We all know that curtains have been around for quite a while, but do you know the origin of curtains?
For many years, curtains of one type or another have been used to define spaces and create a sense of privacy. The first curtains that people made were made from animal hides.
These hides were placed over doorways and fastened with hooks. As you can imagine, hides are rather stiff and do not drape in a flattering way. Slowly, with the advancement of textile production, including weaving and dying, these household textiles evolved to something more similar to the curtains we are now familiar with. Other textiles that were created at the same time were other items designed for warmth, such as hangings, blankets, and bed hangings.
These early textiles, first spun in ancient Egypt, were comprised of linen and flax. After this, wool, cotton, and silk were also used for textile manufacturing.
Even though there is little documentation or evidence existing from the Early and Middle Ages regarding curtains and other hangings, it is reasonable to believe that occupants of early homes, particularly people residing in castles, used woven textiles over doors and windows. These tapestries and other heavy cloths were used to keep out the cold, especially if the castles were located in frequently chilly areas, such as Northern Europe and England. If you’ve ever taken a tour of a castle, you’ve probably noticed that they tend to be damp and cold. Even with fireplaces in most rooms, it takes quite a bit to keep them warm. Before glass was manufactured, wooden slats were used over windows, which made for a lot of draftiness. Curtains helped to keep warmth (and unfortunately, smoke) in rooms.
During the Renaissance, homes began to look more similar to present day homes, complete with glass windows. Without being covered, these windows allowed light in and passersby to see in. For privacy and warmth, hangings were used over them. It took many years for curtains to evolve into what they are now. Textile manufacturing machinery in the 1800s allowed for textiles to be more mass-produced. This is what helped curtains become what they are today.