Thursday, February 16, 2012

Determining the Age of Vintage Treasures

You've probably noticed that I'm obsessed with vintage. Not only do I love vintage for its uniqueness, but also because clothing holds history in the fibers of its fabric. Current events always influence the appearance of our clothing, so by looking at vintage we can learn about our history. 

When I buy vintage, part of the thrill is to be able to research the garment and find out when it came into existence. There isn't much information on the internet about determining the age of a vintage garment, so I thought I'd share with you what knowledge I've gleaned from my researching. It's not very much, and I'm always learning new things, but I'll still break it into three posts. Because this is a blog and not a novel.

(This Brunny sweater vest was made in the 1960s.)

One of the fastest ways to estimate the age of a garment is to look at its label. Garments made after 1959 usually have assigned numbers printed on their labels. The very first number in the sequence is 13670, and these numbers are called registration numbers (RN's).When a clothing company is birthed, it is assigned one of these numbers. 

(This Judy's circle skirt was made in the 1980s.)
Because the numbers are assigned only when the company is created, it does not determine the exact manufacture date of a garment. But it does give a good reference point. For instance, if you think an article of clothing was made in the 1930s, but it has an RN, you know right away that your first assumption was incorrect. So while it doesn't give a definitive answer, it does point you in the right direction. More research should be done once you know the RN and its issue date.

(This Charlotte Russe jean skirt was made in the late 2000s.)
To learn more about RNs and the formula for calculating an RN's approximate issue date click here.

And be sure to come back next week for part two!

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  1. I love this post! More, please. As a thrift-store patron and fellow-lover of vintage, I want this education. We've all found fabulous items and wondered where and when they came from. This series is one of the most valuable I've seen.

  2. This is so awesome. I've always wondered if people had actual vintage or if they were making it up. Now I can figured it out! Thank you. I look forward to the next portion.

  3. Excellent examples. I'm sure this method will help plenty of readers! This is the same way I go about my searches. If Google or Ask Andy deliver nothing, I turn to the RN Query site. I do this most frequently for tie searches, when maker labels have fallen off but the RN remains on the content tag.

    What's the oldest thing you wear?

    1. Hmmm...the oldest thing I wear is an ivory hat from the 1940s, but I have a lot of jewelry and knick knacks that are older. What about you?

    2. I have several ties and shoes that date back to the 1950's.

      Aside from the clothing, I once discovered an incredible set of books from the mid 19th century.

    3. It's a series of books from a private boys' school, containing elementary Classical (Greek and Roman) language instruction, Classical histories (particularly military conquests), mathematical theory and philosophy

  4. It's a pity this tip doesn't apply to Spain :(

    Sara from Diary of a Modern-Day-Lady

  5. thanks for the info. It's getting hard to see a piece of vintage come by these days at the thrift store. I do find a lot of vintage reproductions though


  6. I'll be back for part two for sure!
    I never heard of RNs so I really enjoyed this post. Merci!

  7. This was really helpful, I always have a difficult time dating all my thrifted treasures, thanks girl! xx


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