A curtain valance originally consisted of fabric strategically hung over the upper portion of a window. Its purpose was to hide nondecorative curtain rods and unsightly tops of window shades. Today a curtain valance can stand alone and is purely decorative. A draped, gathered or folded soft fabric window treatment covering no more than the upper one-third of a window defines the modern valance. Styles include the gathered, tabbed, pleated and balloon curtain valance.
The gathered valance is a long valance measuring two or three times the width of the window it will hang above. A 1- or 2-inch enclosed opening sewn across the width of the valance allows a curtain rod to be inserted. As the valance is shirred up on the rod, it forms gathers, creating a full effect. This is a simple and economical valance style that is well suited for any window type.
A tabbed valance is characterised by small strips of ribbon or fabric attached at intervals to the top of the valance. The tabs are looped over a decorative curtain rod. Necessary fabric for the tabbed valance is equal to the measurement of the width of the window. A fuller effect can be created by measuring fabric to a minimum of 1 1/2 times the width of the window, creating soft folds or cones.
The box pleat is the simplest version of the pleated curtain valances. It has a crisp, tailored appearance that looks like an elementary girl's pleated skirt. Butterfly-pleat valances are pleated at the top only and then released to hang in soft elegant folds. A bell-pleat valance is constructed in such a way that the pleats are left unpressed and they roll gently into soft arcs of fabric. Pleated valances add instant character and sophistication to any room's decor.
A balloon curtain valance gets its name from looking like a puffy round balloon. This valance has fabric sections that have been pinched together and then bundled and stuffed with newspaper. The result is a fluffy elegant look. Lightweight fabrics work best for this type of valance, as heavier fabrics don't hold the balloon shape as well. Although balloon valances look similar to the balloon shades that can be raised or lowered, they are stationary.