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  • Writer's pictureEmma

Iconic Vintage Prints and Patterns

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

One of the great joys of shopping for vintage clothing is discovering the great array of wild and wonderful prints. From delicate florals to graphic neon shapes and beyond, you’re sure to find something stylishly sophisticated or fabulously out-there to add to your wardrobe.

Then of course there are the iconic prints; Houndstooth, Fair Isle, gingham and polka dot – designs which have been reinvented time and time again. These are the classics; the patterns which never go out of style and which every vintage wardrobe needs:

Fair Isle Winter is on its way in the UK and the High Street is awash with mock Fair Isle jumpers. This cosy knit looks positively Danish but it actually began life on Fair Isle (one of the Shetland Islands) in the 18th century.

Fair Isle | Vintage Fabric | Fashion Blog

The traditional Fair Isle design features horizontal colour work knitting in two colours. The colours used were red, blue, orange, brown and purple.

Fair Isle only became en vogue when it was worn by the Prince of Wales in 1921. Soon after, this humble knit pattern became a style staple and it has enjoyed regular revivals ever since.

Houndstooth Houndstooth is a duotone check pattern. It features unusual, pointed shapes which look a little like canine teeth – hence the name. Originating in Scotland in the 1800s, it was initially worn by shepherds.

Houndstooth | Vintage Fabrics | Vintage Clothing

Houndstooth made a fashionable comeback in the 1930s and again in the late 50s when Christian Dior used the pattern on a pointed court shoe. It has since been the pattern of choice for many fashion houses, including Anne Klein, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Moschino.

Gingham Often associated with school uniforms and country cottage tablecloths, gingham is seldom seen as fashionable now. But in the 1920s flirty gingham swimsuits and shorts were made very popular by Hollywood starlets. Gingham hit the fashion headlines again in the 1940s as war rationing and the need for utilitarian clothing influenced a simpler fashion aesthetic.

Gingham | Vintage Fashion Blog | Vintage Fabrics

This simple cotton cloth features a brightly coloured check, usually in blue and white or red and white. It dates back to at least the 17th century and its exact origin is unknown.

Polka Dots Polka dot patterns have been popular in fashion, art and more recently, graphic design since the 19th Century.

Polka Dots | Fashion Blog | Vintage Clothing

Worn by Miss America in 1926, Minnie Mouse and Winston Churchill, polka dots have been favoured by men, women and cartoon characters alike. The polka dot gained legendary status on the release of Frank Sinatra’s single Polka Dots and Moonbeams in 1940.

This feminine print was embraced by Dior in his ‘New Look’ collection (1947) and Hollywood actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor later wore the pattern with panache.

Look out for more on vintage patterns and prints over the coming months…

Visit My Vintage at our vintage shop based in Darwen, Lancashire for a wide range of original vintage clothing and vintage accessories as well as our range of reproduction rockabilly clothing and rockabilly dresses. You can also shop online 24/7 at for even more original vintage fashion.

Hope to see you all soon…

Emma x


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