Prints and patterns on fabric come in all repeats, colors and shapes and that’s why picking the right fabric patterns for your clothes can be tricky – let alone knowing exactly what you’re looking at.
I’ve scoured the internet to try and help break down the basic information about the most popular types of clothing patterns we often see so you know exactly which pattern catches your eye.
Stripes are probably the most recognised pattern of all time. Whether you are looking at a diagonal or pinstripe pattern, you are sure to notice stripes everywhere. Some common stripe types include:
Roman stripes pattern
Bright varicolored stripes of equal or unequal widths which are used in a continuous pattern, frequently seen in quilts.
Serpentine stripes pattern
Is a popular stripe pattern seen in carpets and vintage wallpapers. They have a bit of a snake like wiggle or wave to them which is how they got their name.
Are usually a bold color with white stripes in equal width. These are commonly seen on outdoor beach accessories.
Features ¼” alternative narrow stripes. It can either be a mix of white and color, or two colors. It’s commonly seen on dress shirt type fabrics.
Other stripes you may have seen or recognised are candy stripes which feature pale colors or a pencil stripe pattern which is an alternating mix of one thick and one thin stripe.
Checkered pattern has modified stripes consisting of horizontal and vertical stripes which form squares (think checkerboard pattern). The pattern contains two colors where a single checker or square is surrounded on all four sides by squares or checkers of a different color.
A check pattern can also be known as buffalo check pattern and is known to be worn by Lumberjacks.
The Gingham pattern was brought from Asia to Europe in the 17th century and gained popularity. From the mid – 18th century it was started to be produced in the mills of Manchester in England and was woven into patterns of blue red or white.
Gingham pattern can be a combination of colors that create the striping instead of only two like a checkered pattern. They create even sized squares when they overlap.
I think when mixing gingham with any pattern you can’t go that wrong. It matches many colors and requires minimal maintenance for any body type or fashion style. Remember that dress Dorothy wore in Wizard of Oz? That was blue gingham!
Tartan consists of multiple colors that are woven in horizontal and vertical bands that were associated with Scotland to represent different clans or families. Tartan can sometimes be known as plaid – but plaid actually refers to any woven crisscross pattern, using horizontal and vertical closely spaced lines.
Tartan is most commonly woven in wools, although the pattern can be found in everything nowadays from shirts and scarves to accessories. Tartan usually has larger squares, and is found with a thick stripe surrounded by thinner stripes to create a large repeating pattern.
You can find plaid patterns in the home in tablecloths, tea towels, bedspreads and curtains. Using them in this way is a most subtle way of bringing them into your home without them being the main attraction.
Herringbone gets its name from the way the pattern looks. The typical fabric of wool is a twill weave composed of vertical sections in geometric shapes, that are alternately right hand and left hand in direction – creating a zigzag design.
Due to its construction, the thin banks in the chevron pattern look like the bones of a herring fish.
Herringbone patterns are most often made with similar colors to create a fine look from a distance. You will see it widely used in suits, jackets and dress shirts.
Paisley is a beautiful bold pattern with tear dropped shapes which dates back centuries. A tear drop shaped motif known as a buta has a curved upper end and sometimes floral influences in the surrounding additional shapes.
The ornamental textile design has influences from ancient Persia. Back then paisley was worn by nobles; and the pattern motif was woven onto silk clothing using silver and gold material, to represent the elite social status.
Today paisley can be seen in fashion, architecture, jewelry and art in many different colors and tones.
Argyle is a diamond shaped pattern made up of several colors, and dates back to Scotland in the 17th Century. Different clans wore these geometric motifs on their kilts, plaids and socks. The interlocking pattern of diamonds is usually placed on a solid background and then thin solid or dotted lines cross the diamonds diagonally from both directions.
This type of fabric pattern is most commonly seen in socks and sweaters – (I think of wealthy golfers or horse riders when I see this pattern). Ralph Lauren has used this timeless pattern to add preppy charm to their woolen sweaters for years.
Trellis patterns and lattice work fabric patterns feature interwoven shapes and were much favored in upholstery in the 18th century. The fabric pattern is characterized by elegant and symmetrical shapes and cool pale colors.
They have symmetrical shapes and could therefore be considered as geometric patterns which can feature small lines, leaves or flowers.
Nowadays these patterns can most commonly be seen in dresses and t-shirts, although they are still a very popular pattern in curtains. They are commonly seen as Vogue patterns.
Floral patterns are decorated with natural motifs of flowers. Florals will always be fashionable and in my opinion, always a universal solution to any questions relating to prints – you can mix and match florals with just about any other pattern.
The floral theme is believed to have originated in the East, then traveled to the west for the orient and asia. The first traders from the east brought beautiful silks printed or embroidered with exotic flower decorative elements.
Floral prints can be seen in the home as table cloths, bedsheets or in clothing as literally any item of clothing you can imagine.
I like to use a floral pattern in my sewing during spring time or for making clothes for my niece during this season. They can also look stylish on vintage and retro style lovers, as each fabric can have diverse solid colors and sizes of floral motifs.
Chevron fabric pattern
Chevron fabric pattern is almost a modern take on the herringbone look. It’s a more trendy zig-zag striped shaped pattern which can be seen on lots of clothing and household items.
It’s a very bold print, which I think can give a really youthfulness to an outfit.
The Chevron pattern’s first recordings were first seen in ancient Greek pottery carvings from about 1800 BC.
If you then fast forward a few thousand years, we can see the zigzag lines of chevron markings seen on the coat of arms symbol, and later becoming a badge to show rank in military forces. It was a really popular pattern in the 1970, and can be seen in bags, coats or dresses.
Dotted Swiss Pattern
As the name suggests this pattern is tiny textured dots which was first made in Switzerland on hand looms in 1750. Dotted swiss pattern is usually seen on wedding dresses, shirts, fuller blousers, blouses, baby clothes and curtains.
Traditionally it was made from a fine plain weave of cotton, but not sometimes a blend with a manufactured fiber, dotted swiss is a raised pattern consisting of small equally spaced dots. These can be woven in, printed or flocked. Colors can be introduced, but the most common true dotted swiss is in all white.
While there are many variations available – the original look is always the same: a sheer, lightweight fabric pattern with a dotted motif.
Greek Key Pattern
Greek key fabric pattern also known as Greek Fret is an interlocking pattern of geometric shapes of squares or rectangles, that draw a continuous line. It is said to represent infinity and the eternal flow of things, which could be interpreted by the pattern’s unbroken continuous style.
It was found abundantly in the architecture and decorative arts from the Greek Empire and the motif was used by Romans.
Eventually used in Europe during the Empire State, it was one of the most common fabric patterns of the time. This ancient pattern has stood the test of time, and you find it around the border of a dress, shirt or rugs in a contemporary room.
Batik patterns have to be one of the most interesting fabric patterns created! In Indonesia it’s a well known technique that has been developed for centuries.
Batik fabric is made using a wax-resistant dyeing technique. The traditional technique in creating the pattern involved applying melted wax onto a cloth before dipping it into a dye. The wax holds to the fabric and the dye penetrates the unwaxed areas – if multiple colors are desired the process is repeated.
Jacquard, Brocade or Damask pattern
These beautiful patterns all come under the term jacquard (ja-kard) which is an umbrella term used for fabrics that were weaved on a jacquard loom. The loom was invented in 1801 and helped to create some of the most beautiful floral or repetitive shapes that can be rather formal in style.
The patterns are usually subdued in color, but have a raised pattern that looks embroidered but has actually been woven into the design.
These fabric patterns can be seen in high end evening wear such as jackets or skirts. The fabric patterns are usually made from luxury materials which carry sheen like silk.
Houndstooth pattern, also known as a Shepherd’s Check, is a traditional duostone pattern. It gets its name due to its broken check in straight lines which creates an abstract look which looks like hounds teeth. This classic print pattern has been seen in the fashion world since the 1920’s, thanks to the Coco Chanel.
Think checked pattern, but instead of the clean crisp square edges it has abstract or irregular points on the corners of the squares which almost gives an appearance of dogs teeth. Houndstooth looks good in winter in trousers and jackets.
Ethnic patterns are more complex patterns from a specific nationality or a design which is based upon folk art. We use the term ethnic print – but I guess the word really means relating to a population subgroup with a common natural or cultural tradition such as African patterns.
They are usually based upon cultural patterns usually with strong design motifs. This encompasses everything from Asian batik fabric, to Native American rug fabrics, Ethnic patterns are some of the most visually exciting fabrics that we see today.
A harlequin pattern consists of checkered diamond shapes in solid colors instead of squares. Often there may feature a small dot where the diamonds meet. The diamonds in Harlequin pattern can be very colorful or have a simple design of white plus another color.
It’s common fabric patterns for preppy outdoor clothes, or socks. These are a common type of digital patterns that we see in fashion lines today.
Bird’s Eye Pattern
A bird’s eye pattern is an extremely intricate pattern of tiny dots.
It’s most commonly seen in the construction of men’s suits today, and will take the form of light coloured dots on a dark colored cloth background.
Far from being a polka dots aesthetic, the repetitive pattern from a distance has an appearance of being a field of solid color.
The dots are centered with diamond stitches, which can be used on alternate pieces such as t-shirts or neckties. It’s a small repetitive woven pattern that resembles the eye of a bird on a cotton fabric made on a dobby loom.
Bull’s Eye Pattern
Similarly to birds eye, a bullseye pattern is vintage patterns of concentric circles which often create optical illusion style such as movement in spiral shapes or pulsation when the eye is cast across them.
A bullseye pattern (also called Boho prints) adds an additional dimension to a traditional fitted polo dress flare to the hemline. The term originated with 1880’s shooting competitions in England, when the black circle in the middle of a target looks like a bull’s eye.
Glen Check Pattern
Also known as Glen Plaid or the Prince of Wales Check. This complex plaid pattern consists of a woolen fabric woven into both small and large checks. Usually the fabric is muted with a color with 2 dark and 2 light stripes which createas a crossing apttern of irregular checks.
The fabric is typically seen in winter staple items that have earned its place in the average wardrobe. The name derived from Glenurquhart in Scotland where the fabric was designed for the gamekeepers outfits in the early 19th century.
I think of the swinging 60’s mini dresses and wallpaper whenever I see this retro pattern made of ogee print.
It is a distinct pattern with two continuous S-Shaped curves narrowing and widening. These two curves form a perfect oval before repeating out gradually.
Inside the oval shapes can be block colors or other shapes mimicking their borders. The layout is known for their very pleasing flow and single element.
This pattern can now be seen in summer dresses, but the origins of ogee can be traced to the tomb of Cyprus in ancient Persia (559 – 529BC) – you can still see ogee patterning in windows and arches across the middle east.
How Do You Match Clothing Patterns?
If you’re adding or pairing fabrics together to wear the general rule is to mix patterns to look fun, but in moderation. Wearing many different patterns at the same time can sometimes look too much or a little tacky.
Consider the balance between two patterns too, if one pattern is larger, try mixing it with a smaller pattern to help contract them. Avoid mixing multiple large patterns together. Subtle patterns and similar colors look good together.
This list just scratched the surface of the types of patterns we see today. It’s not only in homes or clothes we see these prints, but in architecture and animals too! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about types of fabric patterns as much as I have writing this.
What is your favorite pattern? I’d love to know in the comments below.
1. Birdseye Pattern On Man’s Suit By w:Allan Warren (photo), User:Kotivalo (crop and processing) – derivative (cropped detail) from File:10th_Duke_of_Buccleuch_Allan_Warren.JPG, CC BY-SA 3.0