What’s The Difference: Curtains vs. Draperies

curtain drapery

Curtains are casual, informal window treatments that are shirred onto rods or poles with rod pockets or hung by unstructured simple headings like tabs. Depending on their intended use, curtains come in different lengths- usually to the sill or apron and floor and are typically unlined. Draperies are considered more formal; usually lined and frequently interlined with sewn and pleated headings. Draperies are most often hung from drapery hardware to the floor. While both types can be designed to either be stationery or function, curtains are regularly pulled by hand and draperies can be hand drawn or traverse by pulling a cord.

Both curtain and draperies have side and bottom hems and headings. The heading is the top of a curtain, drapery or valance; hangs from a curtain rod or drapery rod or pole and is what creates the fullness and body or drape. With loads of different styles available it’s the designer’s choice. That decision should be based on the panel style, fabric, the mood you want to set in the room and the design intent. Tab tops or rod pockets are typical curtain headings and pleated headings for usually for draperies. Pleated headings usually have a stiffener called buckram to form and stabilize the pleats.


Euro pleats are often used on draperies that hang from rods and rings. The fullness starts at the top of the pleat and the bottom of the ring rather than  4” down. Any pleat needs at least 2” of sewn seam to accommodate the drapery pin. Pinch pleats generally have three fingers (folds), but two or four fingers can create a different look. Hand sewn pleats offer a softness you can’t achieve by machine sewing. The depth of a pleated heading can vary and traditionally is  4 .  Today the pleat depth should be longer- somewhere in the 6-8” range- as it is a better proportion for draperies 84” or longer.

Other popular headings today are:




Goblets- pinch pleats with open pleat or no fingers. This pleat needs to be stuffed to keep its shape over time.








Inverted Box Pleat – Inverted box pleats are sewn at the top of the panel creating the heading. The fullness is folded into the back of the panel and creates a smooth tailored, modern look on the face. Finished, it appears to be formed using two layers of fabric, the box pleated drapery is actually one piece of material double pleated back to back, hence the term “box pleat” for the appearance of a series of collapsed boxes.  This heading works best as a stationery treatment because it stack open in more space,  doesn’t function as well as other headings making it awkward to open.









Ripplefold -is the trademark name for roll-pleat drapery fabrication. Ripplefold style drapery give a clean, elegant appearance from both sides. They resemble ribbon candy or waves. Ripplefold panels are sewn flat and snap tape (twill tape that has snaps sewn onto it every few inches) is then sewn onto the top of the drape which attaches to a traverse track creating smooth, evenly spaced curves in the fabric.


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