Drapes are curtain panels that literally "drape" the window. Typically, they hang on a rod secured across the top of the window and hang straight down. But there are different variations that range from casual to formal. Here's what you need to know about using drapes as window treatments.
The current fashion in drapes is two matching tall columns of fabric that flank a window like sentries guarding a palace entrance. When you buy them in stores or online, there are two standard lengths: 84 inches and 95 or 96 inches. The length of the curtain dictates the height of the rod. If you buy 84-inch-long curtains, the rod must be mounted roughly 84 inches from the floor if the curtains hang from the rod without rings. This lets the hem of the curtains brush the floor. How formal or casual they feel depends on the fabric (cotton versus velvet, for example) as well as the hanging mechanism. Oil-rubbed rings on a matching rod have an old-world look, whereas large nickel grommets sliding on a thick rod appear casual.
Another style for drapes is extra-long panels with inches of fabric "puddling" on the floor, creating a ball-gown effect. This can be an elegant look for fabrics with the right weight and weave, such as synthetics and silks. Stiff fabrics, such as cotton and linen, or any kind of lined panels, won't flow gracefully onto the floor. If you the puddling effect, buy these drapes from a store or online at the 96-inch length but mount the rod between 84 and 90 inches high to give you extra fabric to play with at the floor level.
The most popular type of drape is the gathered style, which is most commonly available as ready-made drapes. A panel is flat until you clip it to rings or thread it onto a curtain rod. When the panel pulls to the side of the window, the fabric gathers into gentle waves. Another style is the pinch-pleated drape, which is common for custom-made draperies fashioned by drapery workrooms. At the top of the panel, the fabric is pinched into tight pleats at even intervals, which causes the fabric below the pleats to billow out slightly. This is a more formal look and is often used in hotels, banquet halls, and restaurants.
Drapes don't have to be long. Some are hemmed to reach a specific point on the window—typically the window sash or just below the bottom of the molding around the window. These window treatments tend to be more casual than long drapes and are often sewn from lightweight fabrics, such as cotton and muslin. If you buy them in a store on online, the typical length for short drapes is 63 inches.