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Why are curtains so costly?

Curtains can be quite an investment, with custom or high-end options running over $1,000 for a single window treatment. As with most home furnishings, the costs add up quickly when outfitting an entire home. But what exactly accounts for those steep price tags?

Why are curtains so costly?

There are a few key reasons curtains can be so expensive:

Materials Used

The fabrics and other materials used in curtains make a big impact on cost:

  • Natural fibers like silk, linen, cotton, and wool tend to be more expensive than synthetic fibers like polyester. But they often have a richer look and feel.
  • Thicker, heavier fabrics cost more per yard than lighter-weight materials. Things like blackout linings or interlining increase fabric weight.
  • Embellished fabrics with embroidery, beading, lace overlays or decorative weaving add to the price tag.
  • Specialty fabrics like velvet or high-performance materials have intrinsic added costs.


Custom-made curtains are usually going to cost more than pre-made panels because extra work goes into planning and sewing them:

  • Measurements – Each window needs to be measured and curtains made to fit precisely.
  • Labor – Cutting, sewing, pressing and hanging curtains takes skilled effort and time.
  • Design options – Choices like print, color, heading style, fullness and lining details mean more decisions and variability to account for.

Brand Name

As with most goods, the brand imprinted on the curtains adds an extra degree of prestige and expense. High-end designers and workroom names mark up the prices to match their distinctive styles and reputations in the marketplace. With curtains, the lining fabric often indicates brand names too.

Retail Markups

Anytime curtains pass through retail channels, markups get tacked on to cover inventory, overhead, shipping and profit margins. Curtain specialty boutiques especially apply healthy multipliers. E-commerce and big box chains have overheads too, but their mass production can enable some cost savings.


Often overlooked, installation costs can really boost the bottom line, especially with specialty window treatments like motorized or stationary pole systems. Professional install typically runs $50 per window and up.

Delivery Charges

Online custom curtain companies build hefty delivery, shipping and handling fees into orders. These help fund the logistics of yards of fabrics and materials around the country. In-store purchases avoid some of these fees.

Market Demand

From a basic economics standpoint, high market demand leads to higher equilibrium pricing. Window coverings are a competitive business, but when consumers demonstrate willingness to pay top dollar for curtains, prices remain elevated across retailers and workrooms. This holds true even when factoring in underlying costs and reasonable profit taking.

Key Takeaways

Several variables account for the high prices often seen on curtains:

  • The type and quality of fabric used directly impacts material costs. More expensive textiles raise overall pricing significantly.
  • Labor and customization add substantial indirect expenses when making curtains specifically to window dimensions and customer specifications.
  • Brand names allow workrooms and designers to command top dollar for their curtains. Consumers pay for the prestige.
  • Standard retail markups at boutiques and chains help cover business costs and margins. More handling means more price adders.
  • Installation and delivery fees are hidden extras that often get overlooked when budgeting for new curtains. But they list as line items on final bills.
  • Market fundamentals around supply and demand pressures give retailers leeway to charge higher amounts to willing buyers. Customers who prioritize curtains pay the requisite rates which then become the norm.

So decor decisions, materials, production complexity, brand names and standard business factors all converge to drive curtain costs upward to sometimes surprising levels. But ultimately consumers foot the bill willingly to outfit their homes with these beautiful and functional window treatments.


Curtains carry hefty price tags because many specific variables add direct and indirect costs from initial production through final installation. The materials, fabrication process, designer brands, retail models and market demand fundamentals culminate in elevated pricing levels for these intricate home accents. With so many choices and options, it becomes easier to justify quality custom curtains as long-term interior design investments that enhance decor and function for years to come. For those on tighter budgets, lesser priced panels still exist across discount retailers and e-commerce sites through simpler construction and cheaper textiles. But prioritizing opulence places certain buyers in the high-end target market willing to pay a premium for exclusive window fashions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the cheapest place to buy curtains?
A: Big box discount chains like Target and Walmart offer the most affordable ready-made curtain options, along with online sellers like Amazon, Overstock, and Wayfair. For custom curtains on a budget, evaluating quotes from local workrooms and independent seamstresses can yield lower pricing.

Q: Should you buy curtains a size bigger?
A: It is generally wise to purchase panels slightly wider and longer than the actual window frame to enable optimal light blocking. This provides extra fabric to manipulate when opening and closing. An extra 12-18 inches width and 6-12 inches length works well. Consider the height drops too for floor length designs.

Q: Is it cheaper to make curtains?
A: For very basic designs in standard sizes, self-sewing with discounted fabrics can have marginal savings over mass-market options. But add in tailoring challenges, lining cuts, hardware accessories and professional embellishments and it rarely saves money over custom workrooms. It mainly shifts effort savings rather than actual savings.

Q: Can you put blackout curtains outside?
A: Outdoor curtain options do exist for patios and porches designed specifically to withstand wind, rain and sun damage. But traditional blackout fabrics will degrade rapidly and fail to block light effectively when hung externally long-term sans protective awning coverings.

Q: What time of year do curtains go on sale?
A: Seasonal home sales provide the best chance at curtain discounts. Look for promotions during late winter to early spring as retailers tempt shoppers with decor refreshers. End of summer, back-to-school through fall also host sales as curtains switch over to warmer looks. Sign up for merchant emails and watch for sitewide specials too.

Q: Do expensive curtains make a difference?
A: Cost does influence quality when it comes to fabrics, construction and custom light blocking capabilities. But at a certain point premium materials and production practices provide diminishing returns, making mid-tier custom curtains the sweet spot for design, function and value.

Q: Can you make curtains longer?
A: Adding length to hung curtains poses challenges but can be done by releasing bottom hems, cutting panels longer then re-hemming while trying to match fabrics evenly. Buying new longer panels tends to have better results than alterations. For floor length varieties allowing extra length in initial purchases provides easier flexibility.

Q: How much fabric do you need for curtains?
A: Standard 54″ wide fabrics need 2.5-3x the finished curtain width. Wider 120″ fabrics need 1.5-2x widths. Allow 12-18″ extra per side over the actual rod-to-rod measure of windows. Calculate individual panels this way based on desired fullness. Sheers need 3-4x while blackouts use minimum 2.5x fabric.

Q: Should master bedroom have same curtains?
A: Having different but coordinating curtains between bedrooms and the rest of the home adds personalized character while maintaining an overall cohesive look. Consider complementing colors or alternate lining patterns. Mix sheers with blackouts or casual stripes with elegant solids to enable differentiation.

Q: Do valances make curtains higher?
A: Valances, also called swags, create the illusion of higher ceilings by drawing eyes upwards. Strategically placed rods above the window rather than just over it provides leading lines upwards. Combining complementary valance colors/patterns with the main curtain panels also emphasizes the height factor through contrast.

Q: What size rod for 8 foot ceiling?
A: Typically choose a rod at least 4-6 inches longer than the actual window or sliding door width to enable pulling curtains open and shut without obstruction. So for 8 foot ceilings with standard height windows or doors around 3 feet wide, an ideal rod would measure 36-48 inches wide depending on stacking space needed.

Q: How much do semi-custom curtains cost?
A: Semi-custom curtains cost $20-75 on average per panel by selecting from defined styles and sizes versus fully tailored options. This strikes a balance on customization between pre-set big box offerings and workroom productions. Expect surcharges upwards of 25% for embellishments, premium textiles and challenging shapes.

Q: Should living room and dining room curtains match?
A: Having perfectly matching curtains between open concept living and dining spaces risks looking monotonous. Subtle differences in color, length or lining pattern add helpful definition. Adjacent rooms benefit from coordinating styles but not overly matchy-matchy replicas. Experiment with contrasting textures or accented edges rather than carbon copies.

Q: Why are my curtains waving in the wind?
A: Curtains that billow with interior breezes or air currents usually indicate too much extra width instead of smoothly draping overlaps. Eliminate by replacing curtains cut closer to windows rather than oversized ratios. Added weight from linen, velvet or blackout linings also helps minimize breezy waving. Consider adding drapery weights at hemline peaks too.

Q: How do you measure for eyelet curtains?
A: Standard eyelet curtains use built-in holes across tops rather than channels or headers. To measure properly, note exact height from rod’s base up to desired length. For width, tally the window’s total width plus overlap allowance on either side for stacking space when opened. Order panels based on those fixed dimensions for custom eyelet creation.

Q: Does curtain length make room look bigger?
A: Hanging curtains from ceiling height to just brushing the floor lends a taller, more spacious feel by drawing eyes downwards. Conversely avoiding stubbier lengths which break awkwardly at window height cuts ceiling heights. Layering floor length sheers behind practical blackouts boosts this vertical expansiveness further through textural illusion.

Q: Should curtains match paint color?
A: Avoiding overly matchy paint and curtain colors lends appealing contrast. But complementary tones which reflect just a shade or two darker/lighter than walls can make trim elements pop. Accent colors also pull from wall colors nicely, like sage curtains against deeper jade walls. Analyze all other furnishings and styles before color matching.

Q: Do expensive curtains look better?
A: Not intrinsically, but construction quality from higher-end designers generally surpasses budget panels in richness and tailoring. Exceptional fabrics, precise cuts, leader names and custom light blocking do boost aesthetic and function. Yet clever styling tricks disguise cheap curtains when resources limit buyers. Focus budget on key focal windows over secondary ones.

Q: What are the most popular curtain colors?
A: Versatile solids in ivory, cream and white make safe bets year after year for light and neutral spaces. Rich navy blues also maintain long-standing popularity across traditional and modern decors. For added warmth, consider layering these with cozy earth tones in taupes, tans, sage greens and soft golds which transform elegantly by day and night.

Q: Should living room curtains match bedroom?
A: Bedrooms and living zones serve distinct curtain needs, but unified window schemes project intentionality. Tie spaces together using color stories in the same paint or fabric swatches for harmony. Or link patterns with shared motif elements like floral vines, geometric lattice or check prints in bold and subtle scales. Contrast face fabrics with complementary lining colors.

Q: Why are my curtains wrinkled?
A: Wrinkling has a few common causes – inadequate ironing and pressing during fabrication, poor quality construction, overly stiff fabrics, uneven curtain weights or widths, and environmental factors like humidity. Have them properly drycleaned and pressed periodically. Consider adding supportive backing to overworked hems showing pronounced wrinkles.

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