Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright © 2008 Açalya Allmer


“My windows hung with lace curtains (Valenciennes, Venice, Bruges, Scotland) combined according to the formula: = m (m - 1) (m - 2) … (m – n + 1).” These are the words of Bourgeois, the fictive character in Le Corbusier’s seminal book The Decorative Art of Today (1925). Le Corbusier’s witty attack on curtains was common in the dominant rhetoric of modern architecture in which drapes and curtains were regarded as superficial, fleeting, and effeminate. This paper deals with curtains in domestic interiors, exploring the correlation that exists between the representation and function of the drapery in modern architecture: display, excess and luxury. It does not set out to offer a history of drapes or curtains, but to explore certain aspects and the ways in which it has been used in domestic interiors of the early twentieth-century. Why do we have curtains? How did they emerge? What roles do they play? What is the difference between curtains and drapes? How can we define “modern curtains”? Why did modern architects prefer built-in curtains? Tracing the different roles that drapes and curtains played in the domestic interiors of the nineteenth and early twentieth-century, I will show that curtains – as opposed to drapes – reappeared, yet in a different role, namely practical, anonymous, impermanent, and unobtrusive.