Is that really an Authentic “Vintage” dress you’re buying?

Lately I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend.  We have been getting more and more emails from gals who have been searching for  vintage dresses online and discovered an authentic vintage dress of ours that is no longer available ,  then emailing us to ask when we are going to restock it.  Of course this is impossible, since authentic vintage dresses are not replaceable.   This used to be an isolated incident.  Now it is a daily occurrence.  At first I couldn’t figure out why so many people would keep asking us this, even though our product descriptions clearly state whether it’s a  true vintage or vintage STYLE or Inspired piece.  Basically when we call something a  1950s dress it is an honest to goodness, vintage dress from back in that era!  And our new clothing is also clearly described as vintage inspired, retro,  vintage style50s style dress1920s reproduction dress, etc, etc……You get the picture!  We’ve been selling this product mix for years and have never had the amount of inquires like this until recently.

So I started doing some research to try and figure out why.  And it didn’t take very long!

Just do a search on Google, Bing, Yahoo or search any of the social/fashion bookmarking sites for any of the above phrases  and you’ll see gazillions of results, many of which will never take you to authentic vintage clothing of any kind . You know, the one of a  kind,  unique pieces that were actually made back in the day. This is causing a serious amount of confusion for consumers, as more and more women are making purchases and don’t even  know what they are buying!  And, believe me, it is happening a lot. We actually have had customers buy authentic vintage dresses from us who thought they were new!   Then they email us afterwards about how much they like the dress , but wish they could exchange it for another size because it didn’t fit!

Why is this a problem? Because real vintage clothing is a often a collectible commodity that is scarce and potentially increases or at least retains its value over time.  That is not necessarily the case with new vintage looking clothing.   Just like furniture, you can buy a real antique piece or a new reproduction that looks like the old style.   The original is  usually quite different from the modern  in terms of  rarity, construction techniques, textiles used and value.

So you can see what I mean, here are a couple of examples I found on a recent Google search for  50s dress and vintage dresses .  The  first one is described as a 50s dress, but in no way looks anything like one and it is new from a very well known department store.  The second is described as a “vintage dress. ”  Though very cute, it is  obvious from the very short skirt that it is not authentic.  Hmmmmm.  

50s dress?

50s dress?

faux 50s dress

Vintage dress?

And here is one of the main reasons why this is happening.  Because the “vintage look” has become more popular, many companies vying for top search engine results want to optimize their websites for popular search terms to drive customers to their sites.  I mean, heck,  that’s what everyone with an ecommerce site needs to do and there is nothing inherently wrong with that.  But if you’re driving traffic to your site based on misleading search terms that don’t accurately describe your products,  then that just makes the online shopping experience for the consumer more confusing!

And let’s face it, the bigger companies, with bigger  budgets, usually rise to the top of the search results.  Consumers, of course, trust the brand name companies and assume their products are being described accurately. But that’s not necessarily the case.  And the search engines, themselves, certainly can’t distinguish between which terms are being accurately used to describe products.  So this creates a problem when you’re trying to find the right product, in this case,  genuine vintage clothing.  I know I have ended up wading through pages and pages of results, that lead to nothing that was even remotely close to the authentic vintage item I was searching for.  It can get pretty frustrating.

So here are some helpful tips for those ladies who are searching for the real deal!

•If  it available in multiple sizes, then it is NOT an authentic vintage garment.

•If  the description states Made in China, it is NOT authentic vintage, though some would argue China made clothing from the 1990s is now vintage.  But that’s a whole other issue that I won’t get into right now.

•If  the garment has an invisible zipper, it most likely is NOT an authentic vintage piece, especially if you found it through a search for 50s dresses, or 40s dresses. They did not use invisible zippers back then.

•If the skirt is very short, it most likely isn’t a  true vintage dress, unless you’re looking for an authentic 60s minidress!

If searching for flapper dresses, be aware, authentic ones are extremely rare and not form fitting. So most of what you see online listed as a flapper dress or 20s dress is most likely a new “modernized” version of dresses from that era.

•And finally, if you’re looking for real, one of a kind,  vintage clothing, try searching using more specific terms  like authentic, true, one of a kind,  or genuine in front of the item you’re searching for.  You’ll probably have better luck that way, since online search for vintage clothing  these days has become a minefield of misinformation.  It is definitely buyer beware!

Has anyone else had a similar experience when trying to shop online recently for vintage clothes?  Do you even care how companies describe their clothing, as long as you like it?




By | 2014-02-10T11:41:15-04:00 February 10th, 2014|Fashion|6 Comments

About the Author:

Hi, I'm Theresa, owner and chief classy dame at the Blue Velvet Vintage online boutique. Lover of mid century fashion and home decor, classic films, Old Hollywood, pretty dresses, red lipstick, swing dancing and retro culture in general. Between my ecommere site and vintage style blog my mission is to revive the eras of classy dressing and inspire women to add more glamour to their lives! So don't be shy! I love to hear from others who share my appreciation of the styles of the past.


  1. Theresa C.
    Theresa C. February 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Jessica, I can totally relate about having to put blinders on! And thanks for your input on this important matter. You are correct that there are shoppers out there who are less experienced with buying vintage, who don’t really know if they are getting an authentic piece from the past or something new. That’s why it is important for me to try and educate those buyers new to the vintage market. And I certainly appreciate the kind words about our business 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Jessica Cangiano February 18, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you so much for speaking up publicly about this important point, Theresa/Blue Velvet Vintage team. I’m not currently vintage seller, but I’ve been a buyer for half my life now (and an online shopper since I got my first computer in 2004) and have almost had to put on blinders to block out all of the products that are tooted as vintage which are, in fact, modern pieces that may, or in some cases may not, look the part of an actual old school item.

    I have no qualms with people using terms like “vintage inspired” or “vintage style”, but they need to clearly state the piece in question is modern and not genuinely from decades past. I always do so when highlighting any kind of fashion (or other type of merchandise) in my blog posts, as I’m happy to say that my wardrobe is a blend of genuine vintage, vintage reproduction, 1980s does 40s/50s, and modern vintage inspired and appropriate pieces.

    I’ve never had the wool pulled over my eyes when it came to dating vintage, but for those who are new to the scene or who might not be aware of the excellent points you raised here to be on the lookout for, I’m sure many people have been duped into thinking what they were buying was vintage, when it fact it was modern. It’s awesome that, for every shady seller out there, there are companies like yours with integrity, who are honest about all their listings and that customers can shop from with total peace of mind, no matter if they’re seasoned vintage buying veterans or shopping for their first ever old school piece.

    ♥ Jessica

  3. Theresa C.
    Theresa C. February 11, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Hey Maggie, appreciate your response:)And I do think that is what is happening. Many shoppers do not know the difference. I can imagine it also affects businesses like yours who sell only vintage. I wonder if you ever get customers who purchase from you thinking they’re getting something new that looks vintage instead of authentic. Plus it also negatively affects the search results for vintage sellers as well. Though I do notice vintage Etsy shops get pretty good placement.

  4. Avatar
    Maggie/denisebrain February 11, 2014 at 12:13 am

    I feel for you Theresa, and appreciate this post. I only sell vintage, but I imagine there might be more confusion when selling both reproduction styles and authentic vintage. I know that Google searches now bring up repro sites first when searching for vintage. Do shoppers know the difference? Thank you for pointing out some clues!

  5. Theresa C.
    Theresa C. February 10, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    You are absolutely right about the deadstock. But, as you say, very rare. You don’t come across multiple sizes of new old stock dresses very often. It’s like hitting the lottery:) And we do love when we come across plus size vintage, as that is hard to come by as well. You’re lucky you have the talent to make your own!

  6. Avatar
    Eva Andersson February 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    There are such things as vintage deadstock, so multiple sizes isn’t impossible, but rare.
    Even more rare is plus size, so I don’t even consider real vintage and make my own clothes acording to patterns of the time instead, just modified to fit my body shape, like any good seamstress would have done then too.

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