10 Tips to Identify Vintage Clothing

Posted by Alex Rogers at


Finding quality vintage clothing has become somewhat of an art, and those vintage fiends out there who have filled their closets with rare clothing have trained their senses to analyze certain aspects of the clothing to help determine when it was made. Engaging your sense of smell, sight and touch are all necessary for determining if the clothing or fabric is genuine vintage. Authentic vintage is not always easy to find, and Vintage Instincts prides itself on collecting rare and authentic vintage fabrics, which make our designs so much more unique than a basic shirt made with materials from Fabricland. Our most recent creations can be seen at There are often many clues that suggest a fabric or piece of clothing is vintage, and I’m going to outline what to look for while you’re hunting:

Most vintage clothing has some type of tag, and they provide useful information about the date of the garments production. Many fabrics also have useful information printed on the selvage of the fabric. If the tag has a lot or style number, it is a good indication that it was produced before computer technology was implemented in the industry (pre 1980’s). Style numbers were used to sort products and to organize distribution before advanced technology made it significantly easier. Decorative tags with detailed or unique fonts often indicate a piece is vintage. Font styles have changed and they are a good indication of which era the piece was produced in. Logo redesign was also quite common as companies evolved with the times, so if you come across the same brand with different version tags, they were made in different eras.

One of the best aspects of vintage clothing is the quality of production. Outsourcing clothing production over sea’s to countries like China and Taiwan resulted in higher profits for the manufacturer, but also a decrease in quality for the consumer. You will find a lot of vintage clothing is either made in North America and Europe, or the tag will reference a specific city (to increase brand affiliation) where the product was fashionable at the time. Label simplicity also provides some good insights; labels made before the 1970’s were usually uncluttered and did not have care or washing instructions.

If you’ve ever been in your grandma’s closet, you know that old clothing has a unique smell. Almost all of the vintage fabrics I collect have a clean but vintage smell to them (before we wash, cut and sew them), and usually vintage clothing does as well. If you are specifically looking for dead stock clothing, you can almost guarantee it will smell old because it will have never been worn or washed before.

Sometimes vintage clothing does not always have a tag providing the necessary information to determine its age. Being able to feel the difference between certain fabrics is extremely helpful in dating a piece of clothing. Polyester wasn’t used in the production of clothing until the early 1950’s, and spandex was invented in 1959. Being able to feel and identify what the clothing is made of is a great way to identify its age.

There is no definite way to know exactly when a garment was produced, but you can deduce an approximate date of creation by using your senses to analyze different aspects of the clothing. Make sure you enter your email at the bottom of this page to subscribe to our mailing list, and you will receive exclusive discounts & promo codes, Vintage Instincts updates and more tips!

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  • These are very useful tips and blog is very informative for vintage bloggers

    bella lauren on
  • Good read man, completely agree on a lot that you said! Especially the stuff about labeling. I find its so easy to spot a fake garment just from the labels and the ‘made in’ part. Although the Chinese can be crafty and actually state it is made in Europe when in fact it’s been produced in a Chinese sweatshop! Nonetheless, check out my website I got loads of old school Hilfiger, LO sport, Gucci etc you may find interesting !

    Alex Gatehouse on
  • Been wearing my two sold-out vintage pocket Ts for a year, and having people from Honolulu to Tokyo asking me where they can get them. Not sure if I’ll tell anybody about your site! Hehe!

    Robert on

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