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Fabric Vibes: Modern Tropics


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Maybe it’s because I’m a child of California in the 80s, but tropical prints have a special place in my heart.

Yes, there are a lot of ugly ones out there. But when you find the right one, I don’t think there’s anything cheerier. It’s like wearing a vacation.

Because I’ve been so inspired by all the tropical stuff on the runways lately and all the fabric I’ve been finding, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you, and the patterns I’d pair them with. Which would you make?


Fabrics for Catarina: (1) Hawaiian Garden Rayon from Harts Fabric, $10.99/yd; (2) Silk crepe border print from Gorgeous Fabrics, $22/yd; (3) Rayon challis in red palm print from, $6.98/yd; (4) Printed charmeuse in jardin from Thai Silks, $24.55/yd

Fabrics for Lily: (5) Tropical print mercerized cotton from Mood, $21.99/yd; (6) Pool palm leaf print from Mood, $24.99/yd; (7) Japanese palm print from B&J, $19.95/yd; (8) Monochrome tropical mercerized cotton from Mood, $21.99

Fabrics for Myrtle: (9) Tropical print viscose knit from The Sweet Mercerie, 4.95 EUR/meter; Palm tree jersey from Girl Charlee, $6.60/yd; Black floral jersey knit from Fashion Fabrics Club, $5.25/yd; Tropical flower silk jersey from Ellesby Fabric, $18/yd

Credits for inspiration images at the top: Marissa Webb Resort 2017, Valentino Resort 2017, Rochas Resort 2017, Desigual Spring 2015, Issey Miyake

Do you guys love or hate tropical prints? And which do you love (or hate!) the most?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 16

Kelly Rose

I adore tropical prints, but it has to be the *right* print. There are some really horrible ones out there. I’m in love with your #5 from Mood up there; I may need to make a new dress soon. I like the more botanical illustration-esque prints with softer colors and a large-ish scale.

I really love the cotton bark-cloth prints, though the weave makes the fabric extremely fussy to work with. I found myself thinking “wow, I’m glad I chose this nice easy satin as a lining…” I used it for a Shaheen style sarong dress and it’s one of my favorite garments, me-made or otherwise.


I’ve been coming across some really cool vintage barkcloth lately, but I’ve always hesitated to use it for clothing because of the weave. I’m really drawn to the large scale florals, though.

Kelly Rose

What about the weave makes you hesitant? It’s certainly prone to fraying and shifting once you cut it, but once sewn, it stood up well to a couple of years of regular summer wear. I’ve snagged it once, but it was easy to pull the snag back in, and I’ve done worse to some of my Georgette garments and certainly to my knitted garments.


Oh, I guess more that it would be recognizable as a decor fabric, with the texture and large scale print in combination. :) It probably really depends on the print.


I see barkcloth for a more structured dress, like Lily. I’ve had a few of Hawaiian online fabric stores send me swatches, which makes it nice to actually feel it.

Ghislaine Gazon

As a Caribbean girl I love a tropical print! I did a hummingbird blouse and a hibiscus flower dress so far this summer. I”d love to get my hands on your #5 and #12! Gorgeous!

Francesca a

I just received three yards of the 12 ( 7 days from the US to Malta!) And it’s totally fab. I recommend:). Sarai, you are an evil enabler – thank you!

Dee Dee

Sari, thank you so much for posting the pictures of the “larger and older” women. There are so manyhof us and I would bet they like me, get so sick of seeing images of these young beautiful girls with perfect model bodies. We can never look like that and the actual garment on us will never in any kind of way, look like it does on these perfect Barbie type models. Again, thanks so much. So refreshing to see “real bigger women” in the photos. Hugs, Dee Dee

Kelly Rose

It actually never occurred to me that it might look like decor fabric. Hah! Given some of the things being used on the runway these days (hello, neoprene) I doubt most people would judge even if it DID look like home decor.


Ha, very true.

SJ Kurtz

Barkcloth is a favorite. I have made a few favorite ‘worn to bits’ items from it over the years (a suit from a ‘op’ 50’s print set of curtains). It does wear out.
So do I.


Ooh, really? I’d have assumed it would be long wearing. Good to know!


I’m not a fan of tropical prints as they tend to be too busy for my tastes. But I had a friend in high school who loved them. He had a brilliant idea to take apart a bunch of Hawaiian shirts and put the pieces back together in random colour combinations. It would have been wild! Sadly, he never got past the point of unpicking all the shirts and having the pieces of fabric sit in his wardrobe. :P


I have been searching for a large green and white or green and black palm print apparel fabric. I really wish I could get this ( Tommy Bahama print but it is heavyweight polyester for bags, seat covers, etc.

Anyone know where I can find some lightweight cotton or rayon that would look similar?

Kelly Rose

Erin, I’ve had good luck with Spoonflower, actually.

I just searched “Palm leaves”. You can choose whatever fabric you want these printed on, usually, which is really nice.


Oh my gosh, these choices are amazing! I love the second one, especially! Thank you Kelly!

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