I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how I date the vintage clothes I find. While I am by no standards an expert, I have been getting much better.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share some tips on how I know when I’ve found something good.

First up is seams. The seams of a garment are where my eyes go first when I pick up a piece of clothing. Depending on the kind of seam, you can easily narrow down when the clothing was made.

Here are a few different kinds of seams:

Example of “pinking”

Example of a “serged” garment 

Simple, stitched seams

In the first photo, notice how the edges are cut into. This is called pinking and was a popular sewing method for seams in the 1950s. Finding a garment with pinked edges is usually a sure sign the item is from the 1950s.

In the second photo, you can see an example of a serged seam. Serging, or overlocking, is a type of seam finish that actually cuts the fabric and leaves overcast stitches to prevent unraveling. Machines commonly referred to as “sergers” are used to do this.

While the method of serging was invented in the late 1800s, it was very rare for it to be widely used on garments until the mid 1960s. Finding a piece of clothing with serged seams lets me know it’s probably from the 1960s or later.

The last photo is one of just simply stitched seams. While I am less familiar with dating clothes with these seams, it can be an indication that the item is pre-1950s. The red and white blouse pictured above is from the 1930s, well before sergers were commonly used.

While these are all good indicators of when an item was made, it’s never the full answer. I usually check the seams first, but then I move on to a whole list of other factors to help me date the piece. What other factors, you say? Well, I’ll get into that next week 🙂