Fifty Shades of Bed Shades

Ok, weíre not ìgoing thereî. There are some things where the shadesneed to stay pulled. But the question is, whyare some antique beds draped in fabric and others are riotously bare? Why do we sometimes ìcanopyî the top,ìdrapeî the sides and ìskirtî or ìruffleî the bottom? Are we such bad housekeepers that we have to keep the dustbunnies under the bed? Or do wejust like fabrics? Do we like theshades?

French fancy bed
(img: Pinterest, Anne Davies)

Historical consensus seems to be that heavy canopies were originallya necessity in order to keep ìthingsî from falling down from thatchedroofs. If youíve ever slept in areally old house or one without screens you know for yourself that ìthingsî caninclude bats, birds, and spiders.We all have a natural horror of having ìthingsî descend onus in the middle of the night, especially if weíre deep into open-mouthed nod.

(img: Colonial Williamsburg bed, Wikipedia)

We know, too, that drapes around the beds not only helpedkeep out the chill, but gave some privacy. In ìnobleîfamilies, a servant or two may have slept in the same room in order to assist withwhatever calls rang out. InAmerican colonial days there may have been just one room for both living andsleeping. Even in the last centurymany homes only had one bedroom and children and parents shared the samequarters. Those curtains,especially with Victorian mores, kept Vegas in Vegas, at least on thefarm.

Itís obvious, too, that there were regional and seasonalvariations in bed dressing. Heavyfabrics were used in the American North and light whites and netting were usedmore in the Southern summer.Protection from mosquitoes was a functional regional requirement. Wealthy families prized embroidered hangingsin the English and European traditions.Velvets, heavy damask, and wools were used for warmth. Southerners opted for cool cottons,sometimes for lace and sheers and often on beds with higher posts and without abed skirt to impede cool breezes.

EGA Jacobean Bed Hanging

(img: Jacobean bed hanging, Embroidererís Guild of America,Louisville, Ky.

Southern bed
(Aiken-Rhett House, Charleston)

Today, canopies and bed hangings are enjoying a revival andwith more artful interpretations.Period dramas have rekindled an interest. While we might not need the protection or privacyanymore, more art and romance always makes shades in season. And it doesnít take 50 shades.

Inspired? Come share your ideas on canopies, bed drapes andruffles with us on Facebook atDusty Old Thing

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