A History of Curtains & Drapes Part One

Part One: The Renaissance

The history of curtains and drapes is a truly fascinating one and for curtain-lovers like ourselves something we feel deserves preserving. In a series of blogs over the next few months we shall tell the uncensored, unabridged history of drapes and curtains for your education and entertainment.

In England until the last part of the 16th century there was almost no such thing as a ‘window curtain’ – they simply did not exist at this stage in history. How was light kept out of rooms and how was heat kept in? The answer is internal wooden shutters. The first curtains took a while to appear and when they did they were constructed from a single piece of fabric that was hung from a metal pole. The curtains were attached by iron rings that allowed the curtain to be pulled from one side only. In fact it was curtains over doors that appeared first, and were a spin off from tapestries which were commonly used as wall coverings at the time – the door curtains were simply extensions of these. It was the French and the Italians who led the way by creating far more elaborate curtains from materials like velvet and brocade which would be hung in pairs.

Beds and bed curtains

In the 16th and 17th centuries the most important object in the house was the bed to the point where it became seen as a status symbol for the bed’s owner.  Bed curtains were low hangings that ensured privacy and kept warmer air in the bed area. These became increasingly elaborate as time passed until they evolved into a canopy supported by the beds own posts. Drapes were beginning to take shape. At this early stage they were made from such material as tapestry, velvet or brocatelle which was silk strengthened with linen.

Come back for part two where I continue to elucidate the secrets of the fascinating history of curtains and drapes through the ages.