Prints in fashion – A history unravelled and printing techniques

From freehand painting to transferring designs to flat surfaces that are coated with dye and stamp onto the fabric, today I am all about prints and printing. The process allows fabrics or apparel pieces to have a unique design and stand out. So I started this post as a research. What do I know about the history of prints in fashion? Are there any interesting facts about prints? 

1000BC (Russia) & 4th century BC (Egypt)

The simplest printing technology involved a block of material, usually wood. Skilled people used to draw designs on a wood`s flat side. The design has a raised position obtained after carving. The next step is to add colour or viscous dye in order to press the design onto the cloth.

Prints were popular among footwear as well. The best example is Tutankhamen’s sandals imprinted with images of his enemies. He believed that by wearing the sandals, he can crush his opponents underfoot.

6th century BC (Greece)

Prints become a symbol of luxury for the Greeks. Only the wealthy ones could afford to have their clothes dyed in bright colours, stripes and dot prints. At the time, these design can be spotted on peplos – the simple sleeveless outer garment. 

18th century – Chinoiserie

In Europe, the 18th-century marked a huge interest in Chinese clothes, tea and porcelain. European textile manufacturers adapted and learned fast few Chinese dye techniques. The garments of the time had prints of the pagodas, temples or other Chinese inspired symbols.

Accessories are better with prints too. Parasols are light umbrellas that protect the owner from the sun.  They were the perfect accessory for the display of taste and become very popular in England in the 18th century. As you probably guessed, parasols used silk, satin or fabrics imprinted with stunning designs as materials.

20th century – Social changes, wars and prints

When women asked for the right to vote and work outside the home, they also gave up uncomfortable garments. The length of women`s skirts rose and tailors started to use fewer materials in order to make clothes.

During the first world war, the French designer Paul Poiret earn recognition for his creations sh0wing the war can`t stop style. Colored textiles, ornaments and textile print designs were still important for him and his clients.

The printed dress trend appeared in 1930. In order to save money, women had to buy plain fabrics but the desire to stand out become stronger. Floral, polka dots, checks were the perfect solution.

Prints have been with us for many centuries

Printing is a cheaper way of creating designs by using dyes and pigments. There is a huge variety of techniques for printing designs to warp yarns, fabric or garment pieces. I only chose above to mention some aspects I found interesting about prints. To me, the understanding of textiles is quite interesting so I will dive in again, more about prints.

The direct printing methods are:

  • Block printing – one of the oldest technique, see more in the first paragraph
  • Mordant printing requires a mordant and emerging the fabric into a dyebath
  • Blotch printing involves colouring the background and applying design motifs as well. 
  • Overprinting is an application of a design onto a fabric already dyed. Differs from blotch printing because the shade has the same intensity on both sides.
  • Warp printing means printing the warp yarns before weaving. 

Other printing methods

Other printing methods include resist printing (batik, tie dyeing & ikat), discharge printing, heat transfer printing, photographic, electrostatic and flock printing.

There is a  printing technique I  want to mention because to me this is pure art: the batik technique. This method originates in the Indonesian Archipelago and involves applying melted was from a tjanting (a special cup) onto the cloth. The wax will coat the fabric and the dye/ pigment can`t reach the fibres. 


While high street & high-end brands choose to feature different prints, some customers tend to choose plain fabrics. Do polka dots, animal print, florals, geometric, checks, slogans dictate a low-quality fabric? Well, yes and no, depending on the fabric used. 

Coat Vero Moda via Asos|  Dress StyleWe* more  here  |  Boots Asos | Bag Tidebuy 

* PR Sample

What are your thoughts regarding fashion through prints? Do you wear them frequently or you are more into block colours? 


  1. January 29, 2018 / 3:15 PM

    Wow! That print fashion looks really good on you. I think my wife would be great on this too.

  2. January 29, 2018 / 4:41 AM

    First off, I love your style and you are absolutely adorable! Prints are a realm that I get nervous to delve into, my style is embarrassingly minimalistic, however you pull this look off so well and make me want to be adventurous! Thank you for such an educated and informal post that walks us through the history of prints, this is definitely something I have never seen before!



  3. Via Bella
    January 28, 2018 / 6:12 PM

    Wow. I love that you covered the history of print. That makes the fashion so much cooler in my opinion!

  4. Kylie
    January 28, 2018 / 11:30 AM

    Wow! Never knew this til now. So informative especially to people who love prints– me included 🙂

  5. January 28, 2018 / 7:51 AM

    Prints are always a lovely way to make an outfit stand out and it brings life to different pieces of clothing too. It’s so nice to go back and learn more about the history of printing on fabric!

  6. January 28, 2018 / 7:20 AM

    Wow, this is so detailed about prints. I love art as a whole but never knew too much about prints. I enjoyed reading this and learned quite a bit. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. January 27, 2018 / 3:06 AM

    Very interesting! I wasn’t aware of the history of prints. People have been expressing themselves through style since forever!

  8. January 26, 2018 / 6:45 PM

    Such an old and rich story resulted in techniques to make amazing fabrics such as the one of your dress! So great isn’t it?

  9. January 26, 2018 / 4:12 PM

    That’s a really concise and informative post. I didn’t know people were printing onto textiles that long ago! I wonder who first thought of it…?

    • Catalina
      January 26, 2018 / 6:52 PM

      It definitely has to be a women or a man wanting to impress one :))

  10. January 26, 2018 / 4:08 PM

    This was a refreshing post, never knew about the history of prints. But I love prints on some of my dresses so much that I really was curious to read about how it originated and progressed!

  11. January 26, 2018 / 1:34 PM

    Lovely! I love prints. They bring out the elegance and color

  12. January 26, 2018 / 2:35 AM

    Wow, this is interesting. I had never read about the history of prints and loved reading your post!

  13. January 26, 2018 / 12:13 AM

    Ha! It’s like you wrote this article specifically for my girlfriend. She loves prints and looks really cute in them, too.

  14. January 25, 2018 / 10:57 PM

    As a total geek about history I really enjoyed reading your post and learning about all this facts! I wear prints all the time I never thought they so much background throughout the years!

    • Catalina
      January 26, 2018 / 6:53 PM

      Hi Amalia, I wear them a lot too and I thought it`s a good idea to start my research.

  15. January 25, 2018 / 7:33 PM

    Wow, I had no idea about the history between prints and patterns. I am more into block colours but am working out on branching out and wearing bright colors more often!

  16. January 25, 2018 / 6:26 PM

    I really love prints but I just don’t have the confidence to wear them. I think others look great but I’m so boring and tend to stuck to block colours

  17. January 25, 2018 / 12:14 PM

    You and me share the same love for prints. Thanks to you now I would have a story to tell people about it 🙂

    January 25, 2018 / 2:26 AM

    True, I think prints will always still be in fashion. I like prints too, but it depends on the style. Thanks for sharing the detailed history of prints 😀

  19. Ann Snook
    January 24, 2018 / 11:45 PM

    I am a huge fan of prints! In fact, I sometimes find it hard to make outfits because I have printed tops, bottoms, and shoes :p

    • Catalina
      January 26, 2018 / 6:54 PM

      We have to meet Ann so we will cry our eyes together that we don`t have what to wear with so many prints.

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