Is there a difference between curtains and drapes?

This question is often asked, and the short and simple reply is - 'There are no hard and fast rules'.

The words 'curtains', 'drapes', 'draperies' and 'panels' have various meanings depending on which part of the world you live in. Also, 'shades' and 'blinds' can cover a wide variety of plain window coverings. Add in the concept of 'Roman' and 'Venetian' blinds (or should it be shades?) and you could be mistaken for thinking that language is in danger of losing all meaning!

Terminology in North America

Floor length drapes supported by a metal rod or pole. These are referred to as either drapes or curtains, depending on where you live.

Even here there are differences. In many cities soft window treatments are known as draperies or drapery. In the Midwest and South you'll probably refer to them as drapes, while in other areas you'll call them curtains.

Attempts have been made to clarify this. Curtains are sometimes defined as being unlined, don't finish at floor level, and in general are easier to make.

But a simple way to look at it is to think of drapes or drapery as a way of enhancing your window with a formal treatment which uses lots of fabric. Curtains are more lightweight and have a casual look to them.

While curtains can have top treatments, these are usually quite plain. Drapery on the other hand has swags, jabots, cascades and other accessories.

Cornice boxes can be upholstered for drapes, which gives them a more luxurious look.


Drapes with ruffled heading and rolled edge with inset rope. There are no end of features you can add to your draperies.

Anything which is made of fabric which hangs in vertical folds and is supported by a track, rod or pole is a curtain. It doesn't matter if it's lined or unlined, heavy or light.

Drapes are the top treatments such as swags and cascades (also know as 'tails'). Cornice boxes are known as pelmets.

But today these terms are used interchangeably. For example, in the UK you'll find websites which advertise drapery curtains, and they don't just mean top treatments.

In the USA companies talk about curtains when they obviously mean elaborate curtains with lots of fullness and top treatments.

As you can see, it all depends on where you live.

It doesn't matter what you call them!

This site is about making wonderful fabric window treatments. If you live in North America you can call them drapes. If you live in Europe you can call them curtains.

I'll show you the best way to make your drapes or curtains so they'll look as good as if they were made by a professional.

Your curtains can be lined and interlined. (If you don't know what interlining is, you'll learn all about it and why it's a good idea to use it.) There are many ways of making cornice boxes (or pelmets), and again, I'll show you one of the best ways which works for every situation.

So is there a difference between curtains and drapes?

It doesn't matter what you call your window treatments. In my profession as an interior designer, draperies are an important part of home decor, and I use the words drapes and curtains interchangeably.

I know it's within your capability to make them, and make them so they look great.

More than that, you can make drapery curtains which until now you may have thought to be the reserve of the professionals.

So take a look at the other pages in this section, or move on to finding out how to make your own curtains and drapes. (Pages coming shortly)

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