Deadstock Vintage Clothing Is Not Always Mint Condition

When you see an original hangtag on vintage clothing, you might think "Hey, never used... that means it's perfect condition, right?!"  Clothes that are unworn but decades old are called new-old stock or deadstock vintage clothing.  And it seems that "never worn" might mean "never flawed".

That makes sense at first impression, but in reality, it's often a different story.  Items from new-old stock (aka deadstock) are sometimes in mint condition, but often they have their own set of potential flaws due to shelf wear and dusty storage conditions.  These are most likely:

  • lines of fading along a garment's outer edges, if it was exposed to sunlight while on a clothes rack
  • lines of dust to the tops of the shoulders
  • stretched-out shoulders or "hanger humps" on knits
  • inherent vice, such as unstable dyes, plastics or other materials
  • pest damage in the form of holes or discoloration
  • mildew in the case of water damage, and/or ruined hems in the case of flood damage
  • tanning to items folded in boxes, where the outer edges met cardboard or air pollution

From left to right: a sun-faded line at sleeve of 1960s vintage dress; shattered silk in a 1950s party frock; a series of H-shaped brown lines in a 1940s cotton shirt - all items are unworn new-old stock

This being said, mint condition does exist in new-old stock.  Sometimes it's luck, or thanks to certain fabrics that do not attract pests.  Sometimes mint condition happens because the fortunate item is wedged lower in a clothes rack, and avoids fade & dust this way.  Or it's the innermost layer in a stack of boxed items, and its neighboring items took the brunt of any damage.

So when you search for mint condition vintage clothing, and not everything's new-old... or when you search for new-old stock and condition ranges widely, this is the reason.  Hoping it helps as you shop!