Upcycling Vintage Tea Towels into a Summer Dress

Upcycling Vintage Tea Towels into a Summer Dress
One of the most treasured finds from my frequent op-shopping trips is my vintage tea towel collection.

I’ve been collecting vintage and souvenir tea towels for 3 years and I admit that I have slowly grown my collection – from souvenir travel-print tea towels, calendar print tea towels, commemorative tea towels, etc. 

The unique prints and design, including the excitement that I felt each time I saw vintage tea towels in one of the secluded areas of the linen section of many op shops, made me grab them all without hesitation. As my collection grows, and spend hours checking on the prints, and learning new places to visit (thanks to those travel print tea towels!), including the charming history behind the origins of print tea towels are profoundly fascinating.

History of tea towels

Upcycling Vintage Tea Towels into a Summer Dress

Tea towels, also known as dish towels (in the US), dish cloth, or glass towels have been used for centuries to clean up spills, dry surfaces, and tidy spaces. Unlike regular towels or napkins, tea towels are both durable and softer, with a thinner texture. They are typically made from linen, cotton, or a combination of both. What sets tea towels apart is their aesthetic appeal—woven or printed designs make them not only functional but also decorative, which makes a charming splash of colors, and adds a little personality to your kitchen.

The story of tea towels begins in Victorian England during the 18th century. As access to textiles increased, linen became a popular fabric in upper-class households for drying delicate crystal and fine china dishes. Linen prevented these prized items from being scratched and kept them lint-free. These tea towels were often hand-embroidered by ladies, showcasing their creative skills. During teatime, these beautifully adorned textiles would grace serving trays or wrap around hot teapots. Passed down through generations, they became cherished family heirlooms.

In 20th-century America, tea towels took on both decorative and functional roles. During the Great Depression, families repurposed flour sacks into tea towels by cutting them into strips. Flour manufacturers noticed this trend and began creating unique designs on their flour sacks, sparking a desire for printed tea towels. Additionally, in France, Jacquard tea towels featured intricate patterns directly woven into the fabric using an automated loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801. This method preserved French craftsmanship and ancestral expertise.

As the Industrial Revolution progressed, tea towels went into mass production, evolving into what were known as glass towels by the 19th and 20th centuries. In modern times, they continue to be essential kitchen staples, hanging on stove hooks or adorning tables with practicality and style.

Various prints have evolved, and tea towels have become a new canvas for many artists, and brands as we know today.

Upcycling vintage tea towels into a dress

Upcycling Vintage Tea Towels into a Summer Dress

Upcycling deadstock textiles and old clothes is not just a huge fad subculture anymore, rather becomes a huge part of the everyday fashion industry. As the voices of sustainability become even louder, wider, and even bigger, we expect that more and more fashion lovers and consumers will switch to more sustainable fashion and give more value to their purchasing power. 

My vintage/souvenir tea towel collection is growing, and I planned to upcycle most of them into valuable clothes that I could wear and love. 

Yesterday, that plan commenced as I managed to upcycle 10 pieces of vintage tea towels into a summer dress. Spontaneously, I picked and sewn them all together using the simple pattern I’ve got and finished the dress in 12 hours, just in time for me to wear it today to meet my friend for lunch.  

@blair.villanueva Upcycling vintage tea towels into a summer dress. This whole look is composed of 10 tea towels that I bought from #opshop #upcycledfashion #upcycling #fashion #teatowel #tiktokaustralia #tiktokph #fashiontok #sustainablefashion #warragul ♬ Summer Fashion - FASSounds

I had so much fun sewing these tea towels especially making the corset top because I had to line them with another cotton fabric to make the linen thicker and give much support. Making the maxi skirt is easy (as I’ve been doing it a thousand times already), but my only regret is forgetting to add a couple of side pockets. However, I reckon I’ll just make Victorian-style pockets using some cut-offs and tie them around my waist. 

Upcycling Vintage Tea Towels into a Summer Dress

Upcycling Vintage Tea Towels into a Summer Dress

Upcycling Vintage Tea Towels into a Summer Dress

Upcycling Vintage Tea Towels into a Summer Dress

So far, I got a nod of approval from my dearest Grandma. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised one day if she turned up with bags of materials for me to play with!

Share this:

1 comment :

  1. Napawow ako sa gawa Mo Ms.Blair,from a vintage Tea towels to a beautiful dress
    Very creative mo talaga


DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any partner brands/company(s), beauty & lifestyle brands, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities, unless specified.
Copyright © For Urban Women - Awarded Top 100 Urban Blog / Fashion, Lifestyle and Travel. Designed by OddThemes