Ask Difference

Chintz vs. Calico — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Urooj Arif — Updated on April 30, 2024
Chintz is a polished cotton fabric with floral designs, used mainly for upholstery and draperies, while calico is a plain-woven textile made from unbleached cotton, often used for quilts.
Chintz vs. Calico — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Chintz and Calico


Key Differences

Chintz fabric is known for its glazed appearance, which gives it a shiny finish, making it popular for decorative purposes in home decor. On the other hand, calico is a more humble, unglazed fabric that retains the natural color of unbleached cotton, and is favored for its rustic charm and durability.
Chintz often features elaborate floral patterns that are printed onto the fabric. These designs are typically colorful and detailed, lending an elegant and refined look to the material. Whereas, calico prints are simpler and less detailed, often embodying more basic, repetitive motifs that convey a more casual and homespun feel.
The glazing process in chintz involves coating the fabric with starches and waxes, which not only enhance its aesthetic but also add to its texture, making it stiffer. Calico lacks this finish, resulting in a softer and more flexible fabric that is easier to handle and sew.
Chintz is primarily used in interior decoration for items like curtains, upholstery, and slipcovers due to its decorative appeal and robust texture. Calico, in contrast, is commonly used in dressmaking and for crafting quilts, owing to its comfort and ease of use.
Historically, chintz was originally imported from India and became popular in Europe for its exotic patterns and luxurious sheen. Calico, while also originating from India, was adopted more widely for everyday use and utilitarian garments, reflecting its practical nature.

Comparison Chart


Glazed and shiny
Unglazed and softer


Floral and elaborate
Simple and repetitive

Main Use

Decorative home items like draperies
Quilting and everyday clothing


Starches and waxes give a polished finish
No finishing, retains natural cotton texture

Historical Popularity

Favored in Europe for luxury decor
Widely used for practical, everyday items

Compare with Definitions


A printed multicolored cotton fabric with a glazed finish, usually used for decoration.
The living room had an old-world charm with its chintz-covered sofas.


Plain-woven cotton fabric, typically not dyed or bleached.
She preferred calico for her sewing projects because it was easy to work with.


Fabric treated with a glaze, giving it a shiny surface.
The chintz curtains reflected the sunlight, brightening the room.


Commonly used in quilting and as a utility fabric.
The quilt displayed a beautiful patchwork of colorful calico scraps.


Traditionally imported from India, known for floral designs.
Her collection of vintage chintz from the 18th century was quite impressive.


Retains a natural, rustic look.
The rustic look of calico curtains complemented the cottage’s aesthetic perfectly.


Used primarily for upholstery and draperies.
The designer recommended chintz for the window treatments to add a touch of elegance.


Known for its simple, unpretentious appearance and durability.
The calico aprons were perfect for the art class, durable and easy to clean.


Often features a polished texture.
The polished texture of the chintz made it the highlight of her textile exhibit.


Often less expensive and more accessible than other fabrics.
They used calico for the mock-up designs to keep costs down.


Chintz () is a woodblock printed, painted, stained or glazed calico textile that originated in Golconda (present day Hyderabad, India) in the 16th century. The cloth is printed with designs featuring flowers and other patterns in different colours, typically on a light, plain background.


Calico (; in British usage since 1505) is a plain-woven textile made from unbleached, and often not fully processed, cotton. It may also contain unseparated husk parts.


A printed and glazed cotton fabric, usually of bright colors.


A tightly woven cotton cloth having a repeating, often floral design.


A painted or stained calico fabric, originally produced in India, and known for its brightly colored designs.


Chiefly British A plain white cotton cloth, heavier than muslin.


Cotton cloth, printed with flowers and other devices, in a number of different colors, and often glazed.


An animal, such as a cat, having a coat of white fur with distinct patches of different colors, usually reddish-orange and black.


A brightly printed and glazed cotton fabric


(textiles) A kind of rough cloth made from unbleached and not fully processed cotton, often printed with a bright pattern.


Ellipsis of calico cat


(uncountable) The plant disease caused by Tobacco mosaic virus.


Made of calico or resembling the color of calico cloth, having a pattern of red and contrasting areas; variegated.
The calico cat had distinctive red and dark markings.
The calico-patterned tablecloths were supposed to make the restaurant look rustic; instead, they made it look run down.


Plain white cloth made from cotton, but which receives distinctive names according to quality and use, as, super calicoes, shirting calicoes, unbleached calicoes, etc.
The importation of printed or stained colicoes appears to have been coeval with the establishment of the East India Company


Cotton cloth printed with a figured pattern.


Made of, or having the appearance of, calico; - often applied to an animal, as a horse or cat, on whose body are large patches of a color strikingly different from its main color.


Coarse cloth with a bright print


Made of calico or resembling calico in being patterned;
Calico dresses
A calico cat


Having sections or patches colored differently and usually brightly;
A jester dressed in motley
The painted desert
A particolored dress
A piebald horse
Pied daisies

Common Curiosities

How should chintz be cared for to maintain its glaze?

Chintz should be dry cleaned or carefully hand washed to avoid wearing off its glazed finish.

What is the primary difference between chintz and calico?

Chintz is glazed and often floral-printed, used for decorative purposes, while calico is plain, unglazed, and used for practical items.

Why is chintz often more expensive than calico?

Chintz is typically more expensive due to its complex printing processes and the glazing treatment it undergoes, which add to the production costs.

Can chintz be used for clothing?

Yes, chintz can be used for clothing, especially in vintage or traditional designs, though it is more common in home decor.

Are there eco-friendly versions of calico available?

Yes, organic calico made from cotton grown without pesticides and processed without harmful chemicals is available for those seeking eco-friendly fabric options.

What historical significance do chintz and calico have?

Both fabrics have significant historical roots, with chintz being prized in European colonial times for its exotic appeal, and calico being integral to the textile industry during the Industrial Revolution.

What are the environmental impacts of producing chintz and calico?

The production of chintz can have a higher environmental impact due to the chemicals used in the glazing process, whereas calico, especially if unbleached and untreated, tends to be more environmentally friendly.

Is calico suitable for outdoor furniture covers?

Calico is not ideal for outdoor furniture as it lacks the necessary durability and weather resistance that outdoor fabrics require.

Is chintz still popular in modern interior design?

Chintz has seen a resurgence in popularity in modern interior design, particularly in styles that favor a classic or vintage aesthetic.

Which fabric is better for someone starting a sewing project for the first time?

Calico is generally recommended for beginners due to its ease of handling and forgiving nature, making it ideal for practice and simple projects.

How does the weight of chintz compare to calico?

Chintz is generally heavier than calico due to its glazed finish and denser weave.

Can calico be printed like chintz?

Yes, calico can be printed with designs, but the prints are usually less intricate and vibrant compared to those on chintz.

Can both chintz and calico be dyed to any color?

Both fabrics can be dyed, but chintz, with its pre-existing prints and glaze, may not take new colors as easily as the more absorbent calico.

How do the care requirements of chintz and calico differ?

Chintz usually requires dry cleaning to preserve its finish and colors, while calico can often be machine washed, making it easier to care for.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Previous Comparison
Autograph vs. Autogram
Next Comparison
Conflict vs. Climax

Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms