May I know which sentence is correct?

1) Flowers were commonly used to design clothing worn in the 1960s.

2) Flowers are commonly used to design clothing worn in the 1960s.

  • As Andrew's answer, and the comments show, we need more context. What are you intending to say? – WendyG Dec 6 at 12:29

It depends on what you want to say. The first sentence is fine, and can be used to talk about clothing designed and worn by people in the 1960s.

Flowers were a common design element of clothing worn in the 1960s.

The second sentence is almost correct, if you are talking about clothing designed today, that looks like the clothing people used to wear in the 1960s.

Flowers are a common design element of clothing like that worn in the 1960s.

Note I changed "commonly used to design" to "a common design element of". Flowers aren't doing the designing, after all. Another way to phrase this would be:

Flowers were commonly used in designs of clothing worn in the 1960s.

or

Flowers are commonly used in designs of clothing like that worn in the 1960s.

[Edit] As WendyG points out, your second sentence would be understood to mean currently designed clothing to look like past clothing. In this case we can think of it as an ellipsis in which certain words are omitted, when the intended meaning is obvious from context:

Flowers are commonly used to design (the kind of) clothing (that was) worn in the 1960s

In context (using J.R.'s example):

Clothing designers often use accoutrements and accessories to invoke the styles of a certain era. Fedora hats are commonly used when creating costumes from the 1920s. Flowers are commonly used to design clothing worn in the 1960s.

  • I read "Flowers are commonly used to design clothing worn in the 1960s." as historical present tense – WendyG Dec 6 at 10:55
  • @WendyG - Taken by itself, I agree with you. But it’s not hard to imagine a context where Andrew’s interpretation would be the clearly intended one. For example: Clothing designers often use accoutrements and accessories to invoke the styles of a certain era. Fedora hats are commonly used when creating costumes from the 1920s. Flowers are commonly used to design clothing worn in the 1960s. – J.R. Dec 6 at 12:24
  • @WendyG Sure, but it's an ellipsis -- Flowers are commonly used to design (the kind of) clothing (that was) worn in the 1960s. The intended meaning would be apparent from context. I'll edit to include this interpretation.. – Andrew Dec 6 at 17:05

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