Monday, January 11, 2010

Beware of Fraudulent Label Switching

I am going to make some people angry with this post, but as an honest and knowledgeable dealer of vintage clothing, I need to make my readers aware of an issue that has been bothering me for quite awhile. The fraudulent practice of sewing vintage or designer labels into clothing that has no label or replacing a less desirable label with a better known one is, unfortunately, becoming more prevalent. Now, don't get me wrong. There are lots and lots of honest and trustworthy sellers of vintage clothing out there. But before you buy, it is wise to know who you are buying from, what to expect and what to look for.

It is important to note that a seller who is offering a garment with suspected label switching may not be the culprit. There is a lot of buying and selling amongst vintage and used clothing dealers that goes on behind the scenes in this industry. There are also many, many sellers who have jumped into this industry because it is "fun". Those sellers may not have the education and experience to recognize when a label has been switched, and may be offering a garment for sale thinking it is the real thing.

Where do dishonest dealers come up with the labels they sew into clothing? Easy. It is not uncommon to see lots like the one above offered for sale on eBay, and these lots often sell for good money. This one sold for about $35 several months ago. There is lots of clothing at thrift stores that is ugly or out of style, but many of those garments bear a desirable label. Labels can be removed from a damaged garment and sewn into an undamaged one. Disreputable dealers will remove designer labels from scarves, hats, gloves, lingerie, and men's ties, then sew them into vintage clothing to pass a garment off as a high end or designer one.

This is a label from a Schiaparelli hat. It was sewn into a skirt that was not designed by Schiaparelli. The skirt sold on eBay for over $650 to an unsuspecting buyer.

This Valentino Jeans label was sewn into a brocade evening gown which was being offered on eBay for several hundred dollars.

So how do you protect yourself? The best way is to learn about what to look for. Here are some tips and common blunders to watch out for. NOTE: These are general guidelines, and will not apply to all garments all the time.

1. First and formost, if a seller is listing a garment as a designer piece, they should always show the label. If a picture of the label is not included in the listing, ask (demand) to see it before you buy. And if they do show the label, but the image is cropped so you can't see the edges, ask for another photo.

2. In general, the label on a vintage designer garment that predates the 1980s will be sewn in by hand with thread that matches the label color. There are notable exceptions, (Grenelle Estevez and Ceil Chapman labels were sewn by machine along the edge of the zipper in the 40s and 50s) but hand stitching and matching thread are the first things I look for.

This Christian Dior label looks questionable because it is sewn in by machine with black thread. Research shows that this is a Dior scarf label, but this photo was taken from an auction for a vintage coat.

3. Newer designer labels are often sewn in by machine, but you would be wise to know how each designer attaches their labels to their garments.

This Carmen Marc Valvo label was removed from one garment, and sewn into another. You can see the original needle holes and white thread at the sides of the label. The label was then sewn into a garment with black thread across the top - a garment that was not by Carmen Marc Valvo.

4. While some modern high-end designer labels are still sewn in by hand, many have gone to machine sewn labels as a cost and time saving measure. However, those labels will be sewn neatly and with care.

You can see the original white threads at the corners that were used to hand sew this label into a Chanel garment. The label was removed and sewn into a different garment with black machine stitching.

5. If a label is sewn in by machine, it will be neatly done, and again, the thread color will generally match the label.

Messy and uneven machine stitching is not found in designer garments.

6. In general, the size of the label will be in proportion to the size and weight of the garment. Accessories like scarves and ties will have small labels. Coats bear larger labels.

This tiny Molyneux label (probably from a scarf) was sewn into a coat.

7. Educate yourself about where a particular designer places his labels. Estevez usually put his labels at the back waist of his dresses in the 1960s. Norman Norell labels are usually found hand sewn to the center back seam of the skirt. Know what to expect and question any label that is not in the usual spot.

This Oscar de la Renta label from the 60s or 70s belongs at the back neck of the dress and should be sewn in by hand. Here it is sewn by machine into a side seam. It even looks like the seller has used the label twice!

8. Modern zig-zag stitches do not belong in a vintage garment.

A label sewn in with zig-zag stitching on a 1950s dress? No way.

9. Know the general styles that designers made. For instance, designer Ben Zuckerman only made suits and coats, never party dresses or lingerie.

Sometime in the late 1950s, Lilli Ann started sewing their labels in with zig-zag stitches in white thread along the sides of the label. This label has been sewn in by hand at the 4 corners with matching thread, but you can see the impressions in the label from the original machine sewn zig-zag stitching. This suit label was very cleverly sewn in to a 1950s party dress - a style that was never made by Lilli Ann.

These are general guidelines, but may not be true in all cases. There are times when stitching that doesn't appear original is fine. Most department stores and boutiques offered in-house alterations up until the late 1960s. Often times, when a garment was altered, the original label had to be removed and sewn back in by the store's seamstress. Or, perhaps the owner of the garment removed the label to get through customs without paying duty and then sewed it back in at home. I'm not saying that all labels that don't have original stitching are fraudulent. But it is in your best interest to be aware and take care.

All of the label images shown above are actual photos from clothing items that were offered for sale on eBay and Etsy over the last year. Remember, I am NOT saying that all sellers are dishonest. I am NOT saying fraudulent label switching is limited to eBay and Etsy. I am simply advising you to be careful and to look closely before you buy.

69 comments:

casey said...

Excellent post! Thank you so much for sharing all these tips--they're invaluable!

♥ Casey
blog | elegantmusings.com

theresa said...

Hi Jody
Great buyer beware post! Unfortunately, I have to agree, this does happen in the business. I've had a few dealers try to sell me dresses for a high price because there was a designer label that I knew didn't belong. I did wonder if they were purposely trying to misrepresent or were just inexperienced. The sad thing is those unscrupulous or clueless few threaten the integrity of the whole collectible clothing industry.

Patricia said...

Thank-you for this article. It is one of the most interesting, important and informative blogs I've read in a long time. I can't believe there are Ebayers out there selling vintage/designer labels, but then again I can believe it!

aaonce said...

Hi, this is my first time I came by your site and I am far from disappointed by this post. I am so glad that you took the opportunity to educate me. My mother, sister and I all take precautions when we shop ebay (and elsewhere for vintage) and while the majority of the suggestions we looked out for--I don't think any of us thought about the scale of the label being relative to the item itself. If no one else tells you thank you today, I certainly appreciate this post!

Debi said...

Fantastic post! I had no idea this was so prevalent....thanks for the tips!

Belle de Ville said...

Wow, what an informative post. In my business I have to look for fakes on a daily basis so I have to be knowlegable about original stamps and hallmarks.
Of course in the vintae clothes business it makes sense that unethical dealers would switch labels to market a vintage outfit as something that will sell for a premium.
It is important for the buyer to be educated about what they are buying and do business only with vintage dealers and estate jewelers that they have confidence in.

The Glamorous Housewife said...

Wonderful post! Excellent information and photos. I feel very empowered.

Thanks doll,
The Glamorous Housewife

Sal said...

Wow, I had no idea. Thanks for all these great tips on spotting switched labels.

Jitterbugdoll said...

Excellent post--thank you for such an informative article!

RareEssenceVintage said...

Thanks for sharing this important information

SwaneeGRACE said...

thanks so much for sharing this...it's a real eye-opener and such an important topic for buyers and sellers.

nancy said...

Wonderful tips! Thanks so much. This idea had occurred to me recently, but I wasn't sure what I should be looking for. You've covered some things that I wouldn't have thought to look for.

fashionisdanger.com said...

Outstanding post. As ever, informative and enlightening. Thank you.

nomadicdragon said...

Wonderful tips. Like another poster, I had no idea people were doing this quite so often. That's just disturbing.

RocketJNYC said...

Wow, my naivete strikes again. This is something that would never have occurred to me. Live and learn.

Nancy - Ornament_Gal said...

Also beware of the "no label" garments. There is also a trend for cutting the label out of some of the vintage "style" dresses and claiming that they are older. Ask your buyer for pictures of the seam finishes. That way you can see if they are pinked (cut in a sawtooth manner) or whether the garment is finished with a serger.

I can't believe the seller expected to get away with putting the Jeans label in that brocade evening gown.

Karen @ Bobbins And Bombshells said...

Terrific article! Thanks for posting this. I'm often skeptical when shopping online and prefer to really look at what the garment is worth to me regardless of the label. If you strictly want a label you can get burned.

catwalkthreads said...

Fabulous article! Thank you for bringing this to the attention of buyers. These fraudsters will go to ANY lengths to get what they want at the cost of unsuspecting buyers. I'll link to this from my own blog.

Great work!

CarmenDahling said...

Jody, what a wonderful gift of knowledge you so generously give your followers. This is such an eye opening post and the only ones who would possibly be angry as you feared would be the sellers exposed as frauds or dupes. If they are honest they would be as grateful as we are for the excellent expose and photos. It must have taken quite a bit of your valuable time. God Bless You!

fuzzylizzie said...

Thanks for this post, Jody. It's obvious from the response you've had that this needed to be said!

I've been known to buy designer items that were trashed just to take the label off the market. I have a great collection of orphaned labels that I keep saying I'm going to use to make a handbag or something.

fabulous finds said...

hi jody!
great info! thank you so much for sharing all these tips...

i cannot tell you how many people still believe that if it is sold on ebay - that it is in fact genuine...

being that i am not a collector per se of vintage...i pretty much buy something if i absolutely love it...but i will at least look at the stitching to see the quality of the garment...in that...whether it has a label or not...does determine if i buy...

of course on ebay it is tough to do that...

i am bookmarking this post so that i may go back to it for refresher...

Christa Weil said...

Great post! One more tiny point: the quality of the labels ought to match the purported quality of the garment. If a label looks dodgy, proceed with great caution . . .

lori said...

Wow - what a great post. I had no idea either than this went on. It makes sense though and I will keep my eyes open.

And thank you to Ornament Gal as well. I've seen a few dresses that I thought for sure were 80s being marketed as vintage. It never occurred to me to check the seams.

Glamoursurf said...

It's really sad that some dealers are fraudulent in this matter all for the sake of the $. Thank you for the tips Jody, excellent post.

bonnie said...

Fabulous post Jody! I hope that everyone learns from this and buys with caution.

lucitebox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms. B said...

What a wonderful and informative post! Thank you!

So sad that people feel they need to resort to this kind of thing to make money and in turn ruin the experience for a lot of people.

Dame said...

Thanks for this post! I've had things come into the shop, and the labels just don't look right. It's impossible to know where this happens originally. I either take the label out or just sell the garment according the value of the textile itself. That's one advantage to seeing the garment in person. If it isn't fine quality, a label isn't going to fool anyone.

PS. I've also heard of shops who remove labels so their inventory won't be shopped for resale. Equally wrong for different reasons IMO.

McGregor girl said...

Thank you so much for the helpful tips! This post was so informative!! I can't believe this happens so often. Makes me sad to see people getting taken advantage of!

One Level said...

Excellent information to all who love vintage. The best point is that the seller may have bought the piece with the "fraud" label unknown to them, due to any number of reasons, i.e., inexperience, bad photos, the thrill of the sale. It does not excuse the item being sold again as an "original" but these things happen and from them we must learn.

Thank you for sharing.

Miss Rayne said...

Great post. there is a lot of this going on further down the diffusion line too, eg home made being passed off as shop-bought.

Parisienne Farmgirl said...

WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL POST!!! You should put a specific link on your sidebar to this post for easy reference all the time!!!!!


How funny, my word verification is :"hater"

HicknStick said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this. I have been collecting and selling vintage for years and it burns my butt when I see this happening. In the last 6 months I have confronted 3 sellers on Ebay about this very thing and they have pulled the auctions. Really awful. I hope you do a blog on people who sell "vintage" that is not actually vintage. It breaks my heart when friends and acquaintances show off their latest finds,ask me what I think, and then I have to tell them it is not a vintage garment.

Thanks again,
Melinda

Marcy said...

Excellent post, Jody, thank you so much for one of the best blog articles on vintage EVER.

nowandthenfashion said...

Thank you So Much for this Terrific article, Jody!!!

You Rock!

Blythe Hopes Vintage said...

Thank you so much for posting about this issue - it's been rampant for too long without much attention being given to it.

Gladys said...

Great Reference piece. Thank you so very much.

Just a note... My Great Aunt Ima was a fashionista and would often buy things from a cheaper department store then take labels from higher end garments (especially coats and hats) and replace the cheaper labels with designer labels so the ladies at the church social wouldn't think she was poor. Bless her heart. :)

Nancy - Ornament_Gal said...

lori, Per eBay's categories, 1980s items are vintage. Heck, have they even added a 90s category too? So the seller with an 80s skirt may not have been misrepresenting.

lauren said...

This is an awesome post and I thank you for it, so well done, clear and concise. I had no idea that this was something that happened with any sort of frequency. Thank you so much!

Living Doll Vintage said...

Excellent information Jody. Another valid reason to do as much research as possible.

Wearing History said...

WOW! This is a wonderful post!
I can't believe people would do something that awful. Jerks. Thanks for the pointers!

Some Like it Vintage.com said...

Stellar post! It's unfortunate that in this business there are also some cheaters - makes the good ones look bad!

Armando y Montez said...

Thank You for this post. I was scammed with this trickery. I kept the label and ditched the hat.

Shona said...

thank you - fantastic info. Stunned at the cheats in the world

Past Perfect Vintage Clothing said...

Thank you so mcuh for this column Jody - My favorite ebay siting was a coat with a Dior Chapeau label set in

Vix said...

Really appreciate this post and your follow-up on fraud. Though reading about the (deliberate) scammers isn't filling me with love for the human species!

Sunshine said...

great post! this kind of fraud has been going on in this business for a long long time. i once found a dior hat label inside a 60s coat - it says 'chapeaux' right there guys! those big rectangular hat labels often end up inside vintage nylon lingerie as well - easy way to turn a 25 cent slip into a $25 'bargain'.
it's been going on so long that a lot of these altered garments have re-entered the food chain, so dealers often don't realize that they are continuing the fraud. as a dealer i always disclose when i think a label may not be the original one, but sometimes it is very hard to tell. keep this in mind when confronting a dealer with a suspicious label - they may well have no idea! and when it comes down to it just buy what you love, regardless of the label!

Pearl Westwood said...

Wow I only found your blog from a link to this post, it is such a valuable post for any vintage hunter! I recently did a post on the Chanel 2.55 history and some tips for spotting fakes, it really is outrageous what people do!

Pretty Little Pictures said...

Oh wow, this is an amazing post! Thank you so much for it :) As some one who regularly buys vintage off the internet, this is much appreciated. I love your blog too, why have I never found it before? You are going on my reader :)

phenolicfanatic said...

Awesome post- I could have just kept reading and readling! Thanks to casey for the link to your article. michele xx

lupinbunny said...

Excellent post! Thanks!

Conversely, I bought a dress a while ago that had the tags cut out (no idea why). It was at an annual charity clothes sale, and someone tipped me off to the fact that a dress on the $15 rack was apparently a LaCroix, but the labels had been cut out, so it hadn't made it into the marked up 'designer'section. I'm no expert, but the buttons certainly have the right logo and the finishing was very good, and it was a nice dress anyway, so it's mine.

I wonder why the tags were cut out? The impression I got was that they had been cut out when the dress was donated, and not earlier (because, for instance, they irritated the original owner).

BookGirl said...

Thanks so much for this informative post. I came to your site today via a link on Already Pretty. I plan to start visiting regularly.

Clara

Geek+Nerd said...

This is an incredible, informative post! I will definitely be bookmarking this.

Isisingonthecake said...

thanks so much for this post! i actually linked back to it in my blog because i found a perfect example of label switching when i went to goodwill today!

Pamela said...

So much good information. Thanks! I got taken by an ebay seller who was selling a Pauline Trigere dress and coat set; although she did not know enough to mention Trigere anywhere in the listing. The photos were pretty poor guality, but they did include the authentic label. I did not pay much for the ensemble. In fact I doubt the seller was guilty of a ruse at all.

When I received the outfit it turned out to be dressmaker made of a decent guality wool/acrylic & lurex brocade to a fairly good standard. The fabric and construction, however, was in no way up to the standard of a Trigere garment. The label had been glued in! It's difficult to see that in a photo. I let the seller know that the glued in label was a sure sign of a fake, but I had paid so little that I didn't care. I will resell the ensemble, which isn't bad, but without the labels!

Pamela said...

To lupinbunny - Designer labels are often removed by women who buy clothes in Europe and remove the telltale labels to avoid paying duty at customs. So it is possible that a couture garment could be missing identifying labels and it is also possible that a couture garment could have a label sewn back in by an inexperienced seamstress. I have seen horrendous, butchered alterations on very expensive clothes. Which is one reason why the measurements of the garment are more important than any size label.

Eliza said...

mannn! thats so sneaky
i've never really thought of that before
ill look twice on ebay now chicken!
thanks alot
:)

love, Elizaaa
http://chocolatecoinfashion.blogspot.com/
&
http://chocolatecoin.blogspot.com/

violetville said...

great post jody! i always look to you for some of the best knowledge in the industry...

MUTIBOKO said...

Its such a shame that this kind of thing goes on , but great advice on what to be aware of.

Anonymous said...

Hi, lovely post and very helpful indeed!
I would like to have an opinion, if possible, about this Valentino dress.

http://www.vintagebazar.ro/articol/Vintage_si_retro/designeri/Rochie_matase_Valentino_Boutique_retro_anii_80.-2789.html
It would be really great if you help me, thanks!

Louise said...

Good work...so many times in a photo of a label, there will be the suspect white corner threads that sort of shout out, what's wrong with this picture?!! And yes designer clothing is wonderful, but let the garment speak for itself...a fabulous dress/blouse/coat is fabulous regardless of a label...hone your sewing construction knowledge so you can be your own best judge of quality & workmanship & sublime detail and know the questions to ask!

Sher said...

My favorite label relabel was in a gown at a consignment/vintage shop.. the Teal Traina label at the neck was horribly sewn in and I knew it was not original to the gown, then I found the real Galanos label in the seam... that idiot didn't even bother to see who the real designer was. I happily paid the $40 for a Galanos :).

A few years back I spearheaded a movement to get an ebay seller off ebay. She was taking men's tie labels and sewing them in horribly ugly dresses that were selling in the $100s. That was back in the days when you could see and contact buyers so it was simple to alert them to their mistake, and all were grateful. It was a huge effort to get that seller off Ebay ... they just didn't care until a big group was in action. I also should note I was in a shop in Paris and at least 50% of what was labeled Chanel was not Chanel.

Sher said...

I wrote a similar piece a few years back sparked by a very flagrant label switcher on ebay. http://swankvintage.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/ebay-buyer-beware-vintage-shopping-in-an-i-jungle/

Jeanne Suica Vintage & Collectable Clothing said...

Thanks for such an excellent and informative post. I see this all of the time and yes most of the time it is an innocent on line seller. Anyone whi considers themselves a true dealer should know the basics but unfortunately that is not always the case. Looking forward to more posts like this. Thanks for sharing!

Jojo's Retro and Vintage said...

Wowsers. I can see why pics of the label are soooo important when shopping online! Many thanks for this info! Your informative site never disappoints!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a wonderful and very educational post. I've made a few eBay purchases where it was hard to tell that the tag had been switched until I had the actual hat or garment in hand, and could see and feel the garments directly. I just received a hat where the label was glued-in, for example, and of newer materials than listed. I do agree that most vendors are innocent and try to offer their items as the genuine article.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

norafinds said...

OMG thanks for the info! I thought that this could be happening, but didn't want to believe that it IS actually present in the vintage world. Sucks! It's been very educational reading this post and I will be sharing this info on my blog FB page as well! Cheers!

Nora
Nora Finds

Shauna Lucero said...

Hi There,
I am a big fan of your blog and really appreciate the shared information. This can happen to anyone, including the pro's in this business.

Shauna

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