Everything Old is New Again: 5 Old-school Fabrics That are Back in Style
Today’s Textile Trends Take Inspiration from the Design History Books
What is the adult equivalent of shopping for the perfect prom dress? Well, I think it is shopping for upholstery and drapery fabric! If you went to prom in the 80s, you might even notice the return of a few familiar textiles in the fabric store, like taffeta. That’s right! Your shimmering Pretty in Pink-inspired prom dress is going to make the perfect pair of drapes for your living room. Today, fabric trends are taking inspiration from the interior design history books. In addition to taffeta, the hit 80s textiles chintz and velvet are trending, as well as medieval damask and mid-century boucle. Of course, fabric popularity comes and goes, just as prom dresses go in and out of fashion. My team of Austin interior designers and I have researched the top five old-school fabrics that are back in style. We share what makes them unique, their history, and why these textiles are trending again today. After all, everything old is new again!
These are 5 Fabrics That are Back in Style for the 2020s
Taffeta is Totally Trending
What is Taffeta?
Taffeta is a tightly woven plain-weave or tabby-weave fabric formed with a simple criss-cross pattern, yielding a crisp and smooth textile with a bit of shimmer. Taffeta can be made from silk, rayon, acetate, or polyester and is considered a higher-end fabric for its starched appearance and ability to hold its shape. Since it can stand on its own, it makes impressive curtains. Taffeta comes from the Persian word for twisted or woven, and it originated in Baghdad during the 12th century. Now the textile is mainly produced in Italy and France. If you are an 80s kid, you definitely saw this fabric on prom night. Thanks for bringing this textile into the spotlight, Molly Ringwald!
Why Taffeta is Back in Style
The 2020s are all about reimagining 1980s design styles, so it only makes sense that taffeta is trending again. Don’t throw out that prom dress because you might have enough fabric to make a fashionable accent pillow! Taffeta brings a sense of elegance, glamour, and class to any room. If you are looking to create a formal space with a subtle nod to nostalgia, then taffeta is an excellent trending textile to embrace in your design.
Chintz is Making a Comeback
What is Chintz?
Chintz is a calico textile, a plain-woven and coarse fabric made from unbleached cotton, that is either stained, painted, or woodblock printed with traditional floral patterns. Chintz originated in Hyderabad, India, in the 16th century, and its name comes from the Hindi “chint,” which means spotted or variegated. The fabric became mass-produced during the Victorian era and spread across Europe for its beauty, durability, and ability to be easily wiped clean. Since the 19th century, the term chintz has been used to refer to the specific floral patterns popularized in the textile’s design.
Throughout history, chintz has gone in and out of fashion in the interior design world. After its peak popularity at the turn of the century, it did not see a resurgence again until the 1960s when Jackie Kennedy renovated The White House and featured “orange blossom” chintz in the interior. In the 1980s, chintz saw an even bigger comeback and became cemented in the pop culture aesthetic. Princess Diana wore the pattern. It popped up on the film sets of movies like 16 Candles. The home brand Laura Ashley began selling chintz bedding, and Nancy Reagan’s decorator Ted Graber put chintz in The White House again, calling the style “trend-resistant traditional.” However, the biggest proponent of chintz was Mario Buatta, who was appropriately dubbed the Prince of Chintz for using the fabric on every surface possible in his designs.
Mario Buatta is the Prince of Chintz
Prince of Chintz Mario Buatta is known for his English country aesthetic marked by vibrant colors, curated collections, inviting furnishings, and over-the-top applications of floral chintz. In his career, he designed the homes of notable celebrities like Mariah Carey and Billy Joel. His designs rejected cold contemporary uniformity and embraced personalization and comfort. In an interview, he said, “I can’t understand what people see in beige.” After decades filled with dull beige interiors in the early 2000s, homeowners and designers are once again embracing maximalist design perfected by Buatta. Of course, we are using chintz!
Why 1980s Chintz is Back in Style
Two significant interior design trends of the 2020s so far have been maximalist design and cottage style, otherwise known as “grand millennial” or “cottagecore.” An affinity for nostalgic design and personalized layered spaces is back, and chintz fits perfectly into the aesthetic. In a decade marked by uncertainty, it is nice to come home to cozy textiles that offer familiarity and comfort. Grandma knew what she was doing when she preserved that chintz sofa in plastic covers!
Velvet is Very Popular Again
What is Velvet?
People tend to think that velvet is a material in and of itself—probably because it’s garnered so much appeal! However, velvet is not a reference to the material or fiber but rather the weave of the fabric. The characteristic soft and dense warp-pile textile can be made from various materials, including silk, cotton, polyester, and polypropylene. The iconic velvet texture is created with a unique method that uses more yarn than other fabric weaves. In order to make velvet, fibers are knitted together between two layers of backing and are divided into two identical pieces with soft upraised piles. These piles are what give the textile the “velvety” feel.
The earliest forms of velvet textiles have been found in Egypt and date back to 2,000 BCE. Eastern cultures have been making silk velvets since 400 BCE, and European nobility has been using the fabric as a status symbol since the Middle Ages. The mainstream production of velvet, however, began to boom during the Renaissance as technology allowed for faster and easier production. While velvet has never gone out of style, it does have increased periods of popularity. In the 1970s, velvet paintings became a fad, and by the 1980s, velvet became a staple of decadent interior design schemes.
Why Velvet is So Stylish
Velvet provides durability, cozy comfort, dramatic contrast, and rich texture to any room. It is easy to see why this textile is so stylish and always on trend! Velvet is one of my favorite textile choices for families with children and pets. While it looks expensive and delicate, it is actually quite forgiving and will stand up to decades of wear.
Damask is Definitely on Trend
What is Damask?
Damask is a reversible jacquard patterned fabric, meaning the pattern is woven into the textile rather than printed on top. The design is created with a satin weave, while the background uses a contrasting plain or twill weave, creating texture and definition. Damask patterns can be created with one or multiple colors and made from different materials, including silk, linen, cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers. Damask gets its name from Damascus, where it was produced during the Middle Ages. The textile design originated in China around 300 BCE and was brought to the Middle East and Europe via the Silk Road. Like velvet, it became a popular decorating choice among European nobility.
Why Damask is Popular Today
Damask is a popular fabric selection in many traditional design schemes, as its decorative and durable weave makes for beautiful curtains and upholstery. Plus, it’s reversible, which can be fun! While damask is old, historic, and lovely, it is not for everyone. This traditional textile is excellent for old-world-inspired designs and maximalist spaces but feels out of place in more streamlined contemporary interiors. If you have a period home, consider giving this trending fabric a try.
Boucle is Back
What is Boucle?
Boucle fabric is made from a series of looped fibers, including large circlets and tiny curls to achieve a soft feel and heavily textured appearance. Boucle is commonly woven from wool, but cotton, linen, silk, and synthetic textiles are also used. The fabric’s name is derived from the French word meaning curled or ringed, honoring the technique used to achieve the look. Boucle was a popular textile among mid-century furniture designers and Chanel—classy and fabulous!
Boucle made its first appearance in 1948 when architect Florence Knoll asked designer Eero Saarinen to create “a chair that was like a basket full of pillows—something to really curl up in.” The final product was the Womb Chair, which featured not only a supportive and cozy frame but also a completely new textile. Saarinen created the nubby boucle fabric to provide that extra layer of comfort, and the popularity of boucle took off from there.
Why Boucle is Trending Again
Boucle fabric is synonymous with mid-century modern design, which continues to have mass appeal and a cult following among many homeowners. Plus, the material pairs well with trending curvilinear shapes that are gaining popularity for their natural forms. Aesthetics aside, boucle has many benefits that contribute to its renewed acclaim, including durability, visual texture, softness, and range of use. Comfort should always be the top priority when designing a room, and boucle fabric hits the mark while looking effortlessly stylish to boot!
The Future of Fabric
As textile developers continue to engineer fabrics for durability and comfort, the trends will continue to move towards engineered fibers and performance fabrics. Fabrics have been embraced throughout history for their comfort, feel, and, most importantly, durability.
Why Performance Fabrics are the Future of Textiles
Performance fabric refers to any textile that is easy to clean and resistant to wear. They typically offer a combination of stain, rub, and fade resistance as well as antimicrobial traits. The most common fibers used include acrylic, polyester, nylon, and olefin. Today, homeowners are looking for highly personalized patterns and colors that feel soft to the touch and can withstand the chaos of daily life. So while design styles might change, comfort and ease of use will always be trending.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.