Friday, June 25, 2010

OMG, it really IS vintage!

Since I often shop for items for my shop at local consignment shops, I find myself looking at a lot of retro-inspired stuff from The Gap, Old Navy, Abercrombie & Fitch, and so on.  I like to think I have a good "eye", meaning, I can spot vintage textiles and materials in among the newer items and "pluck" them out with ease.  At times, this is true.  The fabric, textures, shape and wear is often a clue, even with only a sliver of an item visible, that something is vintage.  If I am being diligent, however, I need to double check some of the "new" stuff some of the times as many of these aforementioned brands are doing a good job of creating items with vintage looks, right down to the hardware.  After looking at seven Nine-West Bags, four Claiborne bags and three from Old Navy on the same rack, I start to wonder why I'm doing this.  Then I find a bag like this one.

As I looked at it I fully expected a high quality repro, instead, I was able to confirm vintage. How do you tell?  You may wonder...well, here are some things to look for.

1. No contemporary tags.  I know some of you girls have not been around as long as I have but please try to familiarize yourself with brands.  If something has a Merona tag (Target), Nine West, Old Navy or so forth, it is NOT vintage!  These brands have only been around for the past ten to 15 years.

2. Where is it made?  These are not hard and fast rules, but, if a bag has a "Made in China" tag it likely dates to the past ten years.  Made in Sri Lanka or Malaysia, likely 10 - 15 years.  Made in Hong Kong?; likely dates to the 1970's.  Made in Japan?; likely dates post-second World War to the 1950's and 1960's.  Items made in the USA vary. If it is handmade or by a specialty company it could be new.  If mass-produced, items made in the USA likely date to the 1960's or earlier. 

3. Hardware.  Hardware is a really good clue to age of bags.  If something needs to buckle with a metal buckle, zip with a metal zipper or clasp with a metal clasp it always gets my attention.  These are signs of quality construction and are also often indicators of a vintage bag.  Yes, contemporary bags do buckle and some have metal zippers, but, most are designed for ease of use and even if they have these details there are usually hidden modern details to clue you in to the fact that they are more recently made. 

4. Materials.  Early handbags were most often fabric, beaded or leather.  Into the 1940's and 1950's they were also mostly fabric or leather with some hard plastics like lucite for bodies and handles.  It really is not until you get into the 1960's that you start to see soft synthetics used for handbags.  And unfortunately, many of these early synthetics were still new to the market and unstable.  Always check to make sure a faux leather 1960's bag is not "sticky" feeling or it may be an indication of deterioration. Likewise, if the interior lining is "dusting" (breaking down and creating "dust" when touched or moved) think long and hard about the investment.  Once in a while these bags are still too great to pass up, but, if they are falling apart, literally, at the seams, be wary.  In the 1970's synthetics were often used, and were more stable, but not nearly as convincing as those used in later years.  Once you are looking at a synthetic bag that really looks and feels like leather, you are usually into the 1980's and later.

So, how did I know this was vintage? First of all, there is NO tag.  A vintage tag would be useful for sure, but, the absence of a "Made in China" or similar tag on a bag in this good condition is a clue in itself.  Second, the hardware used to close it.  It is metal and requires twisting to clasp.  It is riveted through and visible on the inside as well.  You just don't see hardware used on bags like this anymore.  Anything made in the past 20 - 30 years would have either a plastic twist style clasp, or, more commonly now, a magnetic or large flat snap type clasp at the closure.  Third, the great oval shaped pads where the handles are attached.  You just don't see this type of attention to detail on contemporary, unmarked bags.  Finally, the feel of the materials.  This is hard to convey via the web, but, the construction of the bag, with solid inserts that can be felt beneath the vinyl surface, and, even the texture and color of the vinyl is a clue.  The bag is older, for sure.

I hope you find this little post helpful.  I will continue to find examples and create more comprehensive posts with regard to dating items in the future.  For now, you will need to just get out there; look, touch, and familiarize yourself!  And yes, this bag is already for sale in my shop.  I had to put it with the other mod items right away.

Oh, and that mod dress you saw peeking into one of the photos above?  I found this one-piece number today too.  The tag is long gone, but again, clearly (to me!) vintage.  I will post this one later in the summer with some other fab color-block mod dresses for the office...


  1. I just bought it! Or, committed to buy it in Etsy-speak. LOVE IT, a trendy-looking vintage alternative to the re-usable shopping bag for trips to the library, quick grocery store shop etc. (I promise I won't put bloody chicken in it.)

  2. Thanks Salvage Chick! I like a woman who knows a good thing when she sees it! And once you pay me, you can put all the bloody chicken in it you like! Just don't let that Kenny guy near it, you know how HE is...

  3. I am in love with this purse!! But I really have no need for more purchases :-( Great process break down here too


Thanks for sharing your thoughts at Carmen and Ginger! Comments may take up to 12 hours to post to the blog.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.




Related Posts with Thumbnails