On the other hand, don't automatically assume that a batwing sleeve sweater is 80s - Dolman sleeves were quite popular in the 50s.Popular sleeve styles in the...(Note: These are just the dominant sleeve styles from each era, as a guide)Look also at the length of the skirt - the timeline below briefly illustrates skirt styles and lengths from the 1930s to early 60s (I'll be discussing this in more detail when we come to the Building a Vintage Wardrobe series): So a "1950s" dress with a skirt that finishes above the knee might be a square dance dress from the 1970s or later (likewise for froufrou petticoats); though it's possible it was designed for a teen or short lady.

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Obviously it's not exactly unknown for an old garment to be given a replacement zip, or for a repro dress to be sewn (as I do) with a metal zip; so take this along with other factors in your assessment.

Another aspect to note is the placement of the zip; 30s and 40s dresses usually had the zip in the side seam (with a second short zip at the back of the neck, on high necklines), whereas from the late 50s onwards it became common to place the zip in the centre back.

Again I stress this is not a hard and fast rule (I have a dress which I'm sure is late 50s or even early 60s, which has a snap placket in the side seam).

Labels The label can be full of clues as to an item's age.

Zippers & Closures The second thing I look at is the style of zip.

Plastic zips were uncommon before the 1970s, so if for example you're looking at a circle skirt, a metal zip will be a good sign that it's an original 1950s skirt, while a plastic zip can be an indicator of a later item.

Even if you don't intend to be a purist about things, it helps to know an item's approximate era in order to avoid being taken for a ride by unscrupulous or ignorant sellers and overpaying for something that's been misdescribed.

Or perhaps you'll find yourself in a charity shop, clutching what you think just may be an original 1950s dress.

I have a quick checklist I work through whenever I spot an item I think might be vintage.