How to tell if your clothes are vintage

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For the millionth time, I cannot express enough my love for vintage clothes and how I am obsessed with collecting them. Most of my finds are from the many vintage shops, dotted all around Sheffield, especially at Devonshire Green. Particularly, Forum Sheffield.

I am a 21 year old writing a post about vintage clothes that are a lot older than me and ranges back from the 40s, so what do I know you ask?

Well if you are an avid vintage clothes collector, your knowledge expands as you collect. I am not going to pretend and “marvel” as to how much I love antiques, because I don’t and probably never will.

My love for fashion itself prompted me to be curious to its history. That’s all it is to why I even starting collecting vintage clothes.

So I ramble about my amazing vintage finds and the rock bottom prices I get them for, but how do I even know they really are vintage.

At first, I used to ask my boyfriend’s mother and grandmother, both fashionistas from back in their days, the 1940s and the 1970s, respectively, and they still have their clothes from back then because they can never part with their clothes which made them the fashionable girls they were in school in Rotherham. My boyfriend’s mom gave me her Fred Perry Pleated P.E. School Skirt from the 70s! Here it is, how cute.

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Now, after each piece I collect, I know for a fact if an item is vintage or not. Here is a little guide for you to be able to tell what is vintage and what is probably a reproduction.

1) Not sure? Give it a sniff.

No seriously, I mean it, give it a good strong sniff. The smell really is what will give away if a piece of clothing is vintage or not. I don’t mean if it smells stale or if it smells of body odour  because that would only mean it was worn recently. I mean the musty old smell you get when you leave something in your loft for a really long time. If it smells like that, it is probably vintage.

2) It’s all in the labels.

Just like the Fred Perry skirt, the label looks obviously old, however, some owners take pride in their clothes because back then clothes were too expensive so people took extra care of their clothes which shows why a lot of the vintage clothes you find today are in almost perfect condition.

The older the labels look and the more it looks like it has been stitched, the more likely it is vintage. For example, here is my 1980s Topshop Floral Vest

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I am pretty sure you would have never come across this label in recent Topshop collections. That’s because this really is vintage. It doesn’t show it in the photos, but the whiteness is rather yellowing. It also smelt musky when I picked it up.

I also have this 80s Miss Selfridge crop top.


One of the most common vintage clothes you’ll find in the vintage shops in Sheffield are by St Michael’s, which most of you would know, is the previous Marks & Spencer’s. The labels before the late 80s would usually just bear the “St Michael’s” name. From the late 80s onwards, “St Michael’s by Marks and Spencer’s” was more commonly used. Here is the label of a 1970s netted St Michael’s top I have. It reeked so much, I popped it straight into the washer.


Sometimes, you can tell how old it is just by looking at it, like this one.

3) Check the zips.

Before the 80s, the zips of dresses were sown in an obvious manner. The zips of such dresses should be jutting out. Hidden zips are a 21st century invention, so if you see one in a vintage shop, avoid it because it is not vintage at all. Here is an 80s dress of mine

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Another factor of this dress being from the 80s is that you really have to breathe in for it to zip up and this is not an excuse for the few pounds I gained over the last few days of eating junk food.

Anyway, the zip on the dress is protruding out slightly. The following photo is a comparison of the zip of this dress and a dress I bought from Topshop last week, which I have yet to try out. Typical me.

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The left is of my Topshop dress and the right is the comparison photo of my 80s vintage dress and my Topshop dress. The zip of the Topshop dress is more hidden in the seam, while the vintage zip is protruding outwards. Recently, a lot of high street shops have been recreating vintage features in their clothes, including the zip details, however, these remade zips are usually in a gold or silver colour.

4) Made in England? It’s probably vintage.

In this time and age, how many high street clothes do you buy that actually has a label which says “made in England”. I would say, none at all. They’re usually made in China or Turkey. Before the 80s, clothes were usually made in England. So if you find clothes which says “Made in UK”, “Made in Great Britain” and “Made in England” and if they are not top notch designer clothes, they are probably vintage. If you have a piece of clothing which was made in a country which does not exist anymore, then obviously it is vintage. I have a pair of Levi’s jeans which has a “made in Yugoslavia” label which really shows how old it is.

5) Contact the brand, they usually help.

If you have high street clothes like Dorothy Perkins and Topshop with old labels or even labels that don’t match the current ones, all you have to do is contact the brands as they usually have archives of their heritage so they will know how old the label is. Designer labels, especially, keep archives of their collections. I contacted the Christian Dior head office and found out the age of this 80s floral top:

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6) Are your Levi’s different to the current collections?

Levi’s jeans are a hot area for vintage lovers. There are so many people who collect Levi’s or buy them to reconstruct them. As for me, I simply collect them. Here are some photos of some unique features I found in my vintage Levi’s jeans.

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Each photo is of a different pair of Levi’s jeans. I recently learnt that if the “e” in the “Levi’s” on the tab of the jeans is in a capital “E” instead, then it is from before the 1970s, otherwise, they are from after the 1970s. So far I know that the jeans I own are all from the 1970s, however, I have never had a pair like the one from the last photo. I have been itching to know the history of that pair of jeans and I found a contact to help me out with it so right now I am just waiting for a response.

If you have a pair of Levi’s jeans which you feel is possibly vintage, visit

It has the contact information of a Levi’s historian which you can contact to determine the age and history of your special pair of Levi’s jeans. I am excited to find out about mine.

Not sure if your purchases are vintage? drop me a message, I will be more than happy to help. I’ve got all summer 🙂


1 thought on “How to tell if your clothes are vintage

  1. Hey, I too love vintage clothes. And you’re right about the old smell! I have bought a few jumpers today & was wondering if you could help me with their labels? One is miss selfridge, one has a label saying Tescos- looks proper 90’s! And one is ‘top secret’. Can I send you the pics perhaps?!

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