Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vintage or not?

Let's just say that dating "vintage" finds is something I'm still learning.

I generally rely on my instincts + the color scheme and content of an item + any unique/particularly vintage details + whatever else I notice...?  Oh, and if the seller has identified the decade the item is from, and written it on a little tag, that helps too. :)

Other than that, where you're shopping definitely affects the potential difficulty level of dating any items you find. If you're at an antique store, it's reasonable to expect that the clothing and other items you look at are vintage (though there can always be exceptions). At a thrift store, though, you can't really know what to expect when you pull something off the rack. It could be anything from a crusty sweatshirt from 1996, to a brand new dress from Old Navy, to a hidden vintage gem.

On a recent Goodwill trip, I picked up a sweater that seemed like it could be vintage, but it was hard to say. It definitely had a retro look to it, it smelled old (but that could just have been from hanging out with old stuff at Goodwill), the style of the tag seemed old but new at the same time, and some of the details on the sweater seemed to indicate that it was vintage.

mystery sweater

Here she is. This sweater is a deep, bright orange color (not quite as neon as this picture makes it look), and with the contrasting off-white collar and button placket, I first thought, "is this some '70s does '40s-inspired thing?" And then I started to think... "maybe it's just some '70s thing...or '80s?" I was all over the place. The tag says it's cashmere and it fit well, so I decided to bring it home, regardless.

This thing totally un-buttons all the way!

The cut and structure of the sweater, apart from the color scheme, are what had me thinking it was vintage-y. The larger section of fitted ribbing at the hips/below the waist and the almost 3/4 length sleeves seemed rather retro to me, too. Also, the decorative top-stitching along the collar and placket, along with the fact that the buttons down the front are completely functional, not just for decoration, had me leaning toward calling this a vintage piece.

random back shot

Just under the collar, in the corner of the button placket by the opening edge (near the top button), there's a little hook attached that fastens to a little white loop on the edge of the under-placket to keep that corner tucked neatly down at the neckline (make sense? no?). Here's a picture.

Hook is at the left arrow, loop is at the right arrow. -- It's still basically impossible to see here. Why was this part so difficult to photograph!

I only ever seem to see such helpful (but not completely necessary) hooks&eyes like this on garments that are vintage. Perhaps I'd be more accustomed to seeing them on the RTW pieces in my wardrobe if it was made up of nicer pieces and not mainly just cheap dresses from Target - sigh. Well, in addition to this handy little detail, the whole sweater seemed well made in general, so this could just be a nice piece and not actually vintage. Is this gratuitous little hook&eye considered a high-end or couture detail? Hmm...

check the tag (got a little lazy with the photo editing at this point :-/)

Anyway, I decided the only way to know for sure whether this was a vintage piece or not would be to take a closer look at it and maybe do a little Googling on the tag info. You can't quite see it here, but the tag reads "An original Milly of New York," which seemed like a retro style tag, if not actually old. The piece that threw me off was the little "M" tag right under the Milly tag. This looked completely modern to me, from the font to the fact that it's just a Medium and not some numerical size. Also, I think this baby was made in China, according to the tag.

more collar/button/hook&eye action

When I Googled "an original Milly of New York," I'd fully expected to see a link to a company that had been in business at least as early as the 1970s. What I did not expect (but ended up doing) was to find a company that was supposedly established in 2000 whose products are sold at such fine retailers as Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. There's a bit of confusion, though, as I also found links to Milly pieces for sale on Etsy that were dated to the 1960s and 1980s, obviously earlier than 2000.

Also, what exactly qualifies as vintage?? If this is from Milly, which was supposedly established in 2000, does 12 years make something....almost vintage? I think I remember seeing a rule on Etsy that in order to sell something as "vintage" on their site, it must from at least 20 years ago. Well, 12 is close to 20...kind of.

Another thing...? Milly sounds awfully familiar. Could it be related to the spotted silk I'm using for my wedding guest dress?

The jury is still out on this, but I'm leaning towards saying this sweater is modern, not vintage, based on the company info I found when Googling -- but really, who knew it could be such a mysterious question!?


  1. Wow! What an intriguing find! I've never really done the research on vintage. Regardless of whether its vintage or not - its still a pretty sweet find, and definitely has a 70's does 40's thing going on. The color is really out of this world!

  2. I think you found yourself a $300 Milly sweater you lucky girl.

  3. Gorgeous! I love this color! I don't know too much about dating vintage, either, but this really is a cool sweater!

  4. Yeah, I am no help to you on the vintage-spotting level, but that sweater is AMAZING.

  5. What a great find! The sweater definitely Milly, here's a pic on Polyvore:

    Milly is one of my favorite RTW brands...they do the girly retro thing to perfection. I would have thought it was vintage too; it's the (admittedly sneakily vintage-looking) tag that gives it away. And the Milly fabric is fantastic too. They do the best prints!! I'm excited to see your dress made up with it.

    1. You found it! You're a thrift store finds detective!! Thanks for sharing your brand knowldege with me. :)

  6. Can I also just add that your header is ADORABLE? I normally subscribe to blogs and peruse them in my Google Reader, so I miss out on that. I'm glad I accidentally clicked through this time.

  7. So, as someone who was a big-time vintage collector back in the 80's when it was really easy to find good vintage stuff at the Goodwill and the Salvation Army thrift shop, I think there are 2 different Millys. The modern Milly, which was established in 2000, and a vintage company. I say this because I know I had a vintage Milly garment at one point (a sweater). That said, it may be that they are both the same company, and that the modern version is simply an updated version of the original Milly, which went by the wayside in the 70's. The hint is the label, which you point out as having a retro look - and certainly the wording isn't modern; "an original Milly of New York" is more like what you'd see in vintage garments. So it's entirely possible that this is a renewal of the Milly brand, and that they've used vintage labels that were already on hand.

    As for the hook and eye - it's both a vintage detail and a couture detail, so that doesn't really indicate age, though it does indicate quality, particularly if the eye is hand-worked with thread or embroidery cotton.

    1. Thanks for the info, Jen! I think you might be on to something re: this being a renewal of the Milly brand. I'm going to look in to this!

  8. Ooh, it's fun to see this mystery unravel! Either way, it's a lovely sweater!

  9. What a cute jumper! I love orange!!!!! Nice find. xx

  10. it's not a vintage piece this piece is designed by new yorks designer Michelle smith that studied and worked in Paris and worked for Hermes .. this label was her label from 2000-2013 in the fall collection of 2013 she changed her label that now just reads Milly in black on a white tag and the fabric you have in the photo above is also one of hers.. but as far as the other company named milly they have no connection and the other milly brand quality doesn't compare to the quality of milly of new yorks ... the retailers here in the states that sell this brand to name a few is Bloomingdales ,bergdorf goodman,Barney's,saks fifth ave,nieman Marcus ,milly Madison , on line it's sold at net a porter,the outnet,eves apple,piperlime,shopbop,revolve clothing ,yoox,farfetch, BHLDN and that's to name a few ... you are a very fortunate lady to find this piece.. every piece is like artwork . I purchase milly of New York exclusively for all my clothing .. oh you can also go to and purchase items their office is very close to their milly Madison location ... if your ever interested in any pieces let me know and I will gladly give you a couple of names of people to speak to that will be happy to help you at their main office .. :) congratulations on your find


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