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March 25, 2023

Photographs on Fabrics in the 1940s

Printing a photograph on fabric these days is no huge deal. Crafters can do it at home, and online shops make it easy to order, say, a batch of T-shirts with a baby picture on them for whatever birthday party is coming up. But once upon a time printing photographs on fabrics was a gee-whiz accomplishment.

“Until now anyone claiming to have seen a dinner dress decorated with life-size photographs of the wearer would have been met with breath-sniffing suspicion or clinical alarm,” LIFE said in its December 8, 1947 issue. “Today, however, such dresses can be made and photographs of everything from animals to pearl necklaces are being printed not only on dress fabrics but on upholster, pillows, ties, bathing suits and lingerie.”

While LIFE’s story declared that “For the textile industry photographic fabrics are the big news of the year,” the printing of recognizable photos on clothes has, in modern life, been more for novelty products than conventional fashion.

(Photos by Nina Leen/LIFE Photo Archives)


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