Dating zippers

More confounding still: Now that the zipper has been around for nearly a century, you’d think that something so simple might have been perfected—becoming a 100 percent reliable commodity. How did YKK come to dominate this quirky corner of industry?Founded by Tadao Yoshida in Tokyo in 1934, YKK stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha (which roughly translates as Yoshida Company Limited).In 1971 the Federal Trade Commission released the “Care Labelling Rule” which required all manufacturers (including importers) of apparel to include garment care instructions on an interior tag.

Invisible zips were invented in the 1950s but only really became ubiquitous much later, around the late 80s / early 90s.

The placement of the zip can also help – 1930s-1940s dressers usually had a zip in the side seam, whereas dresses from the 50s onwards favoured a placement at the centre back.

The feeling in the apparel industry is that you can’t go wrong with YKK.

“There have been quality problems in the past when we’ve used cheaper zippers,” says Trina Turk, who designs her own line of women’s contemporary sportswear. When the customer is buying $200 pants, they better have a good zipper.

With every tiny detail handled under YKK’s roof, outside variables get eliminated and the company can assure consistent quality and speed of production.

(When the Japanese earthquake hit last year many supply chains were shredded, but YKK kept rolling along.) Yoshida also preached a management principle he termed “The Cycle of Goodness.” It holds that “no one prospers unless he renders benefit to others.” In practice, this boiled down to Yoshida striving to produce ever-higher quality with ever-lower costs. And in the end, the secret to YKK’s success is equally uncomplicated but equally impressive: YKK makes incredibly dependable zippers, ships them on time without fail, offers a wide range of colors, materials, and styles, and never gets badly undercut on price.

This dress has one, long, obvious zipper from neckline to just above the hem, and it is definitely not a dress for housework.

So you’ve found your soulmate in suede, your dreamboat in denim… They can also reveal ‘recycled vintage’ – 80s-does-50s dresses often have puff shoulders and wide armholes, whereas original 50s designs generally have quite snug-fitting sleeve cuffs.

The writing on the label is another clue: earlier labels often feature script fonts, while in the 60s and 70s modern, hippie-influenced fonts were frequently used.

If there is a size label this can also help: vintage sizing was smaller than modern, so if it’s marked a size 14 but is clearly tiny, chances are it’s got some age to it.

They might be a tiny bit cheaper, or might be willing to produce custom novelty orders in a rush.

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