Dead to Me: A Quick Look at Deadstock

A common term in the vintage world used to describe clothing that still has the original hang tags attached is “dead stock.” Some other oft-used terms and their corresponding abbreviations are new old stock (NOS), new with tags (NWT) and NIB (new in box).

I have two pieces that fit this description.  One is a bed jacket that is in the shop.  The other is a bright cotton dress that I bought from Dear Golden.  In fact, I will be ceremoniously cutting the tags off the dress soon because I seriously cannot wait to wear it.

How does deadstock happen?  Sometimes, a person really does buy something, never take it off the hanger, and there it stays as the decades roll by. Other times a store will box up unsold merchandise and it will go into storage until it is unearthed years later.  This happened once at my very first job. I was still in high school and worked at an indie video store and one day we found a never-opened cardboard box filled with promotional t-shirts for the movie Dick Tracy.  This was only eight years after the film had been released, but it felt like the archeological find of the century.  What can I say, it was a pretty mellow place to work.

If you like playing detective, hang tags can come in handy if you’re not sure how old a garment is by studying it.  The style of the designa nd lettering can be clues, as their often reflect the aesthetic of the time the clothes were made.  An address of a store can help too – look for the presence of a zip code (those didn’t exist in the USA until 1962) and how a state might be abbreviated – PA vs. Penna. and so forth. 

That tag cracks me up.  Oh, how many more days than just three have passed since this dress was bought and put away!  Not like I’d take anyone up on their return policy anyway – it’s totally a keeper!

A good thing to do when buying dead stock vintage online is to not just assume that because a garment has never been worn, that it is in perfect condition.  This is not always the case – fading can still happen, and dust and dirt can settle into the folds of a garment. Ask the seller questions if anything seems unclear.


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