Whether vibrant, tropical, understated or old-style flower designs on fabric, it’s here to stay. Whether you’re looking to shop for fabrics for interior décor or fashionable clothing for the coming season, you’ll find plenty of eye-catching choices to match your mood, style and personality.

The history of floral fabrics

Flowers have always had significance. Way back in Ancient Egypt, the lotus was considered sacred. The Greeks and Romans also used real flowers, both as decoration and for their exquisite scent.

People started creating flower patterns on fabrics in China in the 12th century to adorn their clothing. And it didn’t stop there – it spread to the Middle East, before travelling along the Silk Road, to Europe. In fact, throughout Asia, floral patterns were created on fabrics throughout the 12th and 13th centuries.

By the 15th and 16th centuries, the Italians were transforming velvet, silk and other fine fabrics into masterpieces of flower design using gold and silver thread. These gorgeous craft designs then appeared in embroidery craft form on silk fabric in France; they were extremely popular at the time of Louis the Fourteenth.

From France, they travelled over the Channel to British soil. The British started manufacturing printed floral patterns on fabric in the middle of the 18th century. When people started printing on fabric, floral patterns became available to all, not just the wealthy who could afford expensive embroidered silk and velvet fabric. The first flower fabric designs were originally in glazed cotton calico. People then started using cotton chintz fabrics, which were invented in India.

The rise of the floral print

Chintz flower print became very popular in the 19th Century during the Industrial Revolution. Towards the end of the century, artists began creating magnificent flower prints on fabric using different flowers.

This continued into the 20th century: many historic flower fabric patterns were created during that time, including the extremely popular fabric print, Liberty London, which was invented in the 1920s. These timeless small-scale flower fabric designs are sought-after favourites.

Other popular 20th century patterns include Hawaiian hibiscus fabric designs on men’s shirts in the ‘40s, tropical fabric designs in the ‘50s, exuberant flower power fabric designs in the Swinging Sixties and famous Laura Ashley fabric patterns in the 1970s and ‘80s. 

The trend has continued right into the 21st century. You’ll find many shops full of fabric stock with flower patterns for clothing and for the home.

The language of florals

Throughout the ages, flowers have had different meanings for different cultures. Originally a symbol of femininity, flower fabrics are now used for clothing for men, women and children as well as for décor in homes, offices, restaurants, shop interiors, hotels and public spaces. Let’s take a look at the significance of flowers on fabrics in different countries and cultures.

  • In China: Bold, brightly coloured embroidered woven brocade fabrics featured the peony (known as the ‘king of the flowers’) and the phoenix (known as the ‘king of the birds’). To the Chinese, peonies symbolised wealth and honour. There was also the lotus flower, a popular Buddhist symbol used to represent purity.
  • In Turkey: Classic cotton Ottoman fabrics were thought to be inspired by Chinese fabric designs. They featured very stylised repetitive floral fabric cotton patterns, mainly in heavy woven velvet. The most common flowers used in fabric patterns were peonies and carnations.
  • In Japan: Chrysanthemums were prevalent on kimonos because these flowers symbolised the sun and the royal family. The Japanese experimented with various techniques on fabrics to dye, embroider and print flower patterns.
  • In India: This culture is synonymous with vibrant, ornate fabric patterns, particularly in cotton chintz and used mainly in home décor. Originally, flowers were drawn on cotton fabric as well as silk or wool fabric, which was coated with wax everywhere except on the flowers themselves. Workers would then dye the fabric by dipping it into several dye baths. They would then wash and dry the fabric. As they didn’t have yellow or green dye, they would create those colours for the fabric dye, using saffron.

    Cotton material with florals

    Cotton floral fabrics for the home

    No matter the effect you’re after, you’ll find a floral fabric that will do the job, creating a cosy, warm, inviting atmosphere in every room. Dress up homeware items like curtain fabric, cushions and cotton quilting material for bed covers. Create upholstery fabric with flowers, floral patterns for tables, walls and kitchenware from the wide selection of blossoms and blooms available. Change the look with different fabric textures to soften, warm or brighten every space. Remember: cotton fabric is the best material for soft furnishings.

    The magic of flowers on fabric is that it’s timeless and versatile. With myriad flowers and colours to choose from, you can personalise a room to suit a specific person or mood. These days, we are both nostalgic and forward-thinking, so anything goes. Mixing colours and patterns has become extremely popular. Go minimalist or decorate to the max – it’s all up to you. Borrow some culture from the East or go vibrant with Mexican or Moroccan hues… the choice of floral fabrics by the metre is so vast, you’ll be spoilt for choice when you create your wishlist.


    Flower pattern choices for home decor

    • Country cottage: English gardens feature a haphazard proliferation of gorgeous blooms. Add some magical greenery to your material that is so symbolic of the British countryside and you’ve got a whole world of beauty to discover. Decorate fabrics with minimalist flowers and lots of green or mismatched delicate flowers.
    • To the max: To capture a personality or theme, you may need to add lots of different facets. This type of décor needn’t be complicated. Achieve the effect by layering or repeating a floral pattern on cotton fabric. Shop for vibrant colours and a mix of fabric textures – for instance, linen or cotton fabric – in bedrooms, dining rooms and with soft furnishings.
    • Nature takes centre stage: It’s time to be daring, whether you want to create a tropical effect, a warming winter space or a timeless touch of Eden. Add leaves to your flower fabric pattern to bring the garden inside, and shop for soft water colours or bold, dramatic hues, depending on the mood you wish to evoke.
    • Coming up roses: Feminine, soft, brilliant or bold, a rose offers a timeless beauty that can be nostalgic or abstract depending on the space. You can even mix retro and modern rose patterns on textiles for a stunning effect by adding a touch of gold.
    • Pretty paisley: A pattern for all seasons, paisley can be fabulously floral if you choose the right fabric design. Mix classic and contemporary. Choose a textured fabric to create a needlepoint effect. Whether folksy, delicate or intricate, paisley fabric details can make a statement in a room.
    • New directions: Combine different textures and flower fabric patterns, both old and new, to create a completely individual look. Think out of the box, experiment and don’t be afraid to shock. For instance, you don’t have to decorate a baby’s room in pastel fabric shades. Why not go bright and dramatic and shop for a gorgeous floral cotton print on fabric instead?
    • East meets West: Cherry blossom designs and other Asian fabrics with flowers add a delightful Eastern influence. Decorate the walls and tableware in this style, or blend with other blooms to create an eclectic theme.
    • Shake it up: Spring is a time of awakening, and you can create this cheerful atmosphere using cotton textiles or other fabric bases printed with spring flowers and bright colours in soft furnishings, on walls, windows, tables and beds. Use floral fabrics that are natural, like linen and cotton fabrics and choose watercolour effects to soften the look. Or create a sense of newness with cotton textile colours that evoke dawn and sunshine.

    Patterns on fashion fabric 

    No matter the colour choices for fashion in a particular season, floral patterns are always on point. Flowers have always symbolised freshness and beauty. These days, everything goes, whether you select options add a soft retro look, a tropical design that is fun and bold for the summer holidays or something stylised that suits a smart event. The same applies to the colours of floral patterns on fabric – it’s all up to you to choose muted, bold or soft pastel shades.

    If we look back at the 20th century, we’ll be able to see how floral dress fabrics and  for other garment designs became a wardrobe staple. Restrictive clothing took a back seat and new manufacturing processes allowed fabrics to be printed on for the masses, not just the wealthy. By the 1920s women were enjoying free-style silk kimonos in floral designs as leisurewear and floral day dresses. Then, in the 1950s, Christian Dior’s ‘new look’ featured dresses with tight waists and full skirts – and many dresses in that design featured floral fabric.

    We’ve already spoken about the 1960s power of flowers, and there were plenty of bright, vividly coloured hippie-style long dresses and other clothing festooned with flowers on the fabric. The 1970s saw more romantic floral designs ruling the runways, while bolder fabrics  designs using flowers returned in the 1980s.

    Since then, designers have stopped reinventing floral patterns. They now showcase them in a more modern way that creates a certain effect. In 2022, there was a touch of nostalgia and the countryside: we had magnificent Renaissance-style dresses emblazoned with flowers on TV in Bridgerton, while Chanel showcased soft flowers and 3D daisies. And this has carried over into 2023.

    Fashion loves flowers – and these blooms will always be featured on fabric on the runway. Any fabric seller will tell you: that whether it’s a simple summer dress or a wedding outfit, there’s plenty to choose from for flower designs for dressmaking.

    Pattern choices for clothes fabric

    • Bold and bright: Right now, large-scale floral designs in vivid shades on fabric take centre stage on any type of fabric for clothing. They’re energising and modern and will make you stand out from the crowd. Mix these colours with neutrals or pair with blue fabric.
    • Blooming dresses: Floral dresses are gorgeous and for every occasion, smart or casual. They’ve been seen at pavement cafes, on bridesmaids, evening gowns, on the beach... There’s always an occasion to wear a flower pattern on a frock.
    • Vintage style floral fabric: Slow fashion means wearing classic, timeless outfits, many of them with retro floral designs on the fabric.
    • Mixing fabric patterns: A modern twist that needs to be carefully considered and well put together, mixing different floral fabrics deserves a mention. But we suggest taking care of this unless you’re brave – or very creative!
    • Soft and feminine: Pastel, dusty shades are beautiful in flower patterns on fabric, but be careful: tiny blooms in these hues can resemble nightwear and if the fabric print is overpowering, the pattern would be better suited to a wall or window. Rather use delicate fabric designs for these colours in skirts, blouses, flowing dresses and kimono-style cover-ups.

    For some inspiration on flowers in design, read our handy winter floral dress guide!

    Which material works best for flowers?

    You can use flower designs on every type of fabric so we’ve chosen a few particular designs for you to quick view add that work particularly well on certain fabric bundles. Check it out…

    Cotton fabrics as well as silk and cotton calico fabrics Great for small flowers and Liberty prints.

    Silk and velvet fabric Asian-inspired patterns with flowers look fabulous on fabrics for eveningwear.

    Organic cotton fabrics and wool Modern, graphic or geometric floral patterns.

    Cotton fabrics and linen and wool Embroidered items that are country-style or naïve.

    Get creative with flower designs on cotton fabrics and other fabric bases

    maake offers several products and services for you to make the perfect floral cotton and other choice of fabric product including cotton fabrics and cotton poplin fabrics to add to your cart:

    Textile choices from maake

    Before you choose a fabric on a promo code sale, check out our Winter Floral Dress Guide for fabric inspiration.

    maake’s cotton choices

    Read our informative guide to Organic Cotton here.

    maake’s silk choices:

    maake’s cotton calico choices:

    Our velvet selection:


    Make sure to read our handy guide on How to choose the right fabric for your project.

    Browse our Design Library for exclusive floral designs and patterns!

    Order a Fabric Sample Book from our online shop

    Design your own fabric

    If you want to find out more about fashion design, read our insightful guide to designing on textiles here! Then, find out how to print on fabric with maake!