Dating fabrics by eileen trestain
Time really hasn’t changed wools and silks and as they were produced in a variety of widths and distinctive weave patterns from the late1800s. Generally older wool acquires a musty smell which many times even a good airing can’t dispel.
Identification of these two fabrics requires knowing what’s been on the market in the last several decades and using good textile-dating reference books with high-quality colored and black-and-white photos.
For instance, iridescent chambray and basket-weave cottons were the absolute rage in the late 1940s-early 50s; finding those fabrics in 36″ is a good clue to their age. Some plain-weave cottons such as batiste, lawn and nainsnook are still with us but whether old or vintage, their similarities after washing make them virtually indistinguishable from each other.
Two other long-gone family members, mull and longcloth, are nearly indistinguishable from nainsnook and lawn whether new or washed.
Prior to the 1940s, dots were larger, fluffier and wider-spaced on sheer or gauzy muslin or lawn.
So, your divy instincts having performed admirably, you know you have something old, but exactly how old and and exactly what is it?
Fabric identification without the aid of selvage markings, provenance or an expert can be tricky. But there are clues to put you somewhere in the ballpark.
Color, designs, patina and fancy weaves are stronger giveaways.
Old catalogs, ads, pattern and fashion magazines like the by Eileen Trestain, 1998, plus your personal knowledge are useful tools for a decade-by-decade comparison of fabrics.