Vintage Sewing

1920’s fabric image help needed

January 25, 2012

OK, let’s see if I can explain this so it makes any kind of sense at all.

I need some help finding images of 1920’s fabrics, especially everyday cottons.  I have some 1920’s dresses on my mind and I’d like to approximate the patterns as closely as I can, but most of the reproduction fabrics available right now are either 19th century (especially Civil War) or 1930’s-1940’s.  If y’all can help me find images either of fabrics or of clothing (which is made from fabric, of course) so that I can get a better feel for what kinds of prints I should try to use, I would be most appreciative.  I love gingham, but it’s nice to branch out, right?

I know I sometimes see images of fabric or housedress ads.  They would be ideal.

Some examples:

1. The dress at the bottom of this post appears to be a white-over-indigo pattern, which I might be able to fudge with a late-19th century indigo reproduction.

2. If this and this really are 1920’s, they’re almost mod.  At the same time, they sort of resemble this 18th-19th century repro and this modern floral.

3. If these really are 1920’s, too, then they’re a bit 1840’s, both in off-tone and nonsensicality.

4. Some of the more-geometric, less-pastel, 1930’s repros might work, but I’m not sure that the colorways for the 1920’s were the same candy colors as those for the 1930’s.


I own this and plan to use it, but the fabric itself is terrible–more poly than cotton, despite what the label said–and I doubt I’ll really like the finished dress.

  1. I would recommend looking at the Sear’s Catalogs online on If you don’t have a membership or know someone who does, you can get a free trial. They have all of the catalogs which had fabric swatches/examples for sale.

  2. Hi, you could also try a search on ART DECO fabric design or ART DECO fabric. I have one on russian fabrics, a book I have had for 20 years. there is also Sonia Delaunay who did water colours but her designs were translated into fabrics and printed on silks mainly.
    everyone else’s suggestions are a good place to start too. Good luck.

  3. Have you checked your local library? Mine has quite a few books on clothing and costuming, including several that focus on the first half of the century and a “fashion and costume source book” focusing on the 20s and 30s (which I can’t remember ever looking at even though I worked on costuming a show set in the era, so maybe it wasn’t useful).
    Another track to follow is to look into archives and stock photography sources and/or find artists who were painting or taking photos at the time (paintings for colours, photos for patterns). The Smithsonian has quite an archive of photos. Also maybe look up photos of crowds at major events at the time: election speeches, dedications, groundbreakings, trials, assassinations, etc, and also see if the local newspaper still has archives from the time (might be on microfiche though) because sources like that will have pictures of local people doing not so important things, fundraisers and church gatherings and such.

    Not really helpful because they’re wearing costumes, but I love this photo I just found:

  4. You could try google imaging quilts from time period. They would have scrappy remnants with all sorts of “every day apparel” swatches.

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