A Brief History of Curtains

Fri 22 Aug 2014 Amy @ Custom Curtains

Here at Custom Curtains we offer a huge range of made to measure and ready-made curtains, as well blinds, poles and cushions. Of course, as the name suggests, our speciality is curtains, and we pride ourselves on having extensive knowledge of them. From the fabrics, styles and manufacturing methods, to the additional features of eyelets, tie backs and linings, we know curtains inside out, upside down, and from the very beginning…

A Brief History of Curtains

Curtains have been used since ancient times, but they were nothing like the product we know today. Before textiles could even be comprehended, animal hides were used for warmth and privacy. Suspended from doorways and any large gaps in the home, the hides would stop drafts and assert boundaries. Over in ancient Egypt, early textiles began to emerge, starting with linen and flax, and closely followed by cotton and silk. By the Middle Ages, these woven textiles had found a place in the home. Though there’s little evidence, it’s assumed that the fabrics were used specifically to combat the cold, as blankets, bed hangings and curtains.

It wasn’t until the 13th century that glass making commenced in Italy, so up until then, there was no other way to prevent drafts than draping windows with heavy fabrics. Of course, while successfully keeping out the cold, the thick drapings stopped any light from entering the home. This issue was solved during the Renaissance, when glass paned windows emerged, and curtains then transformed from shields against the elements to drapes used for privacy.

By the mid-1800s, mass production machinery had developed, making household textiles readily available. The most popular type of window dressing was lace curtains, and much like clothing and accessories, they were a demonstration of social ranking. So the more complex the curtain, the richer you were! Technology and fashions changed, and silks, Holland linen and bold prints made an entrance, along with fringing on both blinds and curtains. By the early-20th century, the advancements in synthetics completely changed the landscape of the textile industry, and more attention was paid to cheapness and easy maintenance.

A few years down the line and WWII had begun, and along with food, clothing and petrol, fabrics were rationed. Old duster fabric and parachute silk was used for curtains, and if there was enough material spare, tiebacks were fashioned too. Curtains had now become an essential part of homes. Throughout the rest of the century, curtain fashion changed as regularly as hairstyles. Department stores now offered readymade curtains, so it was quick and simple to grab a new pair for a reasonable price. In the ‘50s, florals were big, along with abstract prints that were inspired by science and technology. The 1970s were all about pastels and ethnic textiles, and stripes and checks were popular through the ‘80s.

Now, curtains play many roles in the household: light and air control, insulation, privacy and fashion. The multitude of designs and styles available now means that the perfect pair for your room can be easily discovered. See for yourself here


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