Soft Window Treatments 101: A Definitive Guide To Soft Window Treatment Definitions
In the world of window treatments there are a lot of terms and phrases that get thrown around. Sometimes there are even multiple names for the same thing! It can get confusing!
At Gotcha Covered, we pride ourselves with being on the cutting edge of new advancements in the world of window treatments. But we also want to make it understandable, so that you, the consumer, feel comfortable discussing these various options with us.
That is why we decided to take the opportunity to break down the lingo and give everyone an idea of what some of these words mean.
What are "window treatments"?
Window treatments are a covering or feature for a window that can be implemented for aesthetic enhancement or functionality (or both). They can be used to provide privacy, block out light or heat, or provide embellishment to a window.
Window treatments are divided into two main categories - hard treatments and soft treatments.
Hard window treatments are defined as being made from hard materials such as wood or vinyl. They include blinds, shutters, and shades.
Types of Window Treatments & Definitions
In this article, we are going to focus on the soft window treatment side of window coverings and give you some of the most commonly used terms or phrases along with their definitions. For convenience, we have alphabetized them to make them easier to find.
Alcove - a section of a wall or room that is set back from the remainder of the space. The space created by bay and bow windows. This space can play an important part in determining the mounting options available for particular window treatments.
Angled Windows - windows that slant and create a trapezoidal or triangular shape. Typically these windows will follow the roof-line of the house. Due to the particular shape of these windows, determining the right window treatment options may prove to be a little more challenging.
Arched Windows - the bottom half is rectangular while the top portion is semicircular. Sometimes also called “radius windows.” This shape can prove to be a particular challenge when considering what window treatment options might work best. Luckily, our Gotcha Covered Design Team has years of experience when it comes to finding a solution to these challenging windows.
Austrian Curtains - elaborately pleated curtains with vertical cords spaced evenly across so that when raised, the curtain gathers together. A great example is a theater curtain on a stage that opens upwards.
Awning Windows - hinged at the top to allow the window to be opened upward and outward. Careful consideration must be taken into account when deciding on window treatment options to allow this window to maintain full functionality.
Balloon Shades - decorative shades that are gathered up higher on either side while the bottom drapes loosely in between.
Balloon Valance - a top treatment that is gathered on either end and drapes loosely in between. Can be used alone or in combination with other window treatments.
Bay Windows - a collection of three windows that are angled out to project from the primary wall of the structure. Typically consists of one main picture window in the middle with two other windows on either side. The mounting hardware placement can be particularly challenging when considering soft window treatment options.
Bishop Sleeves - long, side drapery panels that are gathered part of the way down to create a poof of material. Typically these treatments are designed to pool on the floor with the extra length of fabric to create a dramatic and elegant effect.
Blackout Lining - an additional layer to your drapes or shades that adds an extra level of light control to your window treatments. Great for rooms that you don’t want outside light seeping into such as home theater rooms and bedrooms. For more information about how your window treatments can help with light control, visit Get The Most Out Of Your Window Treatments This Summer.
Board Mounted Valances - a top treatment where the material is attached to a valance board and mounted above the window. Designed to specifically cover or enclose the window treatment hardware or to add decor to the window.
Bow Windows - a collection of four or five windows that are angled to project out from the primary wall. From the outside, the structure of the windows is curved to create a rounded appearance. The mounting hardware placement can be particularly challenging when considering soft window treatment options. Luckily, our Gotcha Covered Design Team has years of experience when it comes to finding a solution to these challenging windows.
Box Pleat - a crisp, clean pleat that is made from two parallel creases on either side forming a raised portion in between.
Box-Pleated Valance - a fabric valance that hangs straight down from an L-shaped rod, with formal, stitched pleats.
Brackets - metal hardware that mounts into the wall, window frame, or ceiling and holds the rod or pole in place. Some are simply functional and are only there to serve their purpose, while others are more decorative and are meant to embellish the whole treatment.
Cafe Curtains - can be lined or unlined, sill length or floor length. Can be hung halfway or a third of the way down from the top of the window to achieve the desired effect.
Cartridge Pleat - an elegant, modern style of pleat that is made from folds that allow the fabric to fall in neat, cylindrical curves.
Cascade - a top treatment of loose material that falls down on either side of the window in folds or gathers. Sometimes called a “jabot” or a “tail.”
Casement Windows - hinged on the side to allow the window to be opened like a door, swinging outward. Careful consideration must be taken into account when deciding on soft window treatment options to allow for this window to maintain full functionality.
Casing - an open ended fabric sleeve where a curtain rod can be inserted. Sometimes also called a “rod pocket.”
Center Draw - traversing drapes that open from the center of the window. Also called a “split draw.”
Circular Windows - round windows that resemble a porthole on a ship. Sometimes also called an “oculus.” Their unique shape can prove to be a particular challenge when considering window treatment options.
Clips - window treatment hardware that grab hold of the fabric and can slide along the rod or pole. They can be decorated with ornamental shapes or motifs to add an extra design element. Sometimes also called “cafe clips” or “rings with clips.”
Color Blocking - when two fabrics are used in conjunction with each other to create a soft window treatment. Keep in mind that fabrics should be of similar weight to help it hang properly. Feel free to mix a solid with a patterned fabric and play around with proportions. Thirds and fifths are great ratios to start with.
COM - an acronym for “customer’s own materials” meaning a customer can choose their own fabrics to use to fabricate their soft window treatments.
Contrast Fabric - the secondary color choice of a color blocked soft window treatment. In some cases there can be more than one contrast fabric which is labeled Contrast 1, Contrast 2, etc.
Corner Windows - a window that occupies the corner of a structure. In some cases the corner post of the window can be removed so that just the glass remains. The mounting hardware and maintaining full functionality can be particularly challenging when considering window treatment options. Luckily, our Gotcha Covered Design Team has years of experience when it comes to finding a solution to these challenging windows.
Cornice - a decorative wooden top treatment mounted above a window which can be covered with fabric, paint, or wallpaper or can be designed and stained from an attractive piece of wood and remain uncovered. Sometimes these can also be upholstered, but they will not have any loose fabric hanging down.
Crown Molding - trim used for capping walls, pillars, cabinets and used for cornice assembly around doors and window hoods. Can sometimes create an obstruction for certain window treatments that must be carefully considered before installation.
Curtain Headers - the top portion of the curtain through which the curtain is attached to the rod or curtain frame allowing it to hang a certain way, Different types of headers will create different looks for the curtain. Some of the most commonly used types of headers include pleated, rod pocket, tab top, grommet top, or flat/plain top. Sometimes also called “headings.”
Curtains - panels of fabric that can be short or long and typically come in pairs. Some are operable,meaning they open and close, and others are stationary and serve more of a decorative purpose.
Cut Length - the length of fabric needed for a window treatment including the heading and hem.
Cut Width - the width of fabric needed for a window treatment that includes the width required for the side seams.
Decorative Side Panels - stationary window treatments that can be used in pairs or multiples and are hung on either side of a window.
Decorative Soft Window Treatments - soft window treatments that do not perform a function. Typically, these treatments do not open or close, but stay in a fixed position. Some examples of decorative soft window treatments are stationary side panels, cafe curtains, and top treatments.
Double Fold Hem - as the name implies, the edge is folded twice and then hemmed. Typically used for the bottom edge of drapes and curtains to add a little extra weight to the bottom of the treatment to help it hang more evenly. The double fold also prevents the raw edge of the cut material to be seen.
Double Hung Windows - windows installed so that both the top and bottom sash are operable and can move up and down.
Double Rubs - a term that refers to how resistant a fabric is to abrasion by rubbing the piece of material over and over until it shows signs of wear.
Double Tracks - window treatment attachments mounted to the wall or ceiling above the window that use two separate tracks to allow different layers of the window treatment to be independently operable. Ideal for layered windows treatments such as a ripplefold drapery paired with a sheer.
Double Width - refers to the finished width from selvage to selvage of two full widths sewn together. These will gather to approximately 40.”
Drapes - panels of fabric that can be the length of the window or floor length, Can be lined or unlined and typically come in pairs. Some are operable,meaning they open and close, and others are stationary and serve more of a decorative purpose.
Drop Length - the length of a curtain or drape from the hanging system to the hem.
Edge Banding - adding a contrasting fabric to the edge of a soft window treatment. A great complement for draperies, panels, Roman shades, and top treatments.
Fabric Grain - refers to the direction of the threads used in the weaving of a piece of fabric.
Face Fabric - the dominant fabric choice of a color blocked soft window treatment.
Facing - an extra layer of fabric included within the treatment to strengthen the drape or curtain.
Festoon - a panel of fabric that is pulled up on either side by cords allowing the middle section to hang down in semicircular folds like a garland. Sometimes also called a “pull-up curtain.”
Finials - the end pieces that attach on each side of a rod or pole to help keep everything in place. They are both functional and decorative since they are visible on the finished product.
Finished Length - the final length of the window treatment after the heading and hem are complete.
Flat Fell Seam - an extra seam used to add strength to the original seam.
French Seam - a flat seam that encloses the outer edge of a piece of fabric. Typically used on sheer or loosely woven fabrics.
Fullness - when talking about curtains and drapes, they can either be flat or have fullness. Fullness is the extra fabric used across the width of the drape that provides it with a richer look by increasing the visual depth of field and providing more light and sound absorption.
Functioning Soft Window Treatments - soft window treatments that perform a specific function such as providing light control or privacy. Typically, these window treatment must be operable - meaning that they are movable and can be opened or closed; raised or lowered. Some examples of functioning soft window treatments are traversing drapes, Roman shades, and blackout shades.
Goblet Pleats - a more formal pleat that makes each pleat look like a fluted glass.
Grommet Top Curtains - curtain panels that have round, metal openings, called grommets that are evenly spaced along the top edge of the curtain where the rod or pole can be inserted.
Hardware - the pieces that mount your window treatment to the wall or window frame and allow it to hang and operate correctly. Typical hardware pieces include rods, rosettes, brackets, hooks, rings, clips, and finials.
Head - the horizontal top portion of the window frame.
Heading - the top portion of the curtain through which the curtain is attached to the rod or curtain frame allowing it to hang a certain way, Different types of headings will create different looks for the curtain. Some of the most commonly used types of headings include pleated, rod pocket, tab top, grommet top, or flat/plain top. Sometimes also known as a “curtain header.”
Hooks - window treatment hardware attachments that hold the material of the soft treatment to the rod or pole allowing them to hang in the desired position.
Inset Banding - a decorative trim that can added to the leading edge of the drapery or panel.
Inverted Pleats - formed by bringing two equal, folded sides to a center point on the front of the material creating a box pleat on the inside.
Jabot - a top treatment of loose material that falls down on either side of the window in folds or gathers. Sometimes called a “cascade” or a “tail.”
Jambs - the vertical side portions of the window frame.
Layered Window Treatments - using multiple window treatments to create a desired effect. Typically a combination of hard treatments and soft treatments, some of which provide a functional purpose and the others create a more decorative effect.
Leading Edge - the edge of a curtain or drapery that is at the forefront of all movement. For example: if your traversing drapes close to the center, then the innermost edge of the fabric would be considered the leading edge.
Left Stack - traversing drapes that open from the right side of the window and gather or “stack” on the left.
Lining - an extra layer of material that adds body and fullness to draperies and panels. Also protects the window treatment from exposure to light and heat thereby extending the lifespan. Also adds a professional, finished look to top treatments. Some of the most popular types of linings are blackout, thermal, and water repellent liners.
Medallions - window treatment hardware that is a decorative alternative to using a curtain rod. They mount directly to the wall above the window at evenly spaced intervals so that the material of the treatment can be draped over them and arranged. Also called “rosettes.”
Motorized Traversing Rods or Tracks - a functioning window treatment option that allows the treatment to be opened and closed without a cord or pulley, but instead by a motor. A great feature to add for any window treatment. To learn more about the benefits of motorization, check out this article 4 Common Misconceptions About Motorized Window Treatments.
Obstructions - an object or architectural element within a space that must be worked around and can dictate placement and style options.
Oculus - a round window that resembles a porthole on a ship. Also called “circular windows.” The particular shape of these windows can prove to be a bit of a challenge when considering window treatment options. Luckily, our Gotcha Covered Design Team has years of experience when it comes to finding a solution to these challenging windows.
One and a Half Width (1 ½ width) - refers to the finished width from selvage to selvage of one full width plus half of one width. These will gather to approximately 30.”
Opacity - in window treatments, the amount of light that is blocked out by a certain material. The lower the opacity of a type of fabric, the more light will be able to pass through. For example, sheers have very low opacity, while blackout shades have very high opacity.
Overlap - the extra width allowance of drapes on a traversing rod that allows each side to slightly cross over in the middle.
Panel - one section of a drapery or curtain that is hemmed and can be lined or unlined.
Panel Tracks - runners that attach to the wall or ceiling allowing the fabric panels to slide open or closed across an opening.
Pencil Pleats - the traditional heading for curtains or valances that gathers the material together that allows you to expand or reduce the width to suit your needs.
Pinch Pleats - a narrow, short pleat used in a heading of a curtain or drape to control fullness. Typically used in groups, such as a triple pinch pleat which has three pleats gathered together in a group and then a space in between.
Pleated Style Traversing Drapes - operable drapes that use pleats to manage the length of the material, allowing it to gather together when the drapes are open or unfold when the drapes are closed. Some of the best pleat options for these drapes are pinch pleats or inverted pleats.
Pleats - folds within a piece of fabric or tapestry that are held together by stitching on the top of the side and are used to control the fullness of the curtain or drape.
Pole Mounted Valances - material is attached to a decorative pole or rod and mounted above the window. Mounting hardware is intended to be used as a decorative feature and not hidden or disguised.
Priscillas - ruffled curtains that tie back in the middle. Sometimes with added smocking or embroidery, these curtains are commonly made from sheer or semi-opaque material. Often accompanied by ruffled valances and can crisscross or meet in the center. They are sometimes also called “cape cod curtains.”
Pole - typically made from wood, bamboo, plastic, or metal and are not adjustable. Wooden poles are available in a variety of wood types and can be painted or stained.
Projection - the distance that a bracket extends out from the wall. Important to consider when calculating the return.
Pull-Up Curtain - a panel of fabric that is pulled up on either side by cords allowing the middle section to hang down in semicircular folds like a garland. Sometimes also called a ”festoon."
Radius Windows - windows that are rectangular on the bottom half while the top portion is semicircular. Also called “arched windows.” This shape can prove to be a particular challenge when considering what window treatment options to use.
Railroading - when the width of the fabric becomes the length. Usually implemented to avoid seams. Typically used with sheers or fabrics with elaborate patterns.
Repeat - a measurement from one emblem or motif to the next in a pattern.
Return - the extra amount of material needed to cover the mounting hardware so it is not visible.
Right Stack - traversing drapes that open from the left side of the window and gather or “stack” on the right.
Rings - loops that attach to the fabric of the curtain or drape and slide over the rod or pole to allow the treatment to open and close.
Ripplefold Style Traversing Drapes - the pleating of this style of drapery is achieved by the spacing of the carriers. This pleating style is unique because both the front and the back of the finished product will look the same. This is also known as “roll pleat” style.
Rod - typically adjustable with various options of styles and finishes to choose from. Rods can be smooth, reeded, or fluted to perform their various tasks.
Rod Face Width - the width of the rod needed should be determined by the width of the window plus an extension on either side (typically 7” per side). This width is not including the finials on each end.
Rod Mounted Valances - material is attached to a decorative rod and mounted above the window. Mounting hardware is intended to be used as a decorative feature and not hidden or disguised.
Rod Pocket - an open ended fabric sleeve where a curtain rod can be inserted. Sometimes also called a “casing.”
Roll Pleat Style Traversing Drapes - the pleating of this style of drapery is achieved by the spacing of the carriers. This pleating style is unique because both the front and the back of the finished product will look the same. This is also known as “ripplefold pleat” style.
Roman Shades - a soft window treatment made from a piece of fabric or textile that evenly stacks as it is raised by a cord or a pull.
Rosettes - window treatment hardware that is a decorative alternative to using a curtain rod. They mount directly to the wall above the window at evenly spaced intervals so that the material of the treatment can be draped over them and arranged. Also called “medallions.”
Sash Curtains - curtain material hung between two sash rods, pulled taut, and mounted over a window. Allows light into the room while covering a portion of the window to add a level of privacy.
Scalloped Edge - a hem that features a repeating pattern that rises and falls at regular intervals.
Scarves - top treatments made from loose, free-flowing lengths of fabric that are slung or draped over a decorative rod. Not designed to hide the hardware but rather to enhance the look of it.
Seam Allowance - the extra length of fabric used to join two pieces together. Important to consider when measuring for the finished product.
Selvage - the tightly woven edge of a piece of fabric designed to keep the fabric from fraying. Typically much sturdier than the rest of the piece, making it more challenging to sew through.
Sheers - a fabric panel made from translucent, see-through material such as chiffon or voile allowing some filtered light to pass through the fabric and into the room.
Sill - the horizontal bottom portion of the window frame.
Single Hung Windows - windows where the top sash is fixed and the bottom sash is movable.
Single Width - refers to the finished width from selvage to selvage. Can be made from any length, but will gather to approximately 20.” The average width from selvage to selvage is 54.”
Soft Window Treatments - window coverings that are made from soft material such as textiles or fabric. The most common soft window treatments are drapes, curtains, sheers, Roman shades, valances, and swags.
Split Draw - traversing drapes that open from the center of the window. Also called a “center draw.”
Stacking Space - how much space the draperies will take up when they are open and in their drawn position.
Stagecoach Valance - a casual top treatment that gives the appearance of a roll-up shade typically with two vertical ties or bands that can be simple or embellished with decorative additions.
Stationary - unmovable, stays in one position. An example of a stationary window treatment would be a decorative side panel.
Swag - a long side piece that attaches to the top treatment hardware to frame the upper portion of the window. These can be used by themselves or as a complementing feature to other top treatments.
Tab Top Curtains - a casual heading option that includes fabric loops spaced across the top of the curtain attaching it to the rod.
Thermal Lining - an additional layer to your drapes or shades that adds an extra level of protection against heat loss. Great for rooms that you want to have remain a comfortable temperature all year long while staying energy efficient. For more information about how your window treatments can help with unnecessary energy loss, visit Window Treatments Could Save You Hundreds Each Month.
Tie-Backs - accessories used to hold back the sides of the curtain or drape in the open position. The height of the tie-back placement will determine how much of the window is exposed and how much light is let in. The general rule of thumb is to place tie-back a third of the way from the top or a third of the way from the bottom.
Tie Top Curtains - a casual heading option that uses ties at the top of the curtain to attach it to the rod.
Tier Curtains - a ruffled curtain hung in the middle of a window. Often coupled with a valance or a swag. Sometimes also called a “cafe curtain.”
Top Treatments - window treatments used at the top of the window to complete a look or styled effect. Popular top treatments include valances, cornices, scarves, and swags.
Transom Windows - windows added above or to the side of a door. Typically rectangular and can be operable (able to be opened and closed) or fixed (unopenable). The particular shape, location, and function of these windows may take some consideration when determining the right window treatment options.
Traversing Drapes - functioning window treatments that can be opened and closed.
Trim - a great addition to soft window treatments to add a little more decoration and flair. Different types of trim include decorative tape, cording, fringe, and tassels.
Valance - a top treatment made from a section of fabric to decoratively cover the frame and hardware of other window treatments. Valances can also be used alone as a decorative feature for a window.
Valance Board - decorative framework designed to conceal the rod and hardware at the top of a window.
Valance Box - a decorative wooden top treatment mounted above a window which can be covered with fabric, paint, or wallpaper or can be designed and stained from an attractive piece of wood and remain uncovered. Sometimes these can also be upholstered, but they will not have any loose fabric hanging down. Also called a “cornice.”
Window Face Width - the width of the window measuring from inside the frame on the left to the right.
Window Frame - the outermost portion of the window. Also called the window casing. There are three main parts to the frame:
- the sill on the bottom
- the jambs on the sides
- the head at the top
For more information on the anatomy of a window, here are some great descriptions -https://www.pella.com/glossary/window-anatomy/.
Window Sash - the portion of a window that holds the glass and framework in place. The sash is fitted into the frame and may or may not be movable depending on the type of window.
Window Treatment Hardware - the pieces that mount your window treatment to the wall or window frame and allow it to hang and operate correctly. Typical hardware pieces include rods, rosettes, brackets, hooks, rings, clips, and finials. Learn more about the curtain hardware we offer.
We hope this list is a helpful resource to give you an idea of what some of these commonly used terms and phrases mean. We know we are just barely scratching the surface of all the variations and possibilities when it comes to soft window treatment options and accessories.
We are looking forward to expanding on this list and branching out to include common terms and lingo used for other areas of the window treatment industry.
But for the time being, here is a great start to understanding the terminology of soft window treatments!
Whether you prefer dramatic floor length draperies or darling cafe curtains, Gotcha Covered has what you are looking for.
With thousands of options available, your Gotcha Covered Design Expert will be able to help you narrow down the choices to what will serve you best. Our goal is to find the perfect combination of window treatments to enhance your room.
Reach out to us today and see what our Gotcha Covered Design Team can do to bring style and flair to your windows! Call us at (888) 650-6187 or schedule a free design consultation today!