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Part 36. Fabrics of the 50's and 60's

More 50s and 60s fabrics.

This review has a more transatlantic feel than usual to reflect the growing importance of American textile imports in the 50s and 60s: the rise of vintage fairs has brought many such fabrics onto the market and I thought some “picture” books might be of value and interest in dating these.

I shall begin with a batch of books published by Schiffer, an American firm. I am concentrating on four relevant titles; all are quarto but landscape with one hundred and twelve pages of full colour fabric swatch illustrations but the briefest of introductions. The first book is “Fun Fabrics of the 50s” by Joy Shih and she divides her fabrics into Floral: Roses, Daisies, Clusters, Floral Borders, Big & Bold Blooms, Abstracts, Leaves, Tropicals and Geometric Designs, Geometric has Stripes, Checks, Plaids, Dots & Squiggles, Medallions and Paisley Patterns, Novelty includes Creatures Great & Small, Under the Big Top, Storybook Themes, School and Play, Planes, Trains and Mobility, American West, Around the World , South of the Border, Fruits and Veggies and Home , Sweet Home. As each chapter has approximately forty pages, some groups, eg Floral Borders have two pages while Plaids or Creatures Great & Small have ten. The size of the swatch varies, some fill a page, other pages have nine; the usual is three/four/five. There is no information given as to actual size, fibre composition, maker, designer or precise date of production so really just a picture book.

Joy Shih also produced “Conversational Prints, Decorative Fabrics of the 1950s.” Again, full colour reproductions of fabric swatches, divided into chapters as; Americana West: Nature Calls, Water Water Everywhere, Exotic Destinations, Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Sports and Recreation; Circus and Children's Themes, Kitchen Prints and Novelty Geometrics. However, this time each swatch has a little information, often including the fibre composition and the whole layout is more regular and controlled with three/four/five swatches per page.

Joy has produced two books for the 60s: “Funky Fabrics of the 60s” and “Cool Hot Colours, Fabrics of the Late 1960s.” Funky Fabrics has the uninformative layout of Fun Fabrics and divided as usual into floral/geometric/pictorial etc but the swatches in Cool, Hot Colours are “actual textile manufactures' pattern books from textile houses in Milan, Italy, Paris, France and New York”. For this book, there are three/four fabrics per page and each has a description, fibre composition, date and place of production, here we are into designer silks, rayons and polyesters. But, again divided as the usual Florals, Paisley, Geometrics etc.

Finally the last of the Schiffer batch and “Flower Power, Prints from the 1960s” is written by Tina Skinner who shows three/four swatches per page with a little information such as fibre composition  and production date. No contents page as they are all floral and a high proportion of French fabrics with some Italian ones, no English or American.

So, to redress the balance I have included “V and A Pattern, The Fifties”, one of their small illustrated hardbacks including a compact disc of all sixty-seven images. Sue Pritchard writes a four-page introduction then it is full page illustrations of the wall papers and furnishing fabrics-no dress fabrics. To look at these designs alongside those in Joy's books is a revelation in how far apart we were in design just post-war, but how by Flower Power Prints from the 60s and Fabrics of the Late 1960s, how familiar all the designs seem.

If you want more illustrations of English fabrics, I will again recommend Marnie Fogg and “1950 Fashion Prints “(mostly furnishing fabrics ) and her “1960s Fashion Prints, A Sourcebook,” which moves into dress fabrics .As I wrote about these in detail in Review no 30  I will only briefly summarise: “1960s Fashion Print is beautifully produced in full colour with mostly full-page reproductions of the textiles; the extended captions are incisive and the fabrics often have their composition and size details included”.


Fun Fabrics of the 50s by Joy Shih, (Schiffer Publishing, U.S.A) was published in 1996, ISBN 0 7643 0173 X at £16.99 or £10.75 from Amazon's list of “others”.

Cool,Hot Colours, Fabrics of the Late 1960s by Joy Shih, (Schiffer Publishing, U.S.A) was published in 1997, ISBN 0 7643 0342 2, at £16.99 from Amazon and £11.99 from others on their list.

Funky Fabrics of the 60s by Joy Shih, (Schiffer Publishing, U.S.A) was published in 1996 ISBN 0 7643 0174 8 again published at £16.99 is only available at nearly £60.00, please don't bother.

Conversational Prints, Decorative Fabrics of the 1950s by Joy Shih, (Schiffer Publishing, U.S.A) was published in 1997, ISBN 0 7643 0341 4. at £16.99 or £10.85 including postage from others.

Flower Power, Prints from the 1960s by Tina Skinner is also published by Schiffer, U.S.A. In 1998, ISBN 0 7643 0675 8 and costs £16.99 from Amazon but is out of stock, the Book Depository has it for £9.10 plus postage.

Schiffer confuse by sometimes calling themselves A Schiffer Book, sometimes A Schiffer Book for Designers & Collectors, sometimes A Schiffer Design Book but they all have the same ISBN publishers number

V & A Pattern:The Fifties was published in 2009 by V & A Publishing, ISBN 978 1 81577 585 9  and costs £7.99, or £5.81 including postage from Amazon's cheapies. This does include a high-resolution image disc.

Marnie Fogg, 1960s Fashion Print, A Sourcebook, was published in 2008 by Batsford as an imprint of Anova Books Company Ltd, ISBN hardback 9781849940344, paperback 9780713490541.Amazon have it new at £16.99 hardback It can be bought cheaper at £12.96 including postage from the usual suspects.

Her 1950s Fashion Print was published by Batsford, same imprint, in 2010, ISBN 978190638881, no paperback. This is £20.00 new from Amazon or from £15.66 incl p & p as before.

© Brigid J.Ockelton. 2015

PLEASE NOTE - An indication is given of the availability and market price of the book at the time of writing and may not reflect today's availability and price.