1950s Curtain Fabric

Written by janet lee-amies
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1950s Curtain Fabric
Accompany your mid-century furniture with curtains that evoke the 1950s. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

In the U.S., the 1950s post-war era was portrayed as an idyllic time where fathers drove glam Cadillacs, housewives wearing frilly aprons cooked up delicious meals for their families and bungalows were decked out in mid-century modern furniture. This purported era of optimism was also embraced in soft furnishings. Curtains made from vibrant fabrics bedecked with kitschy patterns framed the windows. Recreate a slice of the halcyon days of the 1950s by incorporating some retro-style curtain fabrics into your home.

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Bark Cloth

Bark cloth is synonymous with the 1950s, and this fabric is an ideal weight for curtains. The soft-textured woven cloth, typically produced in the Hawaiian islands and South Pacific nations of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa, was once pounded out of mulberry bark. It's often referred to as "tapa" cloth. Vintage Hawaiian bark cloth from the 1950s is woven from cotton and is characterised by bold tropical patterns depicting Hawaiian motifs such as hibiscus flowers, palm trees and bamboo. Ethnic and tiki designs on fabrics were also common during the 1950s.


Floral fabrics fashioned into curtains were typical in 1950s households. Large roses -- not sweet, diminutive buds -- figured prominently in bold and cheery patterns. All-over flower motifs were common and flowers were shown in full bloom with perfectly shaped petals bursting off a white backdrop. "Ardmore" is a 1950s-era cotton fabric characterised by blue flowers with green leaves on a cream-coloured backdrop. Other floral fabrics used for curtains in the 1950s were woven from silk. Lighter-weight satin brocade embellished with Asian symbols in pale blue and pink was a luxurious curtain fabric choice.


Cosmic! Atomic! These words were used to describe patterns of 1950s fabrics that were a departure from the floral patterns noted above. "The Jetsons" cartoon comes to mind when thinking of these fun and funky materials, although that series was shown in the 1960s and set in 2062. Dashes, dots, circles and geometric shapes were the mainstay of atomic- or cosmic-style patterns that seemed to refer to an otherworldly galaxy. Rich red, pale blue, lemon yellow and grey were common colours for these abstract patterned 1950s curtain fabrics.

Polka Dots and Stripes

Home fashions have always emulated what's worn on the fashion runway, so it's no surprise that slim stripes and polka dots bedecked '50s-era fabrics. Jackie O and Grace Kelly showcased their timeless and conservative style, and the housewife could outfit her home with more understated stripes and dots. The 1950s beach-striped fabric sported primary colours interspersed with black stripes. These patterns became even more prominent in the 1960s in bolder colours such as brown, yellow and orange.

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