Drapery Fabric vs. Upholstery Fabric

Almost every room in our house has fabric. But we don’t always know their names and characteristics. For starters, we can categorize decor fabric into upholstery fabric or drapery fabric.

Let’s discuss the difference between the two and which fabrics are the best for drapery. Choosing the suitable fabric for your cushions, curtains, and other items will positively impact your home’s design.

What Is Drapery Fabric?

Drapery, regular, or multipurpose fabric is a loose, medium-weight fabric for curtains and covers. Its heaviness lies between the weight of upholstery fabric and quilting and clothing cotton. This trait makes drapery fabric volatile, not blocking sunlight and air. 

There is also what we call a sheer drapery fabric. This material is more lightweight and, therefore, not ideal for upholstery. There are also thick drapery fabrics, although they are rarely available. Even though they are heavier, you still can’t use them for upholstery.

The most common design for drapery fabric is embroidery. It can be plain or printed, and its material includes cotton, rayon, linen, or a polyester blend. 

Since drapery fabrics are initially decorative, you can find them in curtains, Roman shades, valances, and accent chairs. You can also use it on throw pillows, headboards, dining chairs, duvet covers, and handbags. 

Almost all fabrics can be drapery materials, but not for all kinds of items. For example, you can only use cotton indoors because it can accumulate bacteria and mold outdoors. 

What Is Upholstery Fabric?

Upholstery fabric is a heavy fabric that looks more substantial and durable than drapery fabric. But the longevity of upholstery fabric depends on the kind you’re getting. Some may be thicker but less weather-resistant than drapery fabric.

These fabrics come from different groups of fibers to withstand elements and remain comfortable. They tend to sag and wrinkle less because fabric producers develop them for heavy usage.  

Upholstery fabrics also come in plain and patterned designs. But manufacturers weave these patterns on the material instead of printing them so that they won’t fade or wear away after several uses. 

Look at the fabric’s opposite side to check if the pattern is printed or woven. A woven pattern also shows the inverse of the design on the other side. 

Raised textures are another typical design among solid upholstery fabrics. Others have backings, including velvet, vinyl, and chenille. These materials are more robust and not suitable for draping. 

You can use upholstery fabrics on couches, armchairs, headboards, and stools. Cushions, padding, and other furnishing pieces on which you sit and lie also use these fabrics.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Drapery Fabric

The type of drapery fabric you will use depends not only on your design preferences.


Whatever you’re spending money on for your home, durability is always necessary. You need a strong fabric that holds up to wear and tear, especially if it will experience high traffic. For instance, don’t choose a silk curtain on windows directly exposed to sunlight.

The most durable fabric you can use for drapery is 100% linen or a blend of linen and rayon. These materials wrinkle and fade less, even if you place them near sunlight. 

The Right Weight

Drapery fabrics are generally lighter than upholstery fabrics. But they still come in diverse weights, so choose carefully. For example, velvet is excellent for theater curtains but not for small rooms. But linen is perfect for bedrooms and living areas.

Light- to medium-weight drapery fabrics can block excessive sunlight without restricting airflow. Linen is versatile because it shades the sun without blocking it entirely. If you want your drapery fabric to be more opaque, add a blackout lining. 

Hangs Well

A piece of medium-weight drapery fabric is the perfect fabric that hangs well. If it’s too light, your curtain may not hold its shape. But if it’s too heavy, it can create messy and uneven folds.

The design effect of your drapery also depends on the size. Measuring for window treatment is essential because long curtains will pool on the ground and make your room untidy. It also looks unattractive if it’s too short.

Cotton is a fantastic choice to make your windows, tablecloths, and bed skirts flowy. You can also try synthetic fabric since it’s cheaper and more durable.

What Fabrics Are Best for Drapery?

You can try many drapery fabrics, ranging from natural to artificial blends. But you can never go wrong with these three materials.


Voile is the number one choice for sheer drapery because it’s soft, lightweight, and uncomplicated. Premium-quality voile has a delicate surface and flowy trait that looks great on curtains. 


Cotton is the most popular and practical choice for anyone looking for breathable drapery fabric. There’s no need to line this material because it’s already opaque and durable on its own.  

You can try quilting and dressmaking cotton if you want less coverage for your curtains. But these fabrics are almost transparent when you expose them to sunlight. For thicker options, try cotton duck and twill cotton. You may also consider gingham cotton for kitchen curtains. 


Except for dressmaking linen, any linen makes a fresh drapery fabric because of its thickness and strength. It also looks more elegant than other drapery fabrics, especially if you take care of it.

Linen fabric tends to wrinkle quickly. It’s also not as flowy as voile and cotton because of its thickness. The high-maintenance drapery fabric requires dry cleaning to keep its sophistication. Wash it regularly so that it falls better every time.

Final Thoughts

There’s so much to consider when it comes to fabrics. And the first step is to determine whether you need a drapery fabric or an upholstery fabric. Drapery fabric is for curtains, valances, and duvet covers, while upholstery fabric is for any cushion. Which drapery fabric do you like best? For more options, we’ve got a great selection of blackout fabrics, perfect for making draperies.

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