How to work out the age of Vintage Clothes

June 14th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

It can be so hard to know what’s vintage and what isn’t.  It can also be equally confusing to figure out what era clothing is, and weather or not it’s actually an original vintage piece!

What does vintage really mean, and how old does something have to be, to be called vintage or antique?  Here is some tips that will hopefully guide you in the right direction when buying your Vintage clothes…..

Firstly, as far as were concerned anything from the 1930’s and back is absolutely in the antique category.  Items from the 1940’s to the 1960’s are vintage and anything from the 1970’s to the 1990’s is retro.

Antique: 1930’s and before

Vintage: 1940’s-1960’s

Retro: 1970’s-1990’s

Vintage Style or Reproduction: Inspired from a particular era and have taken the shape, cut, and design.


It may surprise you to know that many familiar contemporary brands have actually been around for quite a long time.  For example Abercrombie & Fitch was established in 1892, Marks & Spencers (St Michael) was founded in 1884, and Kangol was founded in 1938.  Therefore just because you recognise the label doesn’t mean it’s really a modern item.  Checking out the fashion house or company label – this is the label at the top of the garment – is a great way to judge how old something is.   The style of the label, or for example the colour and font are key indicators of age.   The Vintage Fashion Guild has an online archive so you can look up a label and see how it has evolved and changed throughout the years, and can compare it to your own.  This is extremely helpful in pinpointing when your items may have been made.  Another good way to date your clothing is to look for union labels, which can often be found on the side seams or underneath the company label.  These are really helpful in dating your garment quite accurately and again, the information can be found online in the Vintage Fashion Guild archive.

Anything with a CC41 Logo/Label is called The Utility logo and was introduced in 1941 during World War Two.  The British Board of Trade required that that this label appeared on footwear, utility furniture, textiles, and some clothing for just over ten years from 1941 to 1952. As the label had quite a short life, again this is a great way of narrowing down when your item may have been made.

CC41_markThere is a bit of speculation as to when exactly care labels were introduced and used but we can be sure that it mostly started in the late 1960’s early 1970’s. So if you have an item of clothing that is posing as a 1940’s dress, if the fabric is synthetic, it has care labels, and a plastic zip your most likely looking at a 1970’s copy or modern piece.

Below is a Marks and Spencers dress. If you just saw a picture of the dress without seeing the labels, you could easily think it was from the 1960’s due to the cut and style.  However there are a few things about it that might surprise you:

In the early 1960’s the mods and rockers dominated the runway. The women wore short skirts/dresses, and big brightly coloured boots. This dress is slightly longer in length but still retains a lot of the 1960’s look and cut which suggests that it’s most likely a late 1960’s early 1970’s item.


looking at the labels also gives us a clue as to when it was made. The number located on the bottom right hand side of the first label, CA01295,  is a Canadian industry registration number for ‘Marks and Spencer Canada’. The second label has coloured international cleaning symbols, which were again only used in Canada, so we definitely know this was made for the Canadian market. St Michael launched in Canada in 1973 and French was only introduced around the same date so this suggests that this dress is most likely to be no later than 1973. Although the shape and cut are very much still 1960s, it’s a good bet that this dress was made in 1973!


Unfortunately, you can’t always find out the exact dates of items.  Records get lost, things don’t get written down etc, but it’s very cool to know that with a bit of research you can find out rough dates and interesting information about the brands that made your vintage pieces.

Another thing we touched upon earlier and should mention again as we are on the subject of labels, is where the item was made. If it says made in China, it’s probably not true vintage (unless it’s a traditional Chinese piece, of course!). In 1887 Britain introduced foreign produce to have the “MADE IN…….” Label as foreign manufactures had been falsely marking inferior goods with the marks of renowned British manufacturing companies and importing them into the United Kingdom. The MADE IN ENGLAND label is becoming rather scarce so if you have an item that looks 1960’s and it says Made In England i would be 98% sure your item is a true vintage piece.

Back in the day most clothing did not have labels t0 tell you what the fabric it was made from. It was only in the 1960’s and 70’s that you start to see dry clean only, and 100% wool labels.  This is another way to help you determine the age of your vintage garment.


Rayon:  Popular during the 1920s and was very commonly found during the 1940s. There are two types of rayon – filament, which looks like silk, and spun, which resembles cotton or linen.

Polyester:  Invented in the 1950s under names like Dacron until the 60s. It became labelled as polyester in the 70s.

Acrylic:  Synthetic wool-like/knitted fibre, was brought into popularity in the 1950s.



1930s: Metal poppers were usually used or small covered buttons. Metal zippers aren’t as common, but if they are present they are always in the side-seam. Plastic zippers did not exist at this point

1940s: There were limitations on the number of buttons that could be used due to rationing. Metal zippers are becoming more common, again were found in the side seam.  Still no plastic zippers.

1950s: Zippers are migrating to the centre back of dresses, and mostly metal. Invisible zippers were invented in the 1950s, but didn’t come into use until later. If you think something is from the 1950’s but the zipper is plastic or invisible, it might be a very good copy OR a replacement zipper.

1960s – 1970s: Plastic zippers arrive in the early 60’s, and become more prevalent throughout the 60’s and 70’s.  Metal zippers are still used by some manufacturers who appreciated their durability over the more fashionable and cheaper plastic versions.

Cut Shape & Design

The cut, shape and design of an item can certainly indicate what era your item might be from.  Obviously styles can overlap, but for the most part you can  tell with a true antique or vintage item what era it is, by looking at its stitching, construction, and shape.

The 1930’s  were all about: Feminine butterfly sleeves and the waistline.

Unlike the boyish look of the 1920’s, the silhouette of the 1930’s day dress was very much about the elegant feminine form. It was tall and slender, with broad shoulders, small bust and waistline. The reason for having puffed sleeves and angular shoulders, was to give the illusion of a smaller waistline. Most dresses in this period were at calf length, and were heavily influenced by stars of the silver screen, like Joan Crawford, who was notorious for rocking the large shoulder pad and small waist look.

Below is a great example of the 1930’s nipped waist dress with puffed sleeves.




The 1940’s were all about:  Simple designs & Bold Patterns

Fashion became simpler, and day wear looked more like a military uniform; unlike the floaty feminine look of the 1930’s.  During the war, fabric, like everything else was heavily rationed, as vast supplies of all fabrics, buttons and fastenings were required to make military uniforms and equipment.   Embellishments like pleating, and long hemlines were seen to be an extravagant use of much needed fabric.  As a result the hem line rose to just above the knee, and trousers became narrower.  Overall cuts were straighter simpler and made the most efficient use of the available fabric.

Printed rayon was popular for 1940s dresses.  Bold prints made a dress stand out despite the absence of tailored features that required extra material.

Trousers gained in popularity for women during this period, as many found themselves taking on the roles of the men who had gone to fight.  It might sound mad, but before then it was very rare for a women to wear trousers.  As feminism and women’s rights rose the wide legged trouser became an essential part of ones clothing.

Here is a wonderful example of a 1940’s evening dress.



The 1950’s were all about:  The new world, feminine Curves, variety of luxurious fabrics, excess fabric, showing off intricate gatherings, a multitude of pleats, poofy petticoats, and fabulous collars!

After the War, fashion was desperate to move out of its basic colour pallette and simple cuts of the 1940’s and move into what most fashionistas call the “New Look,” as coined by Christian Dior. The 1950s dresses became rounded, with ballerina length hems and cinched waists for a delicate, feminine hourglass look. The sheath dress was another design that created the desired silhouette of the decade, as the form-fitting material clung to natural curves. Ornate necklines also came into vogue; many dresses were constructed with jeweled or peter pan collars, or jazzed up with low-cut sweet heart necklines for a feminine touch.

As the decade continued, halter style dresses (developed in the 1930s as a part of evening wear) received a more casual approach; halter sundresses with cute, vibrant patterns like gingham and floral became popular. The shirt dress also came to be during this era as a casual-yet-cute option for housewives.

Here is an early 1950’s cocktail evening dress made of silk taffeta and hand painted floral design.



Here is a mid 1950’s cotton day dress with floral pattern.



The 1960’s were all about: A Mish Mash of,  Mods, Rockers, The resurgence of the 1930’s, Space, Bright Colours and Synthetics!!!!

1960’s, clothing started to really shift and change. It morefed into something new fresh and exciting and very much it’s own.

Although still a little conservative in the early part of the era, the fashion houses started to turn there attention to the younger generation, taking inspiration from the Mods and Rockers unique looks, which were well-tailored, with clean lines and slim silhouettes. Completely different to the 1950’s look.  Fashion icon Twiggy, revolutionised the mini skirt and suddenly skirt hem lines become almost non-existent!

The 1930s style came back in fashion, which was sparked by the rising popularity of old movies revived on television. Hubert de Givenchy of Paris however, sparked major influence in the dress of the decade, due to his styling for Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The high-bosomed, sleeveless, slim silhouette dress was glamorous, sophisticated and edgy.


At this time Jackie Kennedy was also a fashion icon,  she was seen to be young, fresh and inspirational with her fashion choices taking on a lot of the new styles of clothing of the day.  Her gentle, high bosomed coats and dresses, slender evening dresses, berets, breton hats, her impeccable jewellery and even her sports wear consistently dominated fashion headlines.


The space race,  In 1959 the first unmanned moon landing was made by the Russians and by 1962 the Americans had done the same. Then in 1969 America were the first to land humans on the moon! This caught the imagination of the world and inspired the “space age” look which became all the rage. Lots of metallics, unusual materials and interesting shapes were used.



Here is a mid 1960’s flower power dress with dramatic sleeves.


A Sweet Mod, Crimpoline gogo dress.


A 1960’s raw silk party dress with gold brocade bodice.



The 1970’s were all about: Peace, Love, The jumpsuit and The “Me Decade”

Early 1970s fashion was such a fun era. It culminated the best elements of the 1960s and perfected and exaggerated them. It perfectly blended the mods with the hippies and created a flamboyant fashion revolution. It’s safe to say that it became the most iconic decade ever!


As in every decade, the fashions of the 1970s were influenced by the social and political issues of the era. During the early 70s, fashion reflected the anti-war, pro-peace mentality that had begun toward the end of the 60s, and flourished as the hippie look became more mainstream.

Polyester was the fabric of choice with bright colours and psychedelic prints. Tight flared trousers platform shoes and cropped tops were a popular fashion choice.  Generally the most famous silhouette of the mid 1970s was the tight fitting bodice, loose trousers/skirts, which applied to both men and women. But by the late 1970s the birth of the indifferent, anti-conformist approach to fashion, which consisted of jumpers, t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers were also popular amongst the hippies.

Disco music was also taking the 70’s by storm and this gave birth to the hot pant, jump suit, lyrica trousers and everything sequinned!379af75db9bc84159f55a09ed4386698





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We hope this post has helped with those niggling vintage questions.

If you want to know anything else or if you have an item you’d like to know more about, please email us and we’d be happy to help.


Past Forward Retro xxxx

Vintage Inspired Music

May 1st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s a list of some of our fave current vintage style bands:



He is one of our fave musicians at the moment. He not only has an amazing speaking voice which is a cross between a Southern/Australian accent from about 1940 but his incredible singing voice and lyrical content is descriptive, clever and will most definitely captivate you.
He will make you wonder if he was cryogenically frozen and brought back to the present day due to his ridiculously wonderful storytelling and vintage sound. Although his stories are impossible you cant help but believe his tales of being stranded on a desert island.

His live performances are amazing, his album Jungle Blues is a real treat and we would definitely recommend you add him to your playlist. (Sometimes we play CW on repeat at PFR headquarters…. tee hee)

“In many ways, CW Stoneking is comparable to a young Leon Redbone. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Could there be anyone like Leon? There wasn’t until now.

CW likes to yodel like Jimmie Rodgers, break into falsettos like Redbone and looks like he just stepped out of an old period movie set—like maybe “The Sting” or “Bonnie and Clyde”. He really looks the part, complete with the hair close cropped on the sides, the garb from head to toe. Like Leon, he is always in the act, dressed up for the part. He plays old parlour guitars, resonators and other old time guitars and in every conceivable way gives you the retro act. The result is a farcical journey into the jungles of Africa by explorers who meet the strangest adventures, and listeners are treated to a boundlessly exciting musical joyride.”

Review taken from here



We found this band and just fell in love with this sibling group. Check out their video “Dont Make a Fool Out Of Me” it’s great!!!!!

It was a full house at Auckland’s Power station last night and this time it wasn’t just hipsters in socks and frocks who turned out to see the Kentish town siblings Kitty, Daisy and Lewis (KDL).

This time the band, who have played their unique mix of 1940s/50s roots, country, rock’n’roll, blue and ska in New Zealand three times in as many years, attracted an audience of all ages.

And if the full set and two encores worth of dancing and cheering was an indication they were appreciative of the remarkable raw instrumental talent KDL bring to a digital world.

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Durham were, as usual, accompanied by their parents, former Raincoats drummer, “Mama Weiss” on upright bass and “Daddy Grazz” on acoustic guitar and had a guest appearance by legendary Jamaican trumpet player Eddie “Tan Tan” Thornton.

And as usual the trio put on a humdinger of a show.

(review taken from

To read more click here



Past Forward Retro


Retrospective – London Fashion Week’s first ever vintage fashion show!

September 21st, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Bourne and Hollingsworth’s Retrospective is an exciting new London Fashion Week show and party that explores the past to predict next season’s trends. It took place at Bloomsbury Ballroom on Saturday 15th September 2012, and featured catwalk shows exhibiting beautiful one-off pieces from the world’s finest design houses and collections.

The models wore fierce eyebrows, bouffant hair and some of fashions most exclusive vintage finds from the 1920’s – 1980’s. We can’t wait for next season’s show!

Check out some pictures of Past Forward Retro’s vintage fashion show here.



Were you there? If so post some of your pictures in the comment section of this post!


Past Forward Retro xx

Apple’s clothing range from the 80’s!

June 19th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Imagine stumbling across one of these beauties in a charity shop! Sarah and I have a rule that we shouldn’t buy things because they are ‘funny’ or ‘ironic’ as they probably will end up unworn in a suitcase under your bed. However it’s a rule that I would not follow if I found an original Apple sweatshirt or one of those caps! To be honest it’s a rule that we rarely follow!



Afternoon Tea @ The Berkeley Hotel

February 26th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

If you haven’t already had afternoon tea at The Berkeley Hotel, located in Knightsbridge London, then you really are missing out!!


This is not a traditional english tea service, it is so much better and once you go you’ll never want to go anywhere else.

Situated in the gorgeous Caramel room, you are welcomed by beautifully presented members of staff, the girls wearing a purple 50’s style taffeta dress and the boys in white coats and black bow ties.

All the food is displayed on Paul Smith china and when you sit down you get given a very simple but elegant menu to choose from there very large selection of teas.  I went for Chocolate Mint truffle, this was very strong and does not require milk as i later found out!! Once settled you are presented with a lovely selection of sandwiches and wrap. If your a veggie they are most accommodating, serving my friend a lovely selection which was not on the menu.

Do not be fooled by the small portions, you can have as many plates of sandwiches and cake trays as your heart desires, yes as many as you like!!! It’s really more like a glorified buffet. I decided to restrain myself and only had one plate of sandwiches as i was keen to try out the cakes and mini savouries.

Each cake is beautifully crafted into small pieces of art, it almost feels a bit of a crime to eat them. However you get over that rather quickly as these fantastic fashion inspired cakes not only look superb but taste divine!!  I had the Autumn/Winter collection however if you go in the summer they will have a completely different collection this is due to the fact that there fashion inspirations are from current collections on the catwalk.

This is the best place in London to go for afternoon tea and one of the best priced at only £37.50!

Vintage Inspired Halloween costumes…

October 31st, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

First of all, happy halloween! So, I went to a halloween party last night and it got me thinking about vintage inspired halloween costumes. Beyond Retro have a massive section of vintage clothes that could be transformed into great vintage halloween outfits. So if your reading this and you have an original vintage inspired halloween costume, tell us about it and send a picture in the comment section of this post!

I went to this party last night as a 1940’s evacuee girl. Unfortunately I didn’t quite make it to the countryside and was killed in the Blitz, only to be resurrected again on Halloween 2010. It’s a bit of a random one but it was the only costume left in Walthamstow market that wasn’t slutty, and it only cost me £1!! I attached a piece of paper with “Norfolk, child: 13” with a safety pin, and carried a 1940’s satchel.

I’ll put some pictures up soon, but in the meantime…..send us your pictures and tell us your story!!!

Sun 26th Sept: Past Forward Retro@Jumbleree, The George Tavern (Whitechapel)

September 24th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

This Sunday 26th September, we will be setting up a stall at The George
Tavern’s fortnightly event “Jumbleree”. We will be selling vintage
clothes, vintage jewellery, shoes, and handmade jewellery.

“The Jumbleree at Shadwell’s George Tavern has become something of an
institution. Much of its appeal for punters is on-trend nature of the
experience. “We have everyone from young fashion students, to musicians
selling their records, to stylists and buyers,” explains the pub’s arts
co-ordinator Dee Sada. “There are even raw foods and handmade jewellery.”

The Jumbleree sale is open from – 12.30-6.30PM.

Films will be showing from Stray Cinema and Video Is The Only Constant
from 5pm.

The George Tavern can be found at 373 Commercial Road, E1 0LA. The
nearest tube is Shadwell (Overground & DLR).

For more information visit the Facebook event:

There is no charge for entry.

See you there!
Jess, Past Forward Retro xx

Vintage Emporium – Possibly the best vintage shop on Brick Lane!

July 5th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I was wondering along Brick Lane yesterday, picking up bargains from fly pitchers, and sipping my £1 strawberry juice from a market stall, when I spotted a sign promising vintage clothes, tea and coffee. As an opportunist I find it hard not to explore and usually give every shop, night etc a chance. I am so glad that I visited this shop! Expecting the usual 80s/90s rubbish I could not have been more wrong! The newest item you can expect to find in this shop is from the 1950s! When you enter the shop on Bacon St, (just off Brick Lane) you arrive in a 40s/ 50s style kitchen offering tea, coffee and cakes, but downstairs is where you’ll find the real treats! Beautiful dresses fill the shop from pre 1920s – 1950s. They also have lovely cotton and silk shirts that would look lovely if you prefer to mix vintage with modern clothes. Overall a really stunning array of clothes, with no tacky synthetic 80s dresses in sight!


V&A release four new pattern books this month!

June 14th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I am very excited about the new V&A pattern books that have just been released this month! Novelty Patterns, Owen Jones, Kimono, and Garden Florals, are the four titles in the new series.


Kimono displays some of the best Japanese textile patterns at the V&A, ranging over 200 years from the early nineteenth century.

Novelty Patterns

Novelty Patterns showcases that innovative and fanciful decoration employed for lightweight fabrics made between the early 1920s and the late 1940s.

Garden Florals

Garden Florals shows – mainly British- plant-form patterns from 1880-1910.

Owen Jones

Owen Jones features the breadth of the Victorian designer’s work, from his passion for Islamic decoration to his influentail work, The Grammar of Ornament, first published in 1856.

The pocket-sized books make attractive and collectable gifts but are also a valuable source of ideas for designers of all kinds. At only £7.99 they are great for the coffee table!

Past Forward Retro

Make a 1920’s Dress in under 1 Hour!

June 7th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

For all you aspiring dress makers and vintage clothes lovers…how would you like to make a 1920’s inspired dress in under 1 hour!?

I have always wanted to make clothes, but with no Textiles course at my school, and Mum’s sewing machine always looking a little TOO complicated for me, I never really got further than a few cross stitches!

But after picking up a sewing machine from a Cheltenham Car Boot sale for £5 I really had no excuse not to get stuck in! I even found some vintage hook and eyes, buttons and zips to add to my collection!

After using lots of patterns and several failed attempts I stumbled across a site that was selling the dressmaker; Mary Brook’s original 1923 pamphlet which helped women to make a 1920’s flapper dress in under 1 hour! How cool is that!

You can order the pamphlet here!

Good luck and be sure to upload your pictures of your finished dress!

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