In the world of window treatments, there are a lot of options to choose from. Some styles of draperies seem so similar---such as pinch-pleated drapes and Ripplefold drapes---that learning a bit about their differences can help guide a buyer to the best choice for a specific window, decor or space.
Ripplefold drapery is a drapery that comes with a system, meaning the track system comes with the drapery and is custom fit by a supplier to the space. The drapery itself is hung on the track with hardware specific to the track that can only be bought from the supplier. The look of ripples in the fabric comes from the nylon snap tape that's stitched to the back of the fabric so that the draperies can "snap to carriers creating a graceful uniform flow of ripple-like folds," according to the website "Curtain Fair," which is a supplier of Ripplefold systems. The folds are not sewn into the material, in other words---the folds are a result of how the top of the curtain is held by the hardware to the track.
Pinch-pleat drapes are the most classic of all pleated draperies. A pinch pleat is a gathering of fabric that's pinched and sewn together at the top of the drape. The fabric falls to the hem based on the pleat at the top. A pinch pleat can be a single pinch, a double or a triple. Pinched pleats can also be grouped; a double pinch placed an inch from another double pinch is called a grouped pleat. The pinch pleat makes a drapery (unless it's a sheer) heavier and ideal for privacy and room darkening. When the drapes are opened, the pinch pleat will stack, while the space in between the pleats will collapse. This means that a lot of pinched pleats will result in a drape that stacks widely.
The most obvious similarity between Ripplefold and pinch-pleat draperies is the overall visual effect on the window. Both types of curtains have an uniform soft rolling element throughout the panel, and both types can be made out of nearly any fabric desired. Both draperies are known for providing complete privacy as well as opening fully to allow full light. Both types of drapes use an easy-slide track system, although it's possible to mount pinch-pleat drapes on a rod with rings.
Because pinch-pleated drapes are made by gathering the fabric into sewn pleats, they use more fabric than Ripplefold draperies, and therefore, Ripplefold panels stack back into less space because the ripples are a single layer of fabric rather than two or more sewn together layers of fabric. In a pinch-pleat panel, the pleats will always occupy the same amount of space, while only the flat spaces between the pleats will compress down when the panel is open. Ripplefold drapes allow in more light because they compress back fully. Both are hung on tracks with hardware, but the pinch-pleated drapes use hooks, and the Ripplefold drapes use snaps. Ripplefold panels are flat pieces of fabric when taken down, which means easier cleaning. Pinch pleats are permanently sewn, so cleaning is more challenging and often requires a dry cleaner.
Due to popularity and their status as the classic curtain, pinch-pleat draperies can be bought---off the rack---in many big-box stores today. However, unless you are using a curtain rod with rings, it can be challenging to install a track. Pinch-pleated drapes are often purchased from a drapery expert who will measure the space and custom make the drapes. Custom-made pinch-pleat drapes can also be purchased online, but require the buyer to make the proper measurements. Ripplefold systems must be purchased, in their entirety, from a Ripplefold drapery system supplier. Online suppliers will help you make sure your measurements are accurate by walking you through the process; local suppliers will come directly to a home and measure.