Dating vintage clothing union labels
Each of these tags was associated with a specific time period that identifies when the earliest time the item could have been manufactured.Please keep in mind that these dates represent the earliest time when the clothing could have been manufactured not the time when these item was sold.Additionally, manufactures used all issued labels before starting the next issued series.It is not certain but believed that prior to joining the AFL in 1933, The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America were not required to include a label with items that were manufactured by ACWA.You might also enjoy Melody Fortier's book, The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping.I highly recommend this if you want a short, one-stop reference for vintage shopping.--- Another excellent resource for labels is the Vintage Fashion Guild's label resource. Metal zippers often indicate an item made before 1960, when plastic zippers for dressmaking became more common.Here, dedicated vintage fashion lovers have collected and compiled histories of the labels of hundreds of vintage clothing manufacturers, often giving you dates when a certain maker's label was used. Metal zippers are still routinely used for heavy-duty uses like jeans and jackets.
--- There's a common misperception that if a garment has a "union label," it's always vintage.My day job is business research, so it was easy to find a lot of great sources. A dress with a tiny waist and huge, below-knee skirt screams 1950s, while a slim-fit dress with huge shoulder pads is probably from the 1980s. If your garment has "serged" seams, it probably dates to after the mid-1960s.I read a ton of books and talked to lots of people. See the "Retro Fashion History" and "Vintage Fashion and Art" links below to learn more about silhouettes and see lots of great photos by decade. Serged seams were uncommon before the mid-1960s, when manufacturers began using sergers routinely to finish seams.These come in different colors and may also include the letters AFL, AFL/CIO, or CIO.These variations of ILGWU labels were used through 1995--close to the current vintage cutoff year of 1993. UNION LABEL USED FROM 1955-1945 (with AFL-CIO) After 1995, the union adopted a label that says "UNITE" on it. For more details on when each kind of union label was used, see the Vintage Fashion Guild's guide to union labels, here.