Monday, February 11, 2013

Identifying Vintage: Tags, Part 1

Looking at the clothing label or tag of a garment is a very easy way to determine if the article is vintage or not.  Not only do tags provide the brand, manufacturer, and size of the garment, they also give clues as to the garment's age based on the tag's designer, its designer, and its city of origin.

First, we'll start with the brand on the tag.  Many brands and stores we know and love today have gone through slight changes in their names as the decades have gone on.  As we condense more things in our lives into abbreviations and shorthand, many companies have, as well.  Kind of like how Kentucky Fried Chicken is now officially just KFC, many stores have taken the quick approach to their names.  For example, if you see a tag that says "Sears, Roebuck & Co." it's safe to assume the article is vintage, as the company officially changed to simply "Sears" in the mid 80s (though "Sears" will appear on late 70s garments, as well).

Also, look for now-defunct companies.  With the economy as it is today, many major corporations have had to consice or call bankruptcy, and the same can be said for years previous.  As smaller companies folded, larger companies bought them out.  Montgomery Wards collapsed.  Marshall Fields was bought by Macy's.  If you see tags with companies that no longer exist or that exist in a different form, depending on when they were bought out, it's safe to say the item is vintage.

Furthermore, many companies that have stood the test of time have gone through changes in their labels to keep up with modern designs.  Betsy Johnson, Lilly Pulitzer, Pendleton, and various others have redesigned their labels as their lines have progressed.  Look at the progression of the Koret of California tags (50s and 70s respectively)

Looking at the tag's design is also a great tip-off.  Most tags today are streamlined, meant to look sophistcated and to blend into the clothing.  The same cannot be said for tags in many vintage clothing.  Decorative labels with fancy font or borders were more common as the clothing wasn't as massed produced as it is today.  Companies could afford to put pretty labels printed in various colors in clothing as it was all part of the production value and they weren't making as many.  Nowadays, regardless of the price of the clothing, labels are almost non-existant in a tag form because it cuts down on costs and most people find tags annoying in a garment, so they are made virtually invisible or printed on.

Another key when looking at a garment's tag is a simple subline that reads, "by (insert designer name)."  Nowadays, you would never see a label that read "Heritage 1969 by Gap," even though Heritage 1969 is their brand.  You'd just walk into Gap, pick out a pair of Heritage 1969 jeans and walk out.  Easy as that.  But, when companies wanted to introduce a new division of their brand to people or a smaller design company was making a division of a brand for a store before the electronic age, it was a little more difficult to drum up that attention.  Why?  Simple: advertising.  The Internet.  Twitter.  Facebook.  TV commercials. It's so much easier now for a designer to advertise their new line for a company due to technology.  Prior to the World Wide Web, word of mouth was the way advertising, and a designer relied on people seeing that byline in department stores or in a magazine to get more business for their own private designs and stores.  Nowadays, sub-brands are an entity on their own, wheras before, they relied greatly on their motherbrand.

Much like the "by" subline, the city of origin where the design was made is a great tip for vintage seekers.  With most clothing now mass-marketed and produced overseas, seeing a designer's name with "China" writted underneath it is not as appealing as seeing "Kate Spade New York," per say.  However, before the the boom of clothing jobs sent overseas happened (basically, before the early 1980s), the city name represented the urban style a lot of people craved.  If one lived in LA, they may crave the designs of New York designers because it was just a different look and showed a level of sophistication and exotic when one said, "I bought this during my recent trip to New York."  European and international cities brought even more to that level, as clothing at that time was mainly kept to the area it was made.  So, saying one had a jacket from a Paris or London designer would definitely bring a certain level of class to the wearer.

Clothing tags are from
1   |   2   |   3   |   4   |   5
6   |   7   |   8   |   9

1 comment:

The Nomadic Ninja said...

Hi! I have a vintage Lilly dress that I would like to know the "date" of the label. Would this be something you could help me with or know who to ask?

Thank you,