A Guide to Identifying ILGWU Union Labels in Vintage Clothing

by Sammy in , 35 Comments — Updated October 7, 2023

ILGWU clothing labels - a union label with text how to date vintage by its union labelThe easiest way to date a piece of women’s clothing as vintage is to identify whether it has a union label.

The most popular union label found in vintage clothing is from the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).

Vintage clothing pickers and sellers often use ILGWU clothing labels to help identify the general era a piece of clothing was made because the union tag’s design, which has changed eight times since 1900, can help narrow the garment’s age within a window of approximately 10 to 20 years.

To conclude a garment’s exact era, use my Dating Vintage as Clothing and 5 Ways to Date the Age of Vintage Clothing for more help, and subscribe to my newsletter for dating vintage tips only available to subscribers.

What Was The Significance Of The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union?

The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) held significant importance in the history of labor rights and workers’ conditions in the United States, particularly within the garment industry.

Founded in 1900 by seven local unions, the ILGWU played a key role in US labor history, representing the interests of the women’s garment industry during a time of harsh working conditions, low wages, and long hours.

The formation of the ILGWU provided a platform for working-class women to come together, organize, and advocate for better treatment and fair labor standards.

This textile workers union played a crucial role in improving workplace conditions, fighting for reasonable working hours, safer environments, and higher wages. It also played a pivotal role in advancing gender equality, as it was one of the first industrial unions to represent female workers primarily.

It all started with Clara Lemlich’s speech at a meeting held at the Great Hall of Cooper Union following the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory strike in 1909. She was soon joined by other leaders – and tens of thousands of other women strikers – on the picket line in a general strike now known as the “Uprising of 20,000.”

Then, a year later, in 1910, a massive strike involving some 60,000 cloakmakers hit the garment industry in New York. The negotiations following the “Great Revolt” also resulted in the formation of the Joint Board of Sanitary Control.

As the ILGWU grew in strength and numbers as a result of the garment workers’ strike in 1909, it successfully negotiated labor agreements with many employers in the garment industry, ensuring better wages and benefits for its members. The union’s efforts also led to the establishment of standardized workweeks and overtime pay, which were critical steps toward improving the lives of garment workers.

Furthermore, the ILGWU became a driving force in promoting workers’ rights and social justice beyond the garment industry. The union members actively participated in political and social movements, advocating for progressive legislation and supporting broader causes such as civil rights and women’s suffrage.

Because the top-ranked search result for “union labels” is an eBay guide, sadly missing most of its original images, I decided to produce this post to give you updated materials for identifying ILGWU union labels in vintage women’s clothing.

Keep in mind that this guide is on ILGWU labels found in women’s clothing only — guides to union labels in women’s hats, lingerie, and men’s clothing will be produced in the near future!

In the meantime, you can check out these 13 tips on dating vintage clothing labels!

What Does “Union-Made” Mean In Vintage Clothing?

A Guide to Identifying ILGWU Union Labels in Vintage Clothing
source: shutterstock

Before we dive into the ILGWU labels, let’s first discuss the significance of union-made clothing.

So, the term “union-made” refers to items that were produced by industrial and textile employees who were part of a labor union – namely, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU).

When a garment carries a union label, it signifies that the workers involved in its production were protected by the benefits and rights outlined in union contracts and negotiated through the collective bargaining efforts of their union.

For consumers, “union-made” clothing provided a level of assurance about the garment’s quality and ethical production practices. It indicated that the workers who created the clothing were treated fairly, had better working conditions compared to those in non-unionized factories, and were paid union wages.

The union labels on vintage clothing, like the ones used by the ILGWU, not only helped consumers identify the era in which the garment was made but also stood as a symbol of solidarity and empowerment for the workers who were part of the labor movement.


I decided to tackle this article to create a compilation of union labels in one place on the Internet. Unfortunately, I lack original photography for ILGWU labels from its inception in 1900 to 1936 (thumbnail available from Anjou Clothing), 1936 to 1940, and 1940 to 1955.

A Guide To Identifying Ilgwu Union Labels In Vintage Clothing


I plan on updating this article as soon as I gather these historical materials, but for your immediate benefit, I’ll begin an exploration of the ILGWU union labels in 1955.

Below is a brief timeline breaking down the different designs by period so that you can at least compare any of your older garments against this information to verify their age. Further description (without images) is available thanks to Ebay’s union label guide by ikwewe.


  • 1900 – 1936 ILGWU AFL
  • 1936 – 1940 ILGWU CIO
  • 1940 – 1955 ILGWU AFL
  • 1955 – 1995 ILGWU AFL-CIO
  • 1995 – 2004 UNITE!
  • 2004 – UNITE HERE


ERA: 1955 to 1963

A Guide To Identifying Ilgwu Union Labels In Vintage Clothing
Source: Kheel Center at Cornell University, Flickr Creative Commons

LOOK FOR: The words “UNION LABEL” above a scalloped crest in front of a needle and thread.

The scalloped circle also features the inscription “INT’L LADIES GARMENT UNION WORKERS” around a backdrop of “ILGWU,” and the initials “AFL-CIO” are prominently printed in white lettering in front.

One notable feature of the label from 1955 to 1963 is the absence of the letter “R,” which stands for “rights.” The “R” symbol emerged on union labels in the subsequent era (1964 to 1973).

HISTORY: The 1950s saw the adoption of the scalloped crest in front of a needle and thread as the chosen design for the ILGWU union label. If you come across an ILGWU union label without this particular feature, it indicates that the garment predates the 1950s, helping you narrow down its possible age range.

The design featuring AFL-CIO on the union label was introduced after the merger of two major labor unions, the AFL (American Federation of Labor) and the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations). This historic merger occurred on December 5, 1955, under the umbrella of the ILGWU, uniting the forces of the labor movement and reshaping the landscape of labor rights advocacy.

A Guide To Identifying Ilgwu Union Labels In Vintage Clothing
Source: Quirk Vintage Clothing (left) & Fuzzy Lizzie from the Vintage Fashion Guild

ERA: 1964 to 1973

A Guide To Identifying Ilgwu Union Labels In Vintage Clothing

LOOK FOR: The ILGWU union label from 1964 to 1973 underwent noticeable design changes while retaining its distinctive scalloped circle in front of a needle and thread. However, the placement of the words within the label shifted, reflecting the evolving aesthetics and branding choices of the era.

In this era’s label, the scalloped circle now surrounds a darkened circle, creating a visually striking contrast that draws attention to the center of the label. The words “UNION MADE” have been moved into the darkened circle, occupying a central position. Additionally, “ILGWU” is now prominently displayed in the foreground, serving as a bold identifier of the union.

Notably, the ILGWU union label features a significant addition—the appearance of the “R” symbol. This “R” signifies that the logo was officially registered as a trademark, and its presence indicates that the logo’s usage was legally protected.

HISTORY: The label design introduced on June 28, 1963, marked the beginning of this era for the ILGWU union label. The logo’s official trademark date was April 21, 1964, meaning that garments bearing this label design were produced after this date. For garments with this particular style of union label but lacking the “R” symbol, it can be inferred that they were made between June 28, 1963, and April 21, 1964.


ERA: 1974 to 1995

A Guide To Identifying Ilgwu Union Labels In Vintage Clothing

LOOK FOR:  This ILGWU label features the same design as the previous era (1964 to 1973) but with a patriotic makeover.

In this era, the union label takes on a prominent red, white, and blue color scheme, symbolizing the spirit of American patriotism. The “Made in U.S.A.” inscription, denoting the garment’s domestic origin, is now highlighted in vibrant red, making it more prominent below the “ILGWU” logo. This visual emphasis on the garment’s domestic production reinforces the campaign’s message to support American clothing manufacturing and the rights of garment workers.

HISTORY: In response to the growing trend of outsourcing garment production to foreign countries with cheaper labor, a powerful campaign was launched in 1975 to encourage consumers in America to “Look for the Union Tag” when making clothing purchases. The goal was to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the domestic garment industry and the rights of unionized garment workers.

This positive propaganda even released a “Look for the Union Label” jingle to support its cause; you can learn more about it here.  


ERA: 1995 to 2005

A Guide To Identifying Ilgwu Union Labels In Vintage Clothing

LOOK FOR: The ILGWU union label from 1995 to 2005 departs from the previous scalloped circle design and embraces a more minimalist style approach.

The word “UNITE!” takes center stage and is the most prominent feature of the label. Positioned below “Union of Needletrades Industrial & Textile Employees,” the word “UNITE!” represents the amalgamation of the ILGWU with the ACTWU (Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers of America), a men’s clothing union.

Underneath “UNITE!” on the label, the phrase “Union Made in the USA” is proudly displayed, reaffirming the commitment to domestic manufacturing and showing support for the American labor movement.

HISTORY: The disappearance of the quintessential scalloped circle design with the needle and thread motif is a direct consequence of a significant union merger. In 1995, the ILGWU merged with the ACTWU to form “UNITE!,” recognizing the shared goals and challenges faced by both men’s and women’s clothing workers in a changing industry.

A Guide to Identifying ILGWU Union Labels in Vintage Clothing 17

By 1995, Americans were purchasing more clothing than ever before, but much of it was being manufactured in countries with cheaper labor costs. This shift in consumer behavior and production practices led to a decline in the demand for “American-made” garments.

The merger of the ILGWU and the ACTWU into UNITE! symbolized an attempt to address these challenges and present a united front to protect workers’ rights and preserve the domestic garment industry.

The Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) was a significant labor union formed in 1976 through the merger of three major unions. It had a robust start with around 500,000 members and affiliations with the AFL-CIO. To identify a coat with the ACTWU label, look for a sewn-in tag inside the garment featuring the union logo (often “ACTWU”) and the union’s full name. These labels signify garments produced during ACTWU’s active years, primarily from 1976 to 1995, and hold historical significance in the U.S. labor movement and textile and apparel industries of that era.


ERA: 2005 to Present

A Guide To Identifying Ilgwu Union Labels In Vintage Clothing
Source: UNITE HERE! on Wikipedia 

LOOK FOR: The union label features distinctive black and red writing of “UNITE HERE!” displayed prominently on the label and positioned below “Union Made in the U.S.A.”

For garments produced in Canada, look for the word “CANADA” written vertically along the tag’s edge, indicating the union’s representation of clothing production in Canada.

HISTORY: The union label from 2005 to the present era is a reflection of a significant merger that brought together UNITE! and Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE). In 2005, the UNITE HERE union was formed, unifying the efforts of both organizations and expanding their representation across different sectors of the hospitality industry.

UNITE HERE is notable for its presence and representation in the restaurant, hotel, and casino/gambling industries. As the landscape of the garment industry evolved, the union shifted its focus to encompass a broader spectrum of hospitality workers, advocating for the rights and fair treatment of employees within these industries.

While the union’s primary focus shifted away from clothing manufacturing, the “Union Made in the U.S.A.” inscription on the label continues to emphasize its commitment to supporting domestic production and American workers.

The Decline of Union Labels in Vintage Clothing

A Guide To Identifying Ilgwu Union Labels In Vintage Clothing

The practice of including union labels on clothes began to decline in the late 20th century. As the garment industry faced significant changes – including increased global competition and outsourcing of production to countries with cheaper labor – the influence of garment workers’ union like the ILGWU also declined.

As stated, the last official ILGWU union label design used was “UNITE HERE!” which came into existence in 2005 after a merger with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union. However, even after this merger, the number of clothing companies and brands represented by the union reduced significantly.

With the decline of union membership and the changing landscape of the garment industry, many manufacturers stopped using union labels on their clothing. Instead, they focused on other branding and labeling strategies to attract consumers.

Today, while union-made clothing still exists, it is not as prevalent as it once was. However, the legacy of the labor movement and the efforts of unions like the ILGWU continue to influence worker rights and shape the history of the labor movement in the United States.

Collectors of vintage clothing still cherish and seek out garments with union labels as a tribute to the rich history of the labor movement and the fight for workers’ rights.

Thank you to the Family Vintage Jewels for loaning vintage clothing for the creation of this article.

More on Union Labels & Vintage Tags

QUICK TIPS: How to Know Your Clothing is Vintage
CLUES: How to Date Vintage Clothing by Construction
THRIFT: 3 Ways to Identify Vintage Clothing Labels 
TAGS: 11 Ways to Know It’s Vintage by Labels & Tags
PLUS: A Visual Guide of How to Date Vintage Clothing
UPDATE: 13 Tips for Dating Vintage Clothing Labels 


The Vintage Fashion Guild Union Label Guide
The Union Label Ebay Guide
History of the ILGWU from Labor Arts
Union Labels by Anjou Vintage Clothing

35 thoughts on “A Guide to Identifying ILGWU Union Labels in Vintage Clothing”

  1. Yay, this is an excellent resource! Just what I needed to help identify my own union tags. *bookmarks page immediately*

    • Natalie, I HEART YOU! Thank you!!!

  2. SO helpful. I just linked to you on my most recent vintage post.

    • Thank you, Color Wheel ROCKSTAR! Emailing you now ;-)

  3. Hi,

    My grandmother gave me a dress about 10 years ago that has the “INT’L LADIES GARMENT UNION WORKERS” label on it. The label is almost identical to the label shown under the 1955-1963 era except that it does not say “Union Label” at the top. At the top of the label, there is a set of numbers (AAAY) with a set of numbers (935264) beneath it. Could anyone advise me on the date of this dress?

    Thank you,


    • hi Abby! With that label, chances are you have a garment from 1955 to 1963. No worries that it doesn’t say “Union Label” at top. Do numbers have RN proceeding?

  4. Thank you so very much!! This has been very helpful.

    Thanks again for you hard work.

  5. Sammy, What a detective. I am about to embark on a Fashion Theory course & the garment I have chosen to write about has a Union Label – had this dress for years and never noticed! From your description I am dating between 1995-1964 but can you enlighten more on other text on the label. The label is turquoise (possibly faded dark blue) in capital letters above Union Label is written AESK and the numbers 041195. Thanks in advance. Liz

  6. I have a question. I have a garment with a union label that looks just like the 1974-1995 era ones, except the Made in U.S.A. is going up the right side of the label, and not across the bottom of it. Does this make it easier to narrow down the date of the item? Sorry, I am new to all this and trying to get things right. I appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks!

  7. This is so helpful! Thank you!

  8. very nice post!I like it very much!

  9. I have a beautiful blue sleeveless dress with matching tailored jacket the label is from the merge of AFL & CIO where the first issue date of June 1963 but I’m unable to determine size by today’s standards it has a separate label with the #48 and just above the union label the # 541279

    • Measure your garments and then look at sizing charts online to give you an idea as to what size it would fit in today’s world.

  10. The big question remains: Why did no textile company consider just putting a DATA on clothing like most other products have in some way?

  11. Thank you for providing this resource and sharing a photograph from our collection. The Kheel Center houses the historical records of the ILGWU, and using those archives, we recently completed a historical timeline of union labels. You can view the timeline itself with sample labels here http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/ILGWU/timeline/union-label-timeline.html Our hope is that by viewing labels broken down by date range, researchers can estimate their garment within a decade or so.

  12. Thank you for posting this guide, it is a huge help. I just purchased a vintage coat that has the ILGWU tag; it resembles the one used in the 1950’s however instead of ALF-CIO in the center it says ALF-CIO-CIC, I’m assuming this is just because it’s Canadian?? I couldn’t find any information for it anywhere. :/

  13. I have a vintage bathing suite that has a red Union MAde ILGWU i am trying to find the Era of the suit. My e-mail is [email protected] if anyone has any information on this type of label. It is white tag with red writing only.

  14. I have a coat that belonged to my great aunt it has a small tag that days Union Made & under it days ILGWU & under that it says AFL-CIO. Around it it says Int. Ladies Garment Workers Union
    Then on the other sude of the coat it has a bigget tag that says A BORGE FABRIC. BORGANA styled by Sportowne.

  15. Hi I have the same as the int log in the pic but it also has another tag styled by avan t garde large t in the middle.. I’ve had this outfit since I was a teenager does that extra tag mean anything on both pieces?

  16. This article is wonderful! I have mostly collected children’s vintage clothing up until recently. I tell myself (mostly my husband) that once I get a good collection I’ll start an Etsy shop. I do have several pieces I hang in our daughter’s bedroom as “art”.
    Last weekend was my first “real” (non thrift store) purchase on a vintage women’s dress (This is definitely not going in the someday Etsy stash)! It resembles very much like the 1955-63 label.
    Above the symbol it also has AADN and a number, 413127.
    The very top right side, close to the seam on the tag has a small oval/diamond shape with 191 next to it.
    There is a basic tag with a hand written red “3” an order# 4716 and a Style number 327 10. There are no other tags on the dress. How would I know which brand this dress is?
    I love this dress! It’s a beautiful mint green, a crinoline is attached underneath, a pretty bow on the back and has circles all over it. The fabric is formed by circles connected to one another. . I can send you a picture if you would like:)
    I paid almost 100.00 for this dress at an estate sale. ..did I pay too much? I think since I fell in love with the dress that maybe I overpaid. I do not know much about vintage woman’s label’s so I have your pages bookmarked so I can learn more before I buy! Thank you:)

  17. Hi,
    Thank you; this was extremely helpful for dating a beautiful cloak.
    One thing I found out that’s not listed here is that in April, 1960, they began using labels that had “National Coat & Suit Industry Recovery Board” label on the backside.
    Thus, for the 1955-1963 afl-cio labels, you can further pinpoint the date by the presence of the coat and suit label on the flipside.
    Also, to my surprise, by that time in 1960, rn’s were already in the 920,000+.

  18. wonderful read—–thanks-

  19. Thank you for your article! I have a black sequin vintage dress I picked up back in the 1980s and had always wondered about. Thanks to your work, I was able to date it within a year (late 1963 to early 1964).

  20. This is an excellent site!! I have a label . . . the ILGWU red white and blue label with “ADAT 875864” On a wedding dress and hav been searching for year ans value of this dress. . . it is in like new condition

  21. This is so helpful! Can you assist me with dating a floor-length black velvet evening coat? Label reads National Recovery Board, Coat and Suit Industry, with the number 109721 on one side; on the other side Consumers Protection Label, Manufactured Under Fair Labor Standards, and in a rectangular box the letters KJM. Thank you so much for any hints.

  22. Thank you so much for your dedicated work. I’m going through an entire wardrobe and have been finding very beautiful, interesting and garments that excite me.
    Now I have a better understanding about vintage clothes.
    I think because I don’t have parents or grandparents I have been drawn into vintage everything. I appreciate the styles, detail of design and individual character of each piece of clothes.
    People really made clothes differently. Nowadays mass production has left out quality and everyone wares the same thing.
    I want to be able to also identify personally tailored pieces.
    Looking forward to reading your blog.
    Stockton, CA

  23. My mom got married in 1960 and her wedding gown has a ILGWU label inside the dress. It also has AAJN AND EO3244 on the label as well. Can you tell when and where was made?


  24. Hi, I have a beautiful silk dress with the an above label you have 1964 to 1973
    How do I determine the value?

  25. I have recently bought a pair of vintage ladies tweed trousers with a Ralph Lauren Collection label. On the inside leg of the trouser is a small white UNITE! label , the writing is red with UNITE in blue exclamation mark in red. My question is, would these be used in Ralph Lauren clothing ? Thank you.

  26. I need help identifying a union label I cannot find any reference on it anywhere the letters on the top say PDAA I can find solid purple paper labels but nothing with those letters

  27. Hello, I have a vintage shearling coat I was told was made in the 60s but I can’t seem to find a tag that matches it. It is partially sewn into the lining and it cuts off some of the words but I think it says something like “R Label Authority” on the top, “manufactured under fair labor standards” on the bottom, and a ribbon with a shield in the middle that says fur consumer protection” with “FAL” letters in the shield. It is a beige tag with brown embroidered writing and some of the font is italicized. There is also a hand stamped code “K825093”. This is the only tag or writing on the entire coat. Does anyone know more about this kindof tag?

  28. I have a garment that has a vintage tag that seems to be the 1950’s version of the INT. LADIES GARMENT WORKERS UNION. The back side says National Board Coat and Suit industry. If you would like the images of this tag, I would gladly share.

  29. Hello Sammy,
    I’m an 83 yrs. old “guy” and am trying to find union logos & lables from ILGWU A.F.L. (pre CIO)
    Any sourcres?

    1900 – 1936 ILGWU AFL
    1940 – 1955 ILGWU AFL

    Thank You!

  30. I have a strapless bra with garter’s and it has a green union label. I didn’t see any of these, what year was this tag used? And it looks like new so maybe a later version? Thanks, Jo Ann

  31. My son gifted me a vintage peacoat with what seems like rabbit fur on the collar and sleeve ends. Mine is a blue label with Union Made ILGWU AFL-CIO the back says BL 192181. The material is very heavy duty.


Leave a Comment