Identifying Gunne Sax Dress

As you may have noticed we are obsessed with Gunne Sax dresses from the 70’s. The brand started in the 1960’s and was bought by Jessica McClintock in 1969 at the “height of the hippie movement.” Known for it’s Renaissance, Victorian, and Prairie style dresses, and worn among teens during the 70’s. Gunnies seemed to have hit a growing market during the Grunge 90’s and the trend has intensified in recent years since they became a commonly worn item among “Bohemian Hipsters” or a priced collectible among women of all ages. Gunne Sax dresses can range on the 100’s online in aution sites and seem to be a must have for any California Vintage Shop; in which they sell for around 35-85 Dollars. The growing rarity and value has inspired people to try to recreate or pass unauthentic garments as Gunne Sax Dresses. Hopefully this guide will help on the identification of real Gunne Sax Dress based on looks, tags, materials, and craftsmanship.

Signature Looks

One of the most obvious ways to spot a Vintage Gunne Sax dress is if you have seen the same one before, once you are familiar with their looks from researching on Etsy and Ebay etc. you can probably tell them apart from  fakes. Here are some signature looks:
Blue Calico Summer Prairie Dress from Lucky Vintage Seattle
Blue Calico Summer Prairie Dress from Lucky Vintage Seattle
Summer Maxi Prairie Dress by Violet Folklore
Summer Maxi Prairie Dress by Violet Folklore

Tags

After spotting a dress that may look the part the tag is the next step on authentication. An important tip to remember is that tags in dresses are usually sewn left of the zipper. This is not the case on all Gunnies; vests, skirts, and blouses vary. Black Labels and gold and brown tags are what you should be interested in if you are looking for true vintage, silver tags, and the ones that read Jessica McClintock belong to 80’s and more modern dresses.
Fake Gunnies to the right

Sizing

Picture 4 from left to right shows the size and materials tag, sometimes this is really worn down or missing, this tag usually feels stiff and papery while the brand tag has a smooth and silky satin feel or cotton on black labels. The sizing and materials tag can play an important part on figuring our if the tag belonged originally to the dress based on the number of the size and the measurements.
Vintage Gunne Sax dresses are found in size 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and rarely a 15. based on my experience measurements for the waist go as follows:
Size / Waist Inches
3 / 23in
5 / 24-26in
7 / 25-26in
9 / 27-28in
11 / 28-30in
13 / 31in
This should be an estimated reference mostly useful when the sizing unusually mismatch. Often dresses have been washed and shrunk and that can be noticeable by checking if the Rayon Ribbon is singed and wavy or smooth and stretched. I once found a dress that fit me a bit loose [I’m a size 9 in Gunnies, size 2-4 in contemporary clothes] and the tag said size 7, that and the fact that it had suspicious sleeves and a cotton print I had never seen on the waist only made me not buy it.

Materials and Craftsmanship

The “Print,” or the base fabric that is usually calico, is Cotton or a blend of Polyester and Cotton, the Satin-like ribbons are always Rayon and the lace trims Nylon. Some dresses have a velvet like material that is 100% cotton.
Victorian revival blouses are made of a blend of Polyester and Cotton, the ribbon is made of rayon, and the lace of nylon as well. Most Gunne Sax shrink if washed but some skirts and all cotton print dresses can be hand-washed and drip dried. If you find a prairie dress made of all rayon, or some other material not mentioned here chances are it isn’t a Gunne Sax.
Detail of a Victorian Revival Blouse
Here’s the hard part, some people remove and exchange the tags in dresses so the next step is to check for other small details.

  • Most dresses with their original zippers have YKK brand ones, some later 70’s ones have talon brand zippers.
  • The satin ribbon on Gunnies is always really well put and has no crooked or double stitches…

TO BE CONTINUED

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Identifying Gunne Sax Dress
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