8 Best Fabric for Vintage Dresses

Making vintage dresses is both fun to do and even better to wear especially when you can go to the effort and really make them look vintage and from the desired era. But you might be wondering what the best fabrics are to use for vintage dresses.

There is no definitive fabric you should use for vintage dresses though if you want to be historically correct you would be looking at sourcing fabrics that were designed and made within that era. Alternative fabrics include cotton and wool that staple vintage fabrics and work well on many garments.

In this article, I am going to talk about what fabrics are best suited to vintage dresses, what you should know and ways you can create truly wonderful vintage dresses.

Can I Use Any Fabric for a Vintage Dress?

What goes around will come around, and that is the case when it comes to vintage clothing. Vintage dresses are old styles of clothing, based on the era and period that they represent.

The generally accepted industry standard of the fabric for vintage dresses was made 20 to 100 years ago.

So, can you use any fabric for your vintage dresses? You can, as long as you’re not trying to be historically correct. If you are trying to follow the rules strictly, then the fabric that you use must have been produced over 20 years ago.

People usually get vintage fabric from yard sales – they might have been abandoned in an old manufacturer’s storage room or forgotten elsewhere.

If you want to make a vintage dress for yourself, you don’t necessarily have to look out for old fabrics. You can use any fabric for your vintage dress, as long as it is high-quality, durable, and comfortable.

You can also sew different kinds of vintage patterns that would make even the newest fabrics look like vintage dresses. If you’re new to sewing, you can start with simple fabrics and patterns.

What Are the Benefits of Using the Correct Fabrics for A Vintage Dress?

When you use actual vintage fabric to make a dress, there are a few benefits that you can expect, unlike when you use new fabric.

One main benefit of using the correct fabric to make your vintage dress is the durability and tried-and-tested nature of the fabric. Since the fabric has already been made in clothing before, you can rest assured that it would work well and prove its worth.

Although you might think that the fabric is old and weak, you can buy high-quality and durable ones to make vintage dresses.

Also, the vintage fabric usually has the construction and style that would fit vintage dresses. Even if the construction is a bit out of place from what you’ve been thinking of, they are usually easily adjustable, so you can enjoy sewing with the fabric.

When buying vintage fabric, you should consider when that fabric was released. For instance, if nylon was released in 1947 and you see a vintage nylon fabric with a 1920 tag on it, then you can be sure that fabric is fake. The condition of the fabric is also important, especially if it has been stored and abandoned for a long time.

For many of these fabrics, their condition would reflect how they were stored. You might see stains and other damages on the fabric, but as long as it is of high quality and is still durable, you can restore the fabric and use it. You shouldn’t buy vintage fabrics that are beyond repair.

Apart from buying old vintage fabric, you can also buy the fabrics that fit each era of the dresses that you want to make. Before buying any fabric for your vintage dress, you should consider some important factors and pay attention to the quality of the fabric.

You also have to consider your skill set when choosing vintage fabric, so keep this in mind. As a beginner, go for fabrics that are easier to use and forgiving like cotton, linen, wool, and polyester. But if you’re already fully experiencing, you can start making silk, rayon, or fur vintage dresses.

You can make a vintage dress with natural, man-made, and synthetic fibres.

8 Best Fabrics for Vintage Dresses

If you’re thinking about what kinds of fabrics you can use to make gorgeous vintage dresses, we have compiled the top eight for you to choose from.

1. Cotton

The first and most popular choice for vintage dresses is cotton, a natural fibre that was available during a lot of periods. Cotton has been used around the world for many millennia, making it a perfect vintage fabric.

Cotton lace was a popular material used on fitted dresses in the 1940s, so you can make this your focus when choosing a stitching pattern for your vintage dress.

Cotton is well-known for being comfortable and soft, and since it’s highly durable, you can use it for a long time. The fabric is also versatile and great for beginner use, so if you want to practice making vintage dresses, you can start with cotton.

2. Silk

Silk is another popular vintage fabric that you can use to make gorgeous vintage dresses. There are different types of silk, and they were all used at different times. There is silk shantung, which was a popular material in the 1960s.

People mostly made teal and orange dresses out of this material. You can also find silk satin dresses with hand-beaded designs, especially in cheongsam dresses from the 1960s. The decade before that saw the popularity of silk organza.

Another type of vintage silk was silk crepe, which was mostly used in the 1930s for dinner dresses and tea gowns, while silk chiffon was used on beaded evening dresses in the 1920s. Silk is very tricky to use because of its slippery, soft, and fluid texture. It’s best to advance your skills in sewing first before using silk.

3. Linen

Linen, either the natural or the artificial version, also make a great fit for vintage dresses. Linen has been popular since the 17th century, but when it comes to vintage dresses, it gained popularity in the 1990s.

It was a staple for summer holiday clothes and became a practical style for many during this time. Faux linen also gained popularity during the Great Depression and even after the Second World War.

Linen does not stretch or slip and is very easy to use under the sewing machine. But you have to take special care when using linen fabric, especially if it’s vintage because they are prone to shrinking and fraying.

4. Rayon

If you’re thinking of using something different and artificial, rayon is also a good material for vintage dresses. In the 1950s, rayon lace and silk organza were combined to make party dresses.

While in the 1960s, there was a popular practice of blending rayon shantung with guipure lace to make dress ensembles. It was also widely used to make lace dresses and blouses when combined with tulle. When choosing rayon fabric, keep in mind that they are divided into the pre-50s and post 50s fabrics.

Rayon has all the good features that you see in natural fibre, while they soak out stains and have a slight sheen. The fabric is also a bit tricky, so don’t go for it if you’re a beginner.

5. Wool

If you need another natural fabric for your vintage dresses, what does that better than comfy, fuzzy, and soft wool. Wool was used in different ways and popular at different times, so you can choose the one that fits the dress that you’re sewing.

Wool lace was widely used on dresses in the early 1960s. In this same period, it was usually mixed with silk to make evening dresses.

Although wool might seem a bit intimidating to many, they are easy to sew and take care of. You have to keep in mind that not all wool fabrics are the same, and so you should use those that are easy to sew if you’re a beginner.

6. Nylon

Nylon is another widely used fabric for vintage dresses. The synthetic fibre was first used as a substitute for silk in the late 1930s. They were first used for socks, stockings, and tights, before being used to make dresses. After the Second World War, it was developed into a fashion fabric for clothes.

In the late 1940s, nylon dresses became quite popular, so you can date your dresses based on this period. The fabric has some downsides, like the fact that it frays and cuts easily, but you can start using it better once you’ve practised enough.

7. Polyester

Polyester started as a material for ladieswear in the 1950s, and its popularity spread throughout the US. It was then used to make different kinds of dresses. There was also a wide use of polyester satin, which is where polyester is the fiber and satin is the weave.

Yellow sport jersey clothing fabric texture and background with many folds

Before the mid-60s, each clothing factory had different names for polyester. So, if you’re confused about what a vintage fabric is because it has no label, there’s a good chance that it is polyester.

This isn’t the easiest fabric to sew through, so you have to keep this in mind when using it to make vintage dresses.

8. Fur

If you want an extravagant style, then making vintage fur dresses would give you the feeling that you’re looking for. From the 1950s to the 1960s, fur coats were a must-have for anyone who knew anything about fashion.

They usually used them to make coats, shawls and wraps to complete their dinner dresses, and so if you’re making a vintage dress, you can add fur to the mix to complete the old-school look. Faux fur was introduced in 1929, so it made fur dresses and coats more accessible to everyone.

Fur is relatively easy to sew, so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck once you buy the material. You should go for faux fur and not the real thing, although using it to make coats and vintage dresses would require a lot of your patience.