A two‐step method was developed in this article to fabricate conductive silver‐plated cotton fabrics, imparting them with antibacterial and electromagnetic shielding properties. Cotton fabric was firstly functionalized by a spontaneous polymerization of dopamine, which acted as an activation and adsorption layer to initiate the following silver plating through the catechol and indole functional groups. The chemical composition of the functional cotton fabric was investigated by X‐ray photoelectron spectroscopy and the surface morphology of the fabric was observed by scanning electron microscopy. The crystalline structure of the silver‐coated cotton fibers was characterized by power X‐ray diffraction, and thermogravimetric analysis of the fabric was also studied to show thermal stability. The homogeneous silver plating was highly conductive with surface resistance about 23.55 mΩ sq.−1 and shielding effectiveness was about 55~95 dB. It also demonstrated excellent and durable antibacterial property against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli both with reduction percent of bacteria over 99.99%. All of above features made this silver‐plated cotton fabrics a promising candidate as multifunctional textiles. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2018, 135, 46766.