Dating ‘Union Made’ Vintage Clothing and the ILGWU

If there’s one thing we have union strikes and dwindling numbers to thank for, it’s the dating of vintage garments.  In my travels as a collector of all things fabulous and vintage, I’ve come across quite a few “Union Made” ILGWU (International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union) labels sewn in garments.  Formed in 1900 in New York City, this conglomerate of seven smaller unions was a manufacturing powerhouse even through the Great Depression.  Lucky for all of us era-obsessed, the ILGWU merged and split with a few different unions throughout the twentieth century, consequently changing their labels and taglines.  Here’s a timeline (from ‘dating label review’ on eBay):

1900 – 1936 ILGWU AFL
1936 – 1940 ILGWU CIO
1940 – 1955 ILGWU AFL
1955 – 1995 ILGWU AFL-CIO
1975-1992 – Look for the Union Label campaign
1995 – 2004 UNITE!

And accompanying pictures of the labels:

1920's ILGWU Label

1920's ILGWU Label

1940's ILGWU Garment Label

1940's ILGWU Garment Label

1955 - 1963 ILGWU Garment Label

1955 - 1963 ILGWU Garment Label

1963 - 1974 ILGWU Garment Label

1963 - 1974 ILGWU Garment Label

1974 - 1995 ILGWU Garment Label

1974 - 1995 ILGWU Garment Label


In 1995, the ILGWU, bogged down by declining numbers and an inability to organize smaller garment manufacturers sprouting up all over cities, merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union to form UNITE.  UNITE then merged with the Hotel Employees’ and Restaurant Employees’ Union to form UNITE HERE, currently still in existence.

So, in a sad way, the constant fluctuations in the U.S. economy and the trickle down effect on unions, has made our job easier.  I’ll leave you with a jingle the ILGWU released in the 1970s to encourage buying of union-made garments:

“Look for the Union Label”
‘Look for the union label
When you are buying a coat, dress, or blouse,
Remember somewhere our union’s sewing,
Our wages going to feed the kids and run the house,
We work hard, but who’s complaining?
Thanks to the ILG, we’re paying our way,
So always look for the union label,
It says we’re able to make it in the USA!’

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  1. The New York Creations label was created in late 1940 by The New York Dress Institute (an organization made up of manufacturers and unions to promote New York union-made clothes.) The label dwindled in use after 1944 when the focus of the organization changed from a promotional organization to an industry standardization cooperative. The New York Dress Institute itself ceased to exist in 1953.

    • Thanks for the heads up! It seems some vintage lovers (myself included!) tend to mis-date items from the 1930s/1940s cusp since many early ’40s garments and hats retain the 30’s style guidelines. You sparked me to do a little online research, and this article:

      states that the N.Y Dress Institute held a fashion show of sorts whereby “model” seamstresses sewed on the inaugural ‘New York Creation’ labels to the garments on July 7th, 1941. Fact or Fiction? If this is the case, how lucky is it that we can pinpoint the exact day the label first came into existence?!

  2. I have a three piece dress outfit with a union label & unsure the date. This was handed down from my mom who was born in 1939. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Also not sure what I should do with the garment, if it has any monetary value. Thanks for your help.

  3. I could send pics if it would be helpful.

  4. Here’s a question for you vintage experts…. I picked up a ILGWU labeled coat at a second hand store. I’ve been able to date it 1974-1995. My question is, “What do the 6 numbers at the top mean? Is it a model number? Will those numbers help to identify the exact year it was made?” Any help you can give me you be greatly appreciated.

  5. I need some help from you vintage experts. I purchased a ILGWU coat from a second hand store. It has the 1974-1995 label in it. My question is what do the 6 numbers at the top mean? Is it a model number? Will that help tell exactly what year it was made? Any help will be greatly appreciated…..


  1. [...] Fashion Guild Union Label Guide The Union Label Ebay Guide History of the ILGWU from Labor Arts Union Labels by Anjou Vintage ClothingRelated [...]

  2. [...] GuideThe Union label Ebay GuideHistory of the ILGWU from Labor ArtsUnion Labels by Anjou Vintage [...]

  3. [...] *sobretudo verde-limão garimpado em Londres da incrível série “International Ladies Garment Workers Union – ILGWU”. Foi um conglomerado de pequenas marcas formado em 1900 em NY- que se juntaram para sobreviver a grande depressão. Peça numerada, a etiqueta é da produção datada de 1963 a 1974. Mais informações: [...]

  4. […] In order to guarantee that garments were made under proper work conditions, the terms “Union Made” were printed on labels, or on boxes as part of the whole packaging, or else. This by the way made garment dating much easier. […]

  5. […] it, and you can find great guides online which will date your item for you. The one I use is here. I hope this has been helpful, keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks for the next parts of […]

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