The use of curtains dates back since the Ancient Egyptians, who started using animal hides hung with hooks, to divide a room. They also used linen to insulate against the heat, and keep an area cool. In England, curtains began to be used at the end of the sixteenth century. Many of these curtains and hanging draperies were made of heavy fabrics with detailed embroideries and other elements, used not only to keep out the cold and maintain privacy but also to show the wealth of a household. In the Victorian era, heavy fabrics were used, in several layers to decorate a room, curtains here were used to show wealth in a household, as well as taste, through colours, patterns and textures.
During the renaissance, as glass began to be used as windows, to keep the weather conditions outside, such as cold, wind, dust and others, curtains became especially needed because of privacy issues. Now, people were able to completely look inside a house from the outside, so curtains were not only used to insulate from weather and noise, filter light and separate areas, they were also used o keep prying eyes out.
As trade with the Eastern countries expanded, a large variety of silk, damask and other fabrics entered the western world, especially into The United Kingdom, France, The Netherlands and Italy. Making a greater range of fabrics and colours available, mainly to the wealthier people.
By the mid 1800’s, machinery for textile mass production was developed, which completely changed the world of curtains and draperies. Curtains were not only available to wealthy sector of the population, but they became accessible to the middle-class households, and were produced in a variety of textures, designs and colours. During this time, the most popular form of window dressings was actually lace curtains, which were great at keeping the dust out and filtering the light.
Because of the constant development in Technology and ever-changing tendencies in fashion, prints and a larger variety of colours started to become available to the consumer. A large change from the smaller range of colours and fabrics that were previously available only to a small sector of the population. By the early twentieth century, with the advancement of synthetics, price point and easy maintenance were more paid attention to. Slowly different weights, fabrics and textures became available in florals, pastels, stripes, prints which started to appear in the textile world.
Readymade curtains started to appear in catalogues, in the 1940’s, making curtains yet again more available to the average consumer, although during the war, due to rationing there was a shortage of textiles, and curtains were sometimes made of parachute silk and other items.
In the 1960’s, there was a design revolution to more colourful designs and fabrics, florals and smaller patters made their appearance, as well as ethnic designs. In the 80’s and 90’s, valances became popular, along with neutral colours and more simple designs were used by most households.
Today, curtains and other window treatments are available in a large variety of designs, patterns, colours, textures, weight and fibre compositions; and every treatment is personal to the architecture of each building, as well as the personal style of the customer.