Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Reliability of RN Numbers

You will see an RN number on most of the clothing out there. It’s a good way to date things. 

But IS it?
 Kristen Wiig Funny Faces

There are a lot of reasons to be careful using them.

If it has in Roman numerals chiseled into the item, it should be in a museum.
...just kidding…

First, the math:  I’ve always hated math and I’ve gone my entire life without once using algebra, so WHY DID I HAVE TO BE TORTURED WITH THAT IN HIGH SCHOOL??

…but I digress…

There is special math to use with an RN number.

The first RN number was issued in 1959.  That number was 13670.
So you would take the RN number on your garment and subtract 13670.  There is an average of 2365 RN’s issued per year, so you then divide your number by 2365.  The number you come out with is added to 1959 and that is supposed to be the year your garment was made.
…but a lot of times, it is NOT! 
Check out this dress:
Look at the details: 

~~rayon that is slightly distressed-looking  
~~tea length 
~~HUGE shoulder pads, shaped like half a pie (or a capital D) 
~~REALLY loose in the bodice and the skirt is tight 
How totally and completely 1980s is this dress?

The RN # is 42435.  So let’s do the math:
42435 – 13670 =  28765.  28765 divided by 2365 = 12.163 (so let’s say 13)
1959 + 13 = 1971 !!!!
There is no way this dress is early 70s.  So then you would have to check out different ways to date it.  The company (Incite) is nowhere to be found.  It was never trademarked or registered for trademark.
So we have to go by the fabric, the styling, and those tell-tale shoulder pads.
Plus it helps if you were around in the 80's to see this fashion phenomenon and properly identify it.

I have a basic, classic button down shirt from the catalog company known as “Tweeds”.  The first time their label was ever used was 1987.  The RN number on my shirt is 72830.
72830 – 13670 = 59160, divided by 2365 = 25.014.  1959 + 25 = 1984.
I got the shirt around 1993/1994.  Do you see how you have to be careful?

So what is an RN# supposed to be?  To make it really simple, let’s just say that was when the pattern for the garment was created. 
Once I had a corset that was styled SO 1950’s.  Even the fabric was 50's corset fabric.  The RN number put it right around 1959/1960.  However here was a smooth Tyvek tag on the inside and remember what I said about smooth Tyvek?  (maybe you should go back to my “When labels are a good thing” –post?;postID=6784840758516237596;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=6;src=postname)  
These were from the late 80's to the present!  So this was created using the vintage pattern and even the vintage fabrics, but it was made much more recently.

There are CA#’s too, but you cannot devise a formula for dating from them.  Those are on clothing from Canada.  I’ll get to WPL#’s someday, but right now I need another nap…
What’s new in my shop is showing up there on the right of the screen>>>>>>>>


  1. I have always wondered about RN numbers, especially on old tea towels, etc. Thanks for the info!

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