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How to Identify a True Vintage Garment

In the world of fashion, true vintage garments hold a special allure. They carry a sense of history, uniqueness, and craftsmanship that modern fast fashion often lacks. However, identifying true vintage clothing can be a bit of a challenge, especially with the rise of vintage-inspired pieces flooding the market. Here at the Milk Room, we consider the age of the garment, anything 20 years old or before 2006 is what we consider as vintage. To help you further distinguish authentic vintage from mere replicas, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to identify a true vintage garment.

Look at the Labels and Tags

One of the easiest ways to determine if a garment is truly vintage is by examining its labels and tags. Vintage clothing often has labels that indicate the decade or era it was made. For example, labels from the 1950s and 60s typically have a union label, such as the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) tag, which can help date the piece. Additionally, the font, design, and information on the label can provide clues. Older labels might include “Made in USA” prominently, and sizing might be listed in different formats compared to modern clothing.

Check the Stitching 

Stitching is another key indicator of a garment's age. Single stitching, a technique commonly used in the 1970s and earlier, is a hallmark of true vintage clothing. Modern garments are usually constructed with double or overlocked stitching for durability and mass production. Examining the seams can reveal whether the piece was handmade or produced using older sewing techniques, which can add to its vintage authenticity.

Examine the Style and Fabric

Fashion trends evolve over time, and certain styles become associated with specific decades. Identifying these styles can help you determine if a garment is genuinely vintage. For instance, the bold prints and synthetic fabrics of the 1970s, the power suits of the 1980s, or the grunge aesthetic of the 1990s each have distinctive characteristics. Vintage fabrics also tend to feel different from modern ones—older fabrics might be heavier or have a different texture due to the natural fibers used and the wear over time.

Looks for Signs of Wear and Tear

Authentic vintage clothing often shows signs of its age. These signs can include fading, fraying, small defects, or gentle wear and tear. While some vintage garments have been well-preserved, many will exhibit some degree of aging that adds to their character and authenticity. Be wary of items that look too perfect, as they might be reproductions or have been heavily altered to appear vintage.

Assess the Craftsmanship

Detailed craftsmanship is a hallmark of true vintage garments. In the past, clothing was often made with greater attention to detail and quality. Look for hand-sewn buttons, intricate embellishments, and well-finished hems. The presence of these details indicates a level of craftsmanship that is rare in contemporary mass-produced clothing. For example, garments from the early 20th century might feature hand-stitched embroidery or custom-made buttons, showcasing the artisan skill of that era.

Consider the Provenance

If possible, try to gather information about the garment’s provenance. Knowing where it came from and who previously owned it can add to its historical value. Estate sales, vintage boutiques, and reputable online vintage shops often provide provenance details, which can help verify the authenticity of a piece. Additionally, garments with a clear and documented history are often more desirable to collectors and vintage fashion enthusiasts.


Identifying true vintage garments requires a keen eye for detail and an understanding of fashion history. By examining labels, stitching, style, signs of wear, craftsmanship, and provenance, you can confidently determine whether a piece is genuinely vintage. Embracing vintage fashion not only allows you to own a unique piece of history but also promotes sustainable fashion practices by giving new life to timeless garments. So, next time you’re shopping for vintage clothing, use these tips to uncover the authenticity and charm of true vintage pieces.


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