Picture this scenario: You walk through an antique shop or thrift store among racks of vintage attire – or what appears to be vintage attire. You spot a dress or blouse that catches your eye and you can’t help but gaze over its color, pattern and uniqueness. You immediately fall in love with it. After trying it on you start to question if it’s truly, authentically vintage or is it some reproduction garment someone donated. You start to examine its quality and even ask the sales associate questions – but he or she doesn’t quite know. Feeling oh-so attracted to it, you go ahead and purchase the item and hope for the best that it’s authentically vintage along with some other vintage treasures you picked up along the way. You hope maybe another vintage enthusiast on Facebook or Instagram will point out if it’s authentic or reproduction in the comments.
Does this sound familiar? Surprisingly, many people get confused when it comes to identifying rather a vintage garment is authentic or reproduction, especially individuals who are new to wearing vintage fashion.
In this blog post, I’m going to explain ten easy ways to identify whether a vintage garment is authentic vintage or reproduction. I want to first explain the difference between the meaning of “authentic” and “reproduction”. . .
Authentic means the vintage garment was actually made during a vintage time period. It’s truly vintage and may be between 50-100 years old before being considered antique. It’s basically history! Reproduction refers to the garment being recreated to appear and feel vintage. In other words it’s inspired by a particular vintage time period. Another word for reproduction is “vintage inspired”. Reproduction attire is manufactured during this current time period.
I’ve been wearing and shopping authentic vintage and vintage inspired clothes – especially dresses – for many years and have picked up on the ways of identifying a garment. I use this method whenever I shop for vintage. Continue reading to learn how to use these methodstoo!
1. Observe the Zipper & Buttons
This may be an observation that many people may miss. With authentic vintage clothing, there may be a heavy-duty metal zipper in the center of the back of the dress, as the same with buttons. This is due to the fact that the vintage times embraced the value of helping one another and a majority of women received help from their husbands or relatives of zipping and buttoning their dresses from the back. Of course, it’s only in human nature to help one another. Asking to help zip up an outfit or fasten a button in the back was seen as a norm, whereas today someone may perceive it as “do it yourself” as the value of helping one another is declining.
Observe closely how there may be a well-hidden metal zipper in the back, or a button that’s placed in the upper back as well. Look for the coloring of the buttons - they may appear yellowish, dull and "older".
A majority of reproduction dresses may have a side zipper made of plastic. With modern society shifting away from the “helping” value and embracing independent culture, the idea of putting a zipper on the side makes it easier for a person to zip themselves up easily. With a reproduction garment, there will most likely be a plastic side zipper and less buttons in the back.
|A strong, durable metal back zipper on an|
authentic vintage dress I own
The buttons in the left photo are on a reproduction dress
and the buttons in the right photo are from a 1950's authentic vintage dress.
Notice the dull, fading look on the buttons on the vintage dress.
|A back button on an authentic 1940's wrap dress that I own|
2. Observe the Overall Appearance
This is may be an easy tip to acknowledge while browsing authentic vintage or reproduction vintage clothes. Real vintage clothes tend to have a more “vintage” or “older” look to them of course. If it appears outdated, it’s most likely real vintage. Reproduction clothes tend to have a more charming and modernized look of the original vintage style. It tends to have a more refreshing look and doesn’t appear to be completely outdated.
This is the 1940's inspired "Charlotte" dress from Lindy Bop with courtesy.
It definitely has a vintage appearance but doesn't appear overly outdated.
3. Check out the Craftsmanship
With real vintage clothing, you will notice the strong “heavy” material, metal zippers and elaborate detailing such as lace, buttons, belts and loops and embroidery. Reproduction clothes may have craftsmanship, but appears to be more modernized and not as intricate. It may possibly tear or fall apart. This is because modern clothes are not built to last long like their vintage counterparts. During the vintage times, the value of “building to last” and keeping an item for a long time was practiced.
A significant difference between authentic vintage and reproduction is the sizing. True vintage tends to be smaller as women were smaller during the vintage times from dresses, skirts, shoes and even gloves. True vintage can run very small especially around the bodice and waist area. Reproduction vintage clothes tend to run all sizes from XS to XXL to favor a diverse audience of sizes. Of course there were larger sizes during the vintage times, so you may come across a “larger” vintage dress, skirt or blouse. The sizing number may be a little “off” though.
During the vintage times modesty and femininity was encouraged, and wearing a skirt or dress past the knees was very common especially adult women’s fashion. If you pick up a vintage dress or skirt that happens to fall far below the knee, don’t get alarmed. As the 1960’s approached, dresses and skirts became shorter. We can always identify a 1960’s dress anyway!
Reproduction dresses and skirts typically fall above the knee, but you may come across some reproduction dresses and skirts that may fall right at the knee or slightly below. Still, check out the other identifications as well.
6. Antique / Vintage Smell
This is a funny but helpful one! Of course if you’re shopping around an antique or thrift store there’s always that “antique smell” that lingers in the environment. A vintage garment may have a stronger “vintage” smell to it. If it makes me sneeze, I definitely know it’s vintage (insert laughing emoticon). Reproduction of course tends to have a newer, almost “plastic” like smell.
7. Hand-Stitched V.S. Machine-Stitched
This is an obvious one that may be overlooked by some. Authentic vintage clothes may tend to have original hand-stitched sewing and reproduction definitely has machine-stitched development. As you’re examining your garment, take a close look at the stitching. If it appears hand-made, the stitching will not be so perfect. If it’s machine-made the stitching will be faultless. This is because a majority of women during the vintage times sewed their own dresses to save money. Of course, lots of vintage garments were manufactured as well. Check out other identifications to be sure.
|The stitching in the above picture is of an authentic 1940's dress.|
Notice how it's handmade style.
|Pictured here is stitching on a reproduction 1950's style dress.|
Notice how it's machine-made with "perfect" stitching.
Authentic vintage tends to be pricier due to its historical, unique nature. Designer authentic vintage tends to be even more expensive than non-designer. Reproduction clothes tend to be more affordable. Vintage inspired fashion can be a bit pricey when it comes to well-known online boutiques – but this is only due to sustaining profits for the business. An authentic vintage garment is unique and is sold as the only “one” available for sale.
9. Research the Label
|The label "International Ladies|
Garment Workers Union"
Be sure to check the label on a vintage garment. This may seem like a no-brainer but many new folks in vintage fashion tend to pass up this action. You may come across a popular label titled “International Ladies Garment Workers Union”. I have a 1960’s authentic vintage dress that has this label that I blogged about in a previous post….you can read more about it here.
10. Check out the Material
This may be obvious to the well-experienced vintage shoppers…authentic vintage is always made of a strong-quality material such as cotton. It will most likely have "Made in America" tagline on it too. New-age vintage inspired fashion tends to be made of polyester, rayon, and more polyester with a possible blend of cotton.
Well that's all! I hope this blog post will help you on your next adventure of haunting down your next authentic vintage garment. I'm sure there are lots of other unique ways of discovering a true vintage item. Feel free to leave a comment below on one of your tricks!