Choosing Classic Fabrics

Fabrics fall in and out of fashion like miniskirts.  One year they’re hot, the next year they’re not.  How do you choose a fabric that’s not going to be next year’s ‘out’?

Classics never go out of style.  They may change slightly through the years, but they are never truly ‘out’ unless you let them become outdated.  For instance, in the late 1980’s, shiny chintz in florals and geometrics were hanging out in houses everywhere in drapes – usually with a matching upholstered piece nearby.

While that look is so yesterday, chintz has been around as a staple in English country décor and has staying power.  Take down the tired drapes, if the print is a classic, use them to upholster an ottoman or smaller piece to add a varying sheen to a room of duller fabrics.

Other classics that have had twists and turns through the years but will be around for years to come:


The pastoral scenes printed on a solid background color have been around for over 100 years, so they’re not going away any time soon.  What does change is the colors.  Waverly introduced a line of toiles in hot colors that are quite attractive, but nothing can top a classic black on cream toile patterned fabric.


Stripes never go out of style, the width and colors of them may, but classic neutrals with a bold offset color will always have staying power for upholstery and drapery uses.


Silks are classics, particularly in formal and traditional settings.  Dupioni silks bring the silk into more casual styles with uneven textures and finish.  While dupioni may fall in an out of style, classic, quality silk is here to stay.


Leather upholstery is a classic, durable covering that will last for decades.  Quality leather wears in such a way that makes it even warmer looking and comfortable.  While colored leathers such as blues and greens have not lasted in style, the natural colors have been, and will remain, a good choice for upholstery.


Linen fabrics come from the flax plant, and with the trend of going green, are experiencing a resurgence in popularity – but it never really went away in the first place.  Linens always give a crisp, casual look in draperies, and if the fabric is pretreated, doesn’t wrinkle as much as the untreated version.  Expect plain linens and linen prints to have staying power in home decorating fabrics.

Bottom Line

Good taste and quality never go out of style.  While you can follow trends and styles in home décor by switching out accessories and paint colors, choose fabrics for larger uses – upholstery and drapery – that have staying power.