"Virgin" Vintage Clothing Labels

As you shop vintage clothing, you'll undoubtedly notice the many and varied labels - there are silk brocade labels hand-sewn to richly hued linings, a variety of labels from garment worker's unions, cute dressmaker names and plenty of labels with the word "virgin" amidst the wording.

So, what the heck does "virgin" mean? It's describing the fiber (the ingredient that the yarn or thread is made of). A virgin fiber is one that was created/harvested just for this garment, used just once and made into the finished product you see before you. This implies that there's such a thing as non-virgin fibers, and that is true. 

The phrase "recycled wool" is occasionally seen on garment labels, most often on 1970s vintage skirts in wool blends. Because a repurposed wool doesn't look or feel as nice as a virgin wool, it's less than desirable, and a label like this is not seen so often. And because the word "virgin" appeared on so many 1950s & 1960s labels, our guess is that recycled fibers were commonly used in some period before these decades, possibly during World War II in the 1940s when fabric rationing was part of daily life. Recycling wool and such during this time could've made sense, but in the post-war era, people probably would have rather avoided such a make do & mend existence.

Most often you will see the word "virgin" distinguishing wools, acrylics and cashmere on vintage labels, although technically any fiber could be recycled into a new fabric. Interesting to see this kind of repurposing in decades past, many years before "going green" was mainstream!