Dating by Zipper
    This can be your best friend and worst enemy if used as the only method for dating.  
    Often times a garment's zipper is replaced with another zipper for various reasons.
    If a home seamstress or professional replaces a zipper they choose from their
    personal collection which could be any era.  Because of this, please do not rely on the
    zipper alone.  Below is a good guide to help narrow down the age by zipper history.  
    I will be updating and changing this guide as I learn new information. Research
    obtained from Wikipedia,  Ebay Reviews & Guides and Vintageconnection.net.

  • 1851-1917: The zipper is in its beginning form from early designs, military use and approval for
    patents. Early zippers are metal and have individual locking teeth unlike todays modern plastic
    coil zippers.
  • 1923: The term zipper is coined due to the sound they make when fastened shut. Used mainly on
    rubber boots and goulashes by B.F. Goodwrench and tobacco pouches.
  • 1920s: Zippers are starting to be used in mens trousers, but RARELY in women's clothing.
    Zippers were considered too fast and easy to get off making them vulgar for women to wear.  
    However they became increasingly popular in children's clothing due to their easy use.
  • 1930s: Zippers are now common in children's clothing. In the late 30s, campaigns for women's
    designer gowns featured the "infamous zipper" . Most zippers from this age and earlier are
    hidden behind a fold or "flap" of fabric to conceal the vulgar style.
  • 1940: First plastic coil zipper invented, had breaking issues so was not popular.
  • 1940s: Zippers are becoming popular and commonly used without "flaps". Plastic zippers hit the
    market, though very rarely used.
  • 1951: Media suggest use of plastic zippers over metal due to metal shortages from the wars.
    Regardless, metal zippers remain popular. Due to the suggestion, sometimes you will find
    authentic clothing from the 50's with plastic zippers, but most will have individual teeth.
  • 1950s- mid 1960s: Clothing manufactures still prefer metal zippers. Metal is most common on
    garments of this era.
  • 1958: First concealed zippers appear. (very fine teeth)
  • 1963: Woven zippers are introduced. Easy to confuse with modern coil zippers. I wish I knew the
    difference so I could tell you, but I don't.
  • 1968 - current: Nylon (plastic) coil zippers have now become the main zipper used in mass
    production. A large number of metal zippers are still used into the early 1970s.
  • 1971: Perfected nylon coil zippers as we know them today emerge.


Placement of the Zipper

  • 1930s and 1940s (if a zipper is present at all): sleeves, neck (short high center back) and side
    seams. Neck and sides were often accompanied with metal snap buttons.
  • 1940s: same as above but long center back zippers with or without snap buttons appear.
  • 1950s: side seams, and full back center, snaps are now becoming rarer.
  • 1960s: full back center. Sometimes side seam but back more common now.
  • 1970s - current: center back, half and full. Rarely any other placement unless a specialty item.
The zipper is a good place to start when dating vintage but shouldn't be the only place.
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