Happy Tuesday, vintage lovers!
After the success of 11 ways to identify vintage in a thrift store by looking at labels at tags, I recognized that there’s a need for more vintage know-how on Sammy Davis Vintage — so that you can thrift, shop for vintage online or at your brick-and-mortar store with an well-armed arsenal of helpful information and tips.
The Vintage Fashion Guild is one of the best resources on the web for vintage sellers, buyers, thrifters & enthusiasts. One of my favorite parts of the site is the Label Resource Guide, where well-versed vintage experts have contributed profiles of famed designers and curated a variety of tags to help identify the year a piece of that designer’s vintage was produced.
Identifying vintage fashion is a lot like identifying a vintage car — there are some no-brainer indicators that when realized, are the cold-hard facts needed to know it’s year of production.
True vintage fashion experts have a well-trained eye to note the differences between a designer’s tag and labels over the years. One tag’s design might identify the decade a piece was produced, or be as specific to identify the year.
A designer may have released one type of tag with a new collection that only lasted a season, or the designer may have undergone an entirely fresh branding initiative which changed all tag designs from a certain year forward.
It takes research and passion to be as knowledgeable as some of the members of the Vintage Fashion Guild — but because I believe in your love of vintage fashion, I wanted to give you a glimpse into the history of some of your favorite brands recognizable today.
Keep reading after the jump to see see how the tags of Levi’s, Banana Republic, Betsey Johnson, Abercrombie & Fitch and MORE! have changed as the companies have evolved over the years, and some tips on how you can identify the year/decade a “vintage” tag originates from when vintage-shopping on your own.
I’ll be posting part II on vintage tag history sometime next week — too much to share in one post! Look for Lilly Pultizer, Izod, Diane Von Furstenberg, Wrangler and more, especially if you make a special request!
Huge thanks to writer & vintage advocate The Vintage Traveler for contributing information to the Vintage Fashion Guild, which made this post possible!
I’m always looking for your feedback and questions on what vintage trends & know-how you want to learn about! Please make a special request for a future blog post by saying hello on Facebook, sending a Tweet or a friendly message via email. I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks all for checking in — and happy vintage fashion identifying! ;-)
DESIGNER: Jessica McClintock
BIRTH YEAR: 1969, when Jessica McClintock herself invested in a company called “Gunne Sax.” The upscale line “Jessica McClintock” was born in the late ’80s.
BEST KNOWN FOR TODAY: Prom dresses, bridal wear and evening/cocktail dresses
BEST KNOWN FOR YESTERDAY: Before Jessica McClintock was born in the late ’80s, “Gunne Sax” was known for granny dresses and prairie-inspired wear. Think boho chic of the ’60s & ’70s, which back then, was a true throwback to the Depression-era style of the ’30s.
NOTABLE TAG CHANGES: The small “c” in McClintock may have stayed the same, but the typography itself has evolved.
The “k” in McClintock is sometimes rounded at the end, other times tall and straight.
In the mid ’80s and early ’90s, Jessica McClintock bridal wear was surrounded by a curved enclosure. Today, the label is simpler.
Considering “Jessica McClintock” wasn’t born until the ’80s, finding a “Gunne Sax” label without mention of Jessica at all is a sure sign it’s vintage.
TAG CREDITS & YEARS: Thanks to fuzzylizzie.com, denisebrain, pinupdresses,indymom810 and pinky-a-gogo for tag pictures & information
DESIGNER: Ralph Lauren
BIRTH YEAR: 1967 (ties & menswear)
BEST KNOWN FOR TODAY: Collared cotton shirts and clean, crisp prep-attire for men & women
BEST KNOWN FOR YESTERDAY: Designing costumes for movies Annie Hall & The Great Gatsby, which catapulted the brand’s fame into the consumer mainstream
NOTABLE TAG CHANGES: The polo player design can be found on Ralph Lauren tags beginning in the ’70s. What truly dates differences between vintage pieces is what the name of the Ralph Lauren collection actually is — whether it’s “Ralph Lauren Western,” or “Ralph Lauren Chaps,” or “Ralph Lauren Polo Sport” — the designer released various collections at different times, some of which lasted for only a few years.
TAG CREDITS & YEARS: Thanks to fuzzylizzie.com, kickshawproductions and vintagecityclothing.com for tag pictures and information.
DESIGNER: Betsey Johnson
BIRTH YEAR: Betsey’s first design job was in 1965, after a guest editor stint at Mademoiselle Magazine led to a design job at Paraphernalia boutique in New York City. Betsey Johnson was founded in 1978.
BEST KNOWN FOR TODAY: Fun, fresh frocks for party girls.
BEST KNOWN FOR YESTERDAY: Punk-influenced designs. While her clothes scream more “cupcake” than “cut throat” today, Betsey’s designs in the ’80s were sometimes betters suited for the downtown club than the uptown party.
NOTABLE TAG CHANGES: Anything that says “By Betsey Johnson” stems from a collection she helped design for pre launching Betsey Johnson in 1978. The typography of Betsey Johnson has remained the same on many of the tags, however, so it’s more important to note whether there is another design element (like a man’s head or cat, above) to signify the time period Betsey might have designed for that particular collection.
TAG CREDITS & YEARS: Thanks to fuzzylizzie.com, listitcafe, highlyatomic and mags_rags for tag pictures and information.
DESIGNER: Banana Republic
BIRTH YEAR: 1978, bought by the Gap in 1983.
BEST KNOWN FOR TODAY: “Affordable luxury” classics for casual sportswear for both men & women, mixed with pretty dresses and tailored suits for women appropriate for work.
BEST KNOWN FOR YESTERDAY: Vacation “safari” clothing for the upscale fashion sphere. The founders referred to Banana Republic for “vintage vacationers,” using ’40s aesthetics for design aesthetics.
NOTABLE TAG CHANGES: In the late ’80s, bananas WERE used in the Banana Republic label! This key difference, plus the removal of “Safari clothing” from tags, differentiate present day tags with those which are at least 20 years plus. Today’s Banana Republic tags are simple, stating only “Banana Republic” without any additional frills of typography or special use of color.
TAG CREDITS & YEARS: Thanks to fuzzylizzie.com for tag pictures and information.
DESIGNER: Anne Klein
BIRTH YEAR: 1968
BEST KNOWN FOR TODAY: Department-store separates that are professional enough for work and chic enough to mix-and-match with weekend wear.
BEST KNOWN FOR YESTERDAY: Before Anne Klein’s death in 1974 (Donna Karen of DKNY took over the label soon after), the line was known for its unconventional use of fabrics and the pairing of “evening” with “day.” Additonally, Anne made her collection a package deal, creating accessories to pair with particular pieces for the whole 360-degree look.
NOTABLE TAG CHANGES: The use of the lion face as a decorative design. I’m still stumped as to why Anne used a lion’s face instead of another animal (perhaps it was her favorite animal?) but I love how it almost serves as a complementary contrast to the line itself. Anne made style waves in her day, so it only makes sense that they would “roar” like a lion!
TAG CREDITS & YEARS: Thanks to fuzzylizzie.com and chezmov for tag pictures and information.
ABERCROMBIE & FITCH
DESIGNER: Abercrombie & Fitch
BIRTH YEAR: 1892 as Abercrombie & Co. Became “Abercrombie & Fitch” after joining forces with Ezra Fitch for expansion in 1904.
BEST KNOWN FOR TODAY: Sexy casual wear for tweens and teens in mall stores with even sexier employees and environmental aesthetics
BEST KNOWN FOR YESTERDAY: Outdoor camping & hunting equipment, sold to hunters/adventure-seeking men in the late 1800s. The brand referred to itself as “sportswear for the nation” through the ’70s.
NOTABLE TAG CHANGES: The use of “New York” on tags. A&F was a New York based store up until the ’50s, when new stores were opened in San Francisco & Chicago. The label was bought by The Limited in the 1980s and transformed into the mall store we know today. The typography on A&F tags is similar to that of yesterday — used the & sign and abbreviation of “A&F” has been a namesake of the company since 1892!
TAG CREDITS & YEARS: Thanks to fuzzylizzie.com, novafashions and Jon Blummer for tag pictures and information.
LEVI STRAUSS & CO.
DESIGNER: Levi Strauss & Co.
BIRTH YEAR: Approximately 1880
BEST KNOWN FOR TODAY: Body-flattering jeans in a variety of cuts and colors, along with
BEST KNOWN FOR YESTERDAY: Durable workwear a la the invention of “jeans” themselves.
NOTABLE TAG CHANGES: The founder of Levi’s — Levi Strauss himself — set up his jeanswear company in San Francisco. Many of the vintage tags, whether they are 80 years old or simply 20, make reference to “San Francisco” and have a workman/workhorse design on them, alluding to the fact that they originated as durable jeans for the working man.
A few of the vintage tags cite “western wear” and the number “501,” which was the factory lot number for the pant model “XX” which would eventually become one of the most popular cuts of Levi’s.
TAG CREDITS & YEARS: Thanks to fuzzylizzie.com, bontonvintage and pinky-a-gogo for tag pictures and information.