and it searches databases of top high street stores to find a match.  If your piece doesn’t come up, there’s a good chance that this piece is not from those stores, but remember, not all stores are on board just yet.  However, this method will become more and more useful the more time app creators have to develop it.

There you go: some simple methods to aid you in finding the vintage clothes you want when you’re out buying.  Some methods will work better than others, and not all methods will work 100% of the time, but these are a few good little tips to get you going.  Remember: the more experience you have with buying vintage clothing, the better you will get at it! Simples!

Thanks Joe – we’re sure you lovely blog readers will have found that super useful! If you have anymore methods please do post them on the blog so everyone else can see too!

We’ll be back soon with more pre-loved inspiration and humbling stories! Alex and Sam x
(and of course Gina) 

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