Curtains for Early Victorian Homes 1845 – 1880

A curtain arrangement with the curtains drawn back on Gothic ‘curtain pins’ {as shown in the previous illustration – decorated with a ‘quatre foil’ design}. . If the style of the house was Gothic, the’ drapery’ would be cut with a pointed arch. An arched ‘drapery’, as opposed to the ‘curtains’, has been added to the arrangement, with fine bullion fringe along the bottom.

If an Italianate cottage, the ‘drapery’ would be arranged in horizontal folds. The drapery has been attached to a wooden cornice, which is attached to the top of the window frame with screws. The curtains are either attached to the inside of the cornice with tacks, or a better method was to have them “run on a small rod by brass rings, all concealed by the cornice”, according to an American book from 1850.

The full window treatment in a Gothic-influenced 1856 home. Roller window blinds in a cream ‘holland’ fabric block the direct light, then a layer of lace curtains, trailing on the floor, and then a pair of chintz curtains, puddled on the floor, all act to protect the interior from sunlight. The arrangement is topped with an arched, Gothic ‘drapery’ with fringe along the lower edge. The curtains and drapery are suspended from a wooden cornice attached to the top of the wooden window frame..

Even in small modest cottages, simple, lightweight window curtains were looped back during the day for maximum light as seen in this illustration from 1853.

A slightly more complicated curtain arrangement than the previous example. This pair of curtains includes a gathered and tucked ‘drapery’, bordered by a fine bullion fringe. The ‘drapery’ hangs from the main, decorative rod and rings, while the curtains themselves travel on the smaller iron rod tucked in behind, as seen in the cross section of the rod arrangement at the right.

More often, the smaller second rod will be for the lace or sheer curtains.

In this example, the lace curtains are hung from thin iron rods over each window in the bay of this 1865 historic house museum, and the main curtains, sewn in a reproduction mid-19th century chintz fabric, and edged with a crimson tassel fringe {to match the recreated crimson and gold flocked wallpaper border} were designed to cover the entire bay window.

The position of the curtain brackets over the bay window had been determined by careful on-site research, prior to restoration.

The main curtains ‘puddle’ on the floor, and are held back by cords and tassel to hooks in the window frame at windowsill height.

Chintz curtains would have been used for summer curtains, and would have matched the chintz slipcovers that would have been used to cover all of the upholstered furniture in the Drawing Room. The changeover from regular upholstery to chintz covers would be made at the time that Spring-cleaning took place. This was a major event, entailing taking down stove pipes and removing stoves from hallways where they had been necessary to keep the house warm during the winter, with all of the soot and dirt that job would entail.

True chintz fabrics are made of cotton, and have at least five colours in the design, but in the mid-nineteenth century the name was frequently used for glazed calico that only had two or three colours. Cotton and calico fabrics were very cheap, with one 1859 English magazine saying “some are sold at three pence per yard, a price so low that no one need go without cotton hangings at the windows, or covers to the chair seats and sofa.”

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