in the atelier

In the name of breaking up this outfit-post monotony (jk I know you love me), I’ve been fomenting a new series. If I do say so myself, I own a hell of a lot of vintage. The 50s, the 90s, and everything in between. And I don’t deserve such a collection if I don’t properly cultivate it. I’ve decided to start, maybe once a week or so, posting analyses of some of my favorite garments: specifically, dating them. I’ve written previously on how to identify genuine vintage and place it in proper historical context, but there’s nothing like some actual in-the-field demonstration. I’ve seen many a blogger fooled by a well-made reproduction.

Above all: why own vintage if you’re not going to appreciate what makes it, well, vintage?

Some of these I haven’t worn for the blog yet. I currently have a pretty substantial backlog of outfits I’ve designed but have yet to photograph. So bear with me (i.e. suck it up) as I break the suspense a little.


First up is this baby from the $2 rack at Battery Street Jeans. BSJ had tagged it as “vintage 60s dress”; let’s see how well their analysis measures up!


A cursory googling of “Tori Richard Honolulu” turns up a brand that’s been around since 1956. Hmm, not much help. Other clues:

  • Its zipper is metal and runs down the center of the back – a material and placement generally associated with the 60s. The nylon plastic zippers most often used today did not come into the mainstream until 1968. Individually-toothed plastic zippers were in fashion from the 30s on, but as they lacked a metal zipper’s hardiness, they’re less likely to have survived. As for the placement, 60s styles favored center-back zippers, as opposed to the side zips of the 40s and 50s.
  • The tag displays the bare minimum. Generally speaking, the less information on the tag, the older the garment. Though country-of-origin labels were mandated in 1891, fabric content and care instructions weren’t required until 1961 and 1971 respectively. So this dress came after ’61 but before ’71.
  • The dress’s swingy silhouette. While this is not a hard-and-fast rule – eras have borrowed from each other since time immemorial – given that the rest of the clues point to its origin in the 60s, the swing silhouette only affirms that analysis.

Verdict: sometime between 1961 and 1968.






This one’s tricky. I’ve worn it on the blog before, and I readily admit to dating it incorrectly in the previous post. The label had faded and I misinterpreted its color, putting my analysis off by at least ten years. And in ILGWU labels, color is pretty freaking important.


  • This dress is a great example of how design itself can be counterintuitive. We associate fit-and-flare with the 50s, no? Nope – this girl can’t be older than the 70s.
  • International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) tags are coded by decade and color. I initially interpreted this tag as blue and orange, which was associated with the 60s. It was only after comparing it to some others online that I realized it was a faded version of the red, white, and blue tag ILGWU used from 1974 to 1995. (I’ve never been very good at telling red from orange from pink. It’s all bright to me.)
  • Garment tags as we know them today were mandated in 1983. You know the ones – small and rectangular, crawling with fine print. This tag, while relaying the information required since 1971, is definitely non-standard: look at that little fortune-cookie slip in the right of the photo above. I’d have to do more research into the tagging system to know for sure, but I’m thinking this dress is almost definitely from before 1983.

Verdict: sometime between 1974 and 1983. So, roughly ’78/’79.


Next installment coming soon!

Author: skye

I aspire to be a bright-eyed girl in a big city, even though I wear glasses and live in what amounts to a hole in the ground.

One thought on “in the atelier”

  1. I feel like only you could make that first dress look chic/fun. I’d look so horrible in it. Haha. The second dress, though, I just love it so much! The details on the pockets and at the chest are things I just can’t ignore when I’m vintage shopping. Also, I’m learning a lot about how to successfully date vintage items, but this kind of advice is invaluable. It’s hard just starting out and not knowing how to really figure out age, popularity and appropriate pricing. I try to be as accurate and fair as I can without shortchanging myself, but it’s hard when you don’t have the knowledge. I hope you do more of these posts, because they do help a lot!

    – Anna

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