How to identify vintage zippers

A concise guide to identifying the date of a vintage garment by its zipper.

Often a zip fastener alone does not ensure a correct date identification of vintage clothing. Be aware that zippers can be replaced over time and some modern garments may use a vintage-style zip to create a retro look. However, a zip can be an important piece of the puzzle when trying to age a vintage garment.

Zipper identification can get complicated so I have tried to keep it simple. Further research into individual zipper types can help you get a more accurate date.

The earliest recorded use of a zipper is 1851. Early designs for a modern zipper were used for military, boots and pouches post-1914.

 

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Model Demonstrating the U…
Rex Hardy Jr.

 

metal zipper

a good sign that it might be pre-1960

notes:

Zip fasteners were first used on men’s trousers in the USA in 1927. However, zippers were not common on women’s dresses until late 1930s. Most men’s trousers used button-fly fastening until the 1940s.

 

vintage zippers

metal zipper

 


 

plastic zipper with individual teeth

unusual but a good sign that it might be 1930s to 1960s

notes:

The plastic zipper first appeared in the 1930s on haute couture garments as a statement of modernity. This type of zipper differs from the modern plastic ones as it resembles the style of a metal zip fastener with individual teeth (larger in size than in later nylon/polyester coil zippers with small teeth). These early plastic zippers were not as sturdy as metal ones.

 


 

nylon plastic zipper

a sure sign that it will be post-1960

notes:

Talon produced a nylon zipper for couture fashion in 1960, with its Zephyr line. YKK a nylon zipper in 1963. Nylon zippers are very common from 1968 onwards on mass-produced garments. Be careful when dry cleaning early 1960s nylon zippers as they may not withstand the treatment.


 

vintage zippers

concealed zipper

 

concealed zippers

a good sign that it will be post-1958

notes:

The zipper lies under the edges of both seams rather than just underneath one flap.

 


 

sleeve zippers

mainly 1930s and 1940s

notes:

By the 1940s zippers were no longer always inserted in a flap in the seam and appeared in sleeves, necks and replacing button fasteners as a modern feature.
 


 
Poppy seller pins the flower on cricketer Don Bradman's lapel outside the State Theatre, Sydney, Remembrance Day, early 1930s / photograph by Sam Hood

 

 

press-stud snap or hook fasteners

a good sign that it might be pre-1930s 

notes:

Before zippers appeared in clothing metal dome-shaped snap fasteners and hook-and-eye fasteners were used on dresses at the side seam (see above photo).

 


 

side-seam zipper

a good sign that that it might be pre-1940s

notes:

Side-seam zippers were used from late 1930s – 1960s in women’s clothing: metal zippers using cotton twill tape sewn into the side-seam. Front zippers could also be seen from late 1930s onwards as an alternative to the button-front dress.

 


 

centre-back zipper

a good sign that it might be post-1950s

notes:

Back zippers on dresses and skirts first seen now and then in the 1940s and early 1950s. It is more common late 1950s onwards. This also coincides with zippers moving from the side-seam to the front on ladies’ trousers. It was only when zippers became less likely to break that they moved to a more visible area of the garment. The back was also an easier method for inserting a zip by machine very quickly.

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Model Clad in New Tweed D…

 
Remember, the zipper is often only a part of the puzzle but can be an important part. Take note of the position and type of zipper and have fun being a vintage detective.

38 Comments on “How to identify vintage zippers

  1. YKK was not the first producer of nylon zippers in 1963. Talon was, with its Zephyr line, brought to market first in the couture lines in 1960. See http://thevintagetraveler.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/ad-campaign-talon-zephyr-1960/

    My father worked for Talon in Meadville, Pa. for 45 years, and if he were alive today he would be able to provide much more information. He helped make the tools that made the machines that made these zippers and knew the whole business and process inside and out.

    • Thank you, Jon Kennedy, for the information. This is great news for me and to get it straight from the source is special indeed. You must be proud of your father’s role in history and to continue telling his story. I’m off to take a look at your website now and I’ll amend my information. Thanks again.

    • Talon had the best engineers and tool and die makers! There were designs that were years ohead of the times. I am 2nd generation from Talon Meadville and Indiana. Best COmpany , too bad it left Meadville

    • would you know how old a zipper in a vintage purse with STAR stamped on the little pull tab of zipper?

    • Help. There are a million blogs about talon zippers, I could read for a month and still no have an answer to the following question….what years were the Talin 42 zippers used, mfg?

  2. I am a 2nd generation Talon tool and die maker. My father Louis , along with engineering, developed the pressure proof fastener for the NASA space suit. I was fortunate to have and uncle ,Roy Keisel also as my mentor in the tool room. Talon had the state of the art technology in precision tooling. I was a trainer of apprentices and general foreman of the tool room 2nd shift for many years. Talon was years ahead of others in engineering and manufacturing until Textron.. Powdered metal technology alongside plastic molding were years ahead of others especially prior to WWI. I retired from Talon in 1981, when the Indianapolis Plant 71 closed. I am honored and privileged to have been associated with Talon and it’s fine people.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment so generously, Mr Keisel. It is such a privilege to find out more from those actually involved with the manufacture of these wonderful zippers.

    • I was looking this morning trying to date a zipper for a vintage dress I bought when I stumbled on this great article. I scrolled down to find yours as well! What an honor to read your piece of history, to feel what I knew was the American way, characteristics and principles my granny instilled in us! Value, integrity, pride in workmanship! I wish pieces like you wrote were in our textbooks! You are an excellent writer:)

  3. I’m ecstatic finding information of zippers!!! Thanks to someone(s) who pulled all this together. My life will never be the same. I’m a detective fashion person and having that extra bit of knowledge is great. I am looking also for zipper id-ing of vintage bags.. Right now I’m stumped over a “maybe” Lederer vintage bag whose only identification is an SS on an inside zipper??!!! Anyone have any ideas?
    Thanks again,
    Annie

    • Hi Annie, thanks for your kind comment. Wow, zippers on bags, that could definitely get complicated. That’s a real detective challenge. I hope some zipper experts will be able to help.

  4. I am looking for the maker of a zipper on a leather portfolio with the letters in a triangle C C C
    anyone have an idea?

    • Hi Susan,
      This may be a little late but here goes,
      My wife has a much loved leather bag with a zipper on with the CCC in the triangle tag. The bag is marked BOJOLA FIRENZA. So Italian, one would assume. The zip has just broken with part of the nylon teeth pulled away from the fabric tape. I too am looking for the zip maker as if I can get a replacement zip 300mm long I might be able to replace the broken side only, This would save a fairly extensive dismantling of the good side stitching which is hidden behind the lining. I will try and contact BOJOLA.

  5. Today I bought what I’m sure is a dress from the 1930’s. It’s a dark navy cocktail dress, with knife pleats in the net skirt, and a cummerbund. It’s also off the shoulder, and the top is made of lace. It has a side zipper, and it fits me LIKE A DREAM! The zipper says, “SEGA.” The top layer is see-through, and it has a built in polyester-type spaghetti strap under dress. The seams are very generous, and the fabric has been pinked. If you don’t know what that means, please don’t reply.

  6. I’m trying to get dates for jeans with Talon zippers. I’ve found Talon 42 and Talon on different jeans. Is there a good source to get dates?

  7. I have bought a pair of vintage 551zxx..im still wonder why the zipper is blank,are this type of blank zipper is ykk products ..tq

  8. I am trying to identify the era of a dress with a zipper marked “RELEES-IT”. Does anyone have any idea? It is a metal zipper. Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Karen

  9. I lived two blocks up Pine Street from the “Hookless” factory. In 1943-44 I worked the evening shift, getting an early pass to skip a late study hall from Meadville High. Most production was for military uniforms because brass was scarce. Some pot metal zippers were made but Talon refused to allow it’s name to be imbossed on the slider so they imprinted a V (called it the “victory”
    zipper). One floor was producing other war items besides zippers. One zipper had a fast release on the top for navy pilots who would need to quickly remove their boots in a crash. Moved to Pittsburgh in 1944.

  10. How about Serval zipper????? I cannot find anything about this thing :(. It’s on what i think is a ukulele/ violin soft case. There are no markings other than on the zipper. Anyone? Thx

  11. anyone know a old zipper in a purse stamped STAR on the little pull tab of zipper?

  12. Does anyone have any info-history of EMAR jacket zippers used in the US in 70’s and 80’s-not sure if origin is French or Italian-were they used on high end jackets?? Thx!

  13. i just bought a fake fur leopard print purse with a metal zipper with S & H on the pull. who made S& H? my brain just went to green stamps. the strap looped to the pull is a leather thong. i have a good idea of the decade but the zipper is a mystery.

  14. Anyone know of a metal zipper in a dress with MARK engraved in the pull? On a dress, 50s 60s perhaps?? Thanks!!

  15. I have a vintage leather document portfolio with a tooled acorn/oak leaf decoration. It zips up with a solid Talon zipper on 2 sides of the folio. Trying to date it. Any ideas? Zipper appears to be brass and still works like a charm.

  16. Does anyone know of a rather large zipper pull for handbags called Astro.
    I have a purse with this large zipper pull. The bag is made in Mexico.

  17. Hi can someone help please I have a vintage tweed burberry ‘s bag there is no YKK but inside zip pull is black metal with SAM etched on the zipper do this mean it is authentic ?

  18. I recently purchased a vintage burberry prorsum check soft sided suitcase from the early 80’s or maybe early 90’s.
    It has Areitio on the inside of all the zippers.
    If I’m correct this means the suitcase was made in Italy?.

  19. I have a US Navy G1 flight jacket that is missing the manufacturer label with the mil spec number,
    manufacturer name and size of jacket, However, on the bottom stop of the zipper there is a cap-
    ital recessed letter “G” stamped on the stop with a vertical recessed line to each side.

    My question is, what company made this zipper and/or jacket? Any help would be greatly app-
    recited.

  20. would it be correct to have RIES zippers on a 1943 German jump smock thanks for any info
    you can share

  21. I am trying to find out more information about a pair of pants I found. The pants are made by Gay-Town Toronto. I have found a couple of their items but none of the zippers are close to the one I’m inquiring about. The zipper is located on the side of the pants but instead of running vertically on the side it goes horizontally. It’s like a locking zipper and the one piece moves over the track. The one piece says Trek Brantford Ontario. I have several pictures if seeing it might help. Thank you in advance.

  22. hi
    i recently found a western-looking suede bomber jacket from a thrift store, and im trying to date it. it doesnt have any labels, but the zippes have “DePe” engraved on them, if anyone has any idea of when these zippers were made, please let me know!

  23. I have a sixties-ish dress with a RULON zipper. Anyone know anything about them?

  24. Just bought a vintage German leather jacket that has DePe stamped on the sleeve zippers, the main zipper has RUHR both embossed & engraved on it and “MADE IN GERMANY” embossed on the back. Jacket is by Harro, seller says 70s/80s vintage. I’d guess around 1980, however Harro still sell a very similar jacket for 749 euros. This jacket is a higher quality item than I was wearing in the 80s, so I could be a bit off..

  25. I’m looking for any information on a zipper with the word ( Reor ) on it. Zipper is on a leather purse made in Brazil. Brand Name Unknown.

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