For those of us in the UK, vintage Marks and Spencer clothing, under the name St Michael, is available in abundance. St Michael was used as a brand name from 1928 to 2000. Their labels have undergone a number of changes over the years and when checked, along with the care label, will help you to date your vintage clothing to within at least a decade. If your garment dates to the 1970s or 1980s you may even be able to date it to the month!
Here is a timeline of some of the key details.
Important! All of the timeline images below are illustrations based on original labels. While every effort has been made to make them as accurate as possible, the source labels are often not great quality, so proportions and typefaces will be similar but not perfect. In any case, all of the label versions had variations, different colours, type variations (different ‘s’ shapes, proportions etc.) and there’s many cases of St Michael being printed out of alignment with the box.
Dress sizes are lettered – SW, W, WX-OS and XOS
Often a green shield
From 1942 – 1952 the CC41 label is often included
Late 40s – Dress sizes are lettered – B-J, L and M
Script logo introduced in 1951
1951 – Bra sizes introduced (Small, Medium, Full)
1957 – Dress sizes are numbered (12-26), S[hort]12 etc.
Script usually inside box
1962 – Size 10 introduced
1969 – Bra sizes A-D phased in
Made in Britain or Gt. Britain
Mid ‘60s – ® instead of REGD.
1968 – Care labels introduced
Embroidered labels phased out
By 1973 – Size inside red circle
c1974 – Metric measurements included as well as imperial
1970 – ‘Made in the UK’ phased in
June 1972 – CA (Canada) codes introduced
Date codes (1970s onwards)
From the 1970s some garments had a date code on the label. How convenient! These aren’t in the most obvious of formats and in most cases you’d need to use the logo or one of the other details we have discussed to narrow it down to the right decade first.
The codes are usually three digits – two digits for the month and unhelpfully, one digit for the year, or the more sensible option of one digit for the month and two for the year. They may be formatted in one of a few different ways:
018 = January (01) 19*8 (8)
2-7 = February (2) 19*7 (7)
3-89 = March (3) 1989 (89)
12.3 = December (12) 19*3 (3)
* to show the code doesn’t specify which decade it was manufactured.
® in top corner
Size in white on coloured background
1985 – Skirt length written as Short, Long etc. No longer in inches.
1984 – UPC printed in yellow box
‘Marks & Spencer’ included and more prominent than St Michael
2000 – St Michael discontinued
1990 – Size 8 introduced
Example: A 1986 scarf
Even before I realised there was a date code on the scarf shown above I had used other aspects of the label to date it to the mid-1980s. The logo is in the straight 1980s style. The UPC code in the yellow box dates the scarf as being 1984 or later, with the slim wash tub symbol (introduced in 1976 – see our care label guide) making it unlikely to be very late 1980s as the washing program number was ommitted from the 1986 British Standard. Having narrowed it down this far, it was satisfying to notice the three-digit date code – 036 – confirming the date of manufacture as being March 1986.
Example: A late 1970s/early 1980s knitted tunic
When size 12 was a 34″ bust! This label was helpful in pointing out to my mum that I wasn’t too thin compared to her in her youth, it was the sizing numbers that had changed. But I digress… This label has the 1960s/1970s logo style, but there’s there’s other details that allow us to focus on the 1970s. The first is ‘made in the UK’, which was phased in from 1970 and the CA code in the corner, which was introduced in June 1972. The size is in a red circle, which was included on all garments by 1973. There are metric measurements included which were introduced circa 1974. The UPC isn’t in a yellow box so it must date to before 1984. My conclusion? It was made between 1974 and 1984, my feeling is somewhere in the middle.
I didn’t mention the care symbols in this example as this particular label has caused me a lot of confusion! The inclusion of the drying symbol would suggest it is using the 1980-1986 set of care symbols, but the horizontal line indicates the garment should be dried flat. If you’ve read our care labels guide you’ll know that a number of reputable sources suggest that line drying symbols weren’t in use until the last 10 years or so!