Window valance styles

Valances can be used almost anywhere, so window valance styles are particularly useful. Valances are very adaptable, because once made up and hung, their headings are fixed in position. This means you can use headings which might not be very practical for drapes where the heading moves.

But where do you start? Here are some ways of breaking down the options.

The Three Ingredients of window valance styles

There are three main parts to window valance styles.

  • The basic shape
  • The heading
  • The trimmings

Decide on these one by one, and you'll find it easier to arrive at your final design.

The Basic Shape

Because of their structure, the shapes of gathered valances need to be simple. The best ones in my opinion are either straight or have very gentle curves along the base. Although I've used quite complex shapes, I've always been happier with simpler ones. If you're in any doubt, stick with a straight one.

Getting the depth right is the most important feature. You'll find more information here about valance proportions and designs.

The Heading

valance heading depthValance heading depth

This heading depth is just under one third of the length of the valance.

This is where valance design really begins. Headings such as goblet or deep triple pleats which look good in drapes can be used here to great effect.

Even the simple pencil pleat looks good, especially when you make it a little longer than normal.

You can make your heading by machining the tape, or do it by hand. My preferred method is by hand, although it can take longer.

Even if you choose not to use interlining in your valance, you can still improve its looks by including interlining in the heading. It will give it more body, thereby making it look more substantial.

You can make the depth of the heading deeper than you normally would for a drape. Whereas for a 4'0" (1.2m) length of drape you'd have a heading depth of 3" - 4" (7.5 - 10cms), on a valance just 12" (30cms) deep a 3" heading will look fine.

The Trimmings

trimmed valancePlain trim on top and base

This is the fun bit with your window valance styles! And also the most challenging. It's easy to get carried away, but by exercising some restraint you can get great results.


Adding trim to the top of your valance is one of the simplest methods of enhancing your design. The trim can be just a thin ¼" to ½" (about 1.0cms), or the depth of the heading.

If you're using a smocked heading, you can use a different colored thread which will stand out from the fabric.

rope trim on valanceValance with rope looped from pleat to pleat

One way to get a finish with headings with separate pleats such as triple or goblet is to sew rope along the bottom of the heading. You'll improve the effect by allowing the rope to hang slightly from pleat to pleat. Another refinement is to loop the rope on each pleat.

When using a pencil pleat, you can sew the rope straight across. Or you can add loops every so often, say, every foot.

The Base

Here you can also add trim in a contrasting fabric. This can be deeper than used on the top.

valance with bullion fringeBullion fringe sewn to base with matching rope

One of my favorite additions with window valance styles is to use a bullion fringe. This is a deep fringe, where twisted loops fall down from the top section. They can be anything from a couple of inches deep to 12" (30cms). Originally used on the bottom of sofas and chairs, they are a great finish for a valance design.

One of their attractions is that you can buy them in either one color, or multicolored. If you're using a patterned fabric for your valance and want to finish it off, a bullion fringe is a great option.

Other trimmings you can use are fan edgings. These are very delicate fringes, and are very useful for valances made from soft, delicate fabrics such as silk.


As with all other drapery, keep your valance design simple, at least to begin with. Get samples of trim fabric, braids, fringes, etc, and try them out with your main fabric. Once you've sorted out what you're going to use, decide on the shape.

Get the overall proportions right!

This is the most important part of window valance styles. The one mistake I've seen time and time again with valances is not making them deep enough.

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