What Is a Voile Panel?

Updated February 21, 2017

Voile is a flowing, closely woven, dressy fabric that is commonly used for summer clothing and curtain panels. It comes in vivid colours that evoke Indian saris and silks, and in pastel shades that are pretty and soft in a nursery or child's room. Natural fibre voile is made of cotton, linen or silk.

Voile Fabric

Voile is a sheer fabric that is slightly stiff and may be made of natural or synthetic fibres. The word voile is French for veil and the material was originally used to make veils. Some fabrics that resemble voile are batiste, lawn, dimity and gauze, although not all of them are as stiff as voile. The transparency of the material means that using it in simple construction and patterns is best, as the seams and hems will show right through the fabric. Because curtain panels generally have simple long seams and loose gathers or folds to hide them, voile may be used as a sheer or a window treatment.


Panels are simply the long sections of curtains that hang from curtain rods. They are usually gathered or pleated and may be pulled open and closed. Voile is frequently chosen for simple, gathered curtains that look delicate and let in a lot of light. But there is another type of panel used for windows and voile is a good choice for that, too. A voile panel may be a straight length of fabric, with an envelope or ties at the top, that hangs from a rod in front of a window. These voile panels diffuse light and provide some privacy. They are often backed by roll-up shades for true privacy at night.

Doubling Up

Voile panels may be lined or doubled to vary the effect. Lined voile allows the lining fabric to show through, presenting a heftier curtain and eliminating the light transparency when the curtains are closed. This can result in an interesting cloud effect -- the voile acts as a softening scrim for the visible pattern or texture of the backing. With lined voile, you need a backing fabric that looks good on both sides because it will show through in the room and be visible from the street. A romantic effect is achieved by layering two different voiles, one in front of the other. This results in a dreamy blend of colours or a pattern glimpsed through a misty or foggy screen. White voile layered over rose red voile will give a softer pink. Yellow and blue voiles create a watery shade of green.

Keep It Simple

Voile is versatile but there are some things it will not do. Fancy curtain designs with pinch pleats and pencil pleats won't hold. Voile will drape casually over a rod above the curtains for a fantasy valance but it's too soft for more structured valances. The fabric comes in crushed or crinkled textures that may require careful cleaning, beyond simple washing and drying, to hold their shape. Voile panels are ideal for French doors. They are threaded on thin rods or wires at the top and bottom of the windows in the doors and gathered, allowing light to enter but obscuring the view.

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About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .