Happening:

Style fetish


Heather Narwid

The glorious designs of vintage garment labels

Tags reflect a deep pride in craft, bygone eras
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The most dapper, monocle’d dude to grace the label of a fantastic 1950s rayon Western snap shirt from “Cinti”– Cincinnati, of all places!
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The most dapper, monocle’d dude to grace the label of a fantastic 1950s rayon Western snap shirt from “Cinti”– Cincinnati, of all places!
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A tag depicting Gray’s storefront with a great font. I believe it dates from the 1940s. This is from a series of framed-on-glitter labels I put together several years ago.
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A tag depicting Gray’s storefront with a great font. I believe it dates from the 1940s. This is from a series of framed-on-glitter labels I put together several years ago.
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Even into the 1980s, tags were quite deluxe and detailed. This one is particularly dramatic. From a lace Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-type dress. I adored this shop back in the day. I have noticed that eyes were very common imagery used in the 1980s, in fabric prints and tags alike. I’d like to ask sociologists why.
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Even into the 1980s, tags were quite deluxe and detailed. This one is particularly dramatic. From a lace Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-type dress. I adored this shop back in the day. I have noticed that eyes were very common imagery used in the 1980s, in fabric prints and tags alike. I’d like to ask sociologists why.
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Tag from the 1960s from Nizhonie Designs out of Cortez – a fascinating story of a pair of Navajo brothers screen-printing fabrics with traditional imagery. This is from a velvet gown printed with kachinas.
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Tag from the 1960s from Nizhonie Designs out of Cortez – a fascinating story of a pair of Navajo brothers screen-printing fabrics with traditional imagery. This is from a velvet gown printed with kachinas.
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A simple, classy and particularly huge vintage label from a cute 1960s sheer Go-Go blouse, sewn in by hand. This one is customized with the buyer’s name!
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A simple, classy and particularly huge vintage label from a cute 1960s sheer Go-Go blouse, sewn in by hand. This one is customized with the buyer’s name!
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A cute and patriotic label in a 1980s sweater. Made in the USA!
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A cute and patriotic label in a 1980s sweater. Made in the USA!
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One of my favorite labels from a women’s coral corduroy Western top from the 1940s or 1950s. Made in Arizona.
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One of my favorite labels from a women’s coral corduroy Western top from the 1940s or 1950s. Made in Arizona.
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Another sophisticated label with an art-deco inspired font. Sewn on by hand to an early-1940s dress.
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Another sophisticated label with an art-deco inspired font. Sewn on by hand to an early-1940s dress.
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Vintage 1960s bike jersey label. An excellent example of a niche clothing maker.
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Vintage 1960s bike jersey label. An excellent example of a niche clothing maker.
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Even workwear had fancy labels in the 1950s. Label from a vintage gabardine work jacket.
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Even workwear had fancy labels in the 1950s. Label from a vintage gabardine work jacket.

Vintage clothing labels are fascinating examples of graphic design and typography worth seeking out and examining for their beauty and for a peek into bygone eras of clothing manufacturing.

These little bespoke graphic-artworks are filled with lovely and bold imagery and logos, designer and shop names in classic fonts and sometimes even a space in which the purchaser’s name would be embroidered. Their design can reflect the style of the garment, like Western wear, or the region where the clothing was made, like the Southwest.

These labels also tell a story of the pride and thoughtfulness that went into the making of a quality garment. The extra expense and time taken by old-school sewers to design and have made intricate and well-designed labels is impressive. Tags were often sewn in by hand with precise, tiny stitches. Extravagant labels must have been considered well worth the effort to best represent and communicate the clothing they adorned.

On lots of tags from shops from the 1930s through the ’60s, the names of the individuals who designed and/or made the garments – sometimes even their addresses, phone numbers and images of their storefronts – remain as poignant reminders of a classier, more detail-oriented past. I like to think of these labels as tiny sartorial love letters to their craft and to the wearer.

Even into later eras of the 1970s and ’80s, tags were of snazzy and bold designs, with the styles of the times reflected.

When you deal with vintage clothing, tags are immediately noticed and examined. They can also provide clues needed to identify the era of a garment.

Find endless examples of beautiful and inspiring vintage fashion labels in your local vintage stores or on Instagram. Search the hashtags: #vintageclothinglabels, #vintagelabels, #clothingtags, #vintagetypography. Search these terms online for other collections of vintage clothing tag imagery. You can also follow Sideshow on Instagram, @sideshow411vintage.

Heather Narwid owns and operates Sideshow Emporium, a vintage and modern clothing store for men and women. Sideshow is located in Durango at 208 County Road 250 (west of Bread and north of Rocky Mountain Pawn at 32nd Street, in with the Vault and Core Value Fitness) and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. Call her at 739-4646 and ask her anything at sideshowdolores@gmail.com.