Vintage Zippers

by Lisa Basye , Seattle Goodwill
December 10, 2013

 “I wear your granddad’s clothes…..I look incredible.” – Macklemore, Thrift Shop

In this case it is your grandma’s clothes, especially if she was in her prime in the late 1950’s – early 1960’s.  I am delighted to show everyone how to find great vintage styles at Seattle Goodwill.

Prior to becoming an employee in 2011, I had always been a Seattle Goodwill shopper with an eye towards vintage clothing.  With the rise in popularity of shows like “Mad Men” and “Vegas” more people than ever are embracing mid-century fashion.  While it might seem overwhelming to know what to look for or how to find what is right for you, whatever you select should reflect your personal style and never feel like a “costume.”

What to look for?  Most clothing from this era was either made at home or altered to fit, so if there is not a label the best place to look is at the zipper.  Pretty much all zippers produced before 1960 were metal.  There are also a couple of brands that are no longer produced that are a mid-century dead giveaway.   

The first is Talon:

Talon ZipperTalon Zippers

These zippers were only produced until 1978.  They are metal and will have the name on the pull in cursive or all capital letters as shown above.

The second is Scovill:

Scovill ZipperScovill Zipper

This company is still in existence, but stopped producing all metal zippers in the late 60’s.  The brand will be on the zipper pull in either of the two fonts shown above.

The placement of the zipper can also help identify vintage.  Most dresses made during the 40’s have the zipper placed on the left side.  This is because with all of the men at war, women needed to be able to zip up their own dresses!  The zippers moved to the back starting in the 1950’s.  After 1960, almost all dresses have the zipper on the center back seam.  (This factoid may someday help you win Jeopardy.)

Dress Zippers

The next thing to look for is a union label.  If the item was massed produced prior to 1970, it will have a blue and white union label similar to these.

Union Label Union Label    

This should help get you started!  Next time I will talk about how to translate vintage into your everyday wardrobe, but until then, keep an eye out for those metal zippers!


Lisa Basye is a mid-century girl trying to make it in the modern world! She loves helping people understand vintage and finding ways to integrate it into their daily wardrobes and homes.

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