What Is the History of the Duvet?

Written by allison edrington
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What Is the History of the Duvet?
Duvets provide more warmth than traditional blankets. (Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Being both soft and lightweight, duvets used in colder regions for warmth; they are loosely quilted with one or more stuffing materials, such as down or cotton. Also called "down comforters" or "continental quilts," the exact origin of this bedding is unclear but has been noted during different points in history, especially in areas with harsh climates.

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Muddled Origins

When and where the duvet originated exactly is hard to pin down. Some sources state the Chinese were the first to use duvets in 3000 B.C. by using silk to stuff it --- a luxury that apparently only the rulers could afford. Most sources, however, cite Paul Rycraut as the first to try and market the duvet around A.D. 1700, but the idea did not catch on. English writer Thomas Nugent in 1749 made note during his travels of the feather-stuffed bedding being used by rural European families in cold climates, which Nugent had not seen done before.

Victorian Britain and the Duvet

The eiderdown, a style of duvet, saw some popularity in Victorian Britain in the mid-1800s as it was marketed as a lightweight substitute for blankets made of heavy wool. While making the item more well-known, it did not yet unseat other forms of bedding from their traditional place in the home as this style was tightly quilted and accompanied by other blankets.

Popularising the Duvet

It wasn't until the 1970s that the duvet actually took off to become one of the most standard bedding types in the United Kingdom and U.S. Sir Terence Conran was staying in Sweden when he noticed bedding similar to an eiderdown but was not used with other blankets. He became the first to sell duvets in the United Kingdom in 1964. However, they were not instantly popular as many were reluctant to give up their current bedding. The idea began to catch on as the duvet was marketed as the "10-second bed" due to the ease of making a bed with such bedding, according to an article in "The Independent."

At first, duvets were most popular for children's bedding and later caught on for adults, eventually finding a market in the U.S. and other countries.

Changes in Duvet Filling

Feathers were the common filling of duvet bedding among rural portions of Europe, and may have been filled with silk when Chinese rulers began using them. While feathers and silk are still used today, cheaper alternatives have developed including cotton, wool and artificial fibres, such as polyester batting.

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