Stage Curtain Fabrics


Almost all stage curtains anywhere in the country are for the most part made of the same materials, varying little from year to year. Here are the basic stage curtain materials:

Velour (sometimes called velvet): Velour is used most often for the front curtain and valance and sometimes for the side and back curtains. Velour can also be used with a lining for window curtains matching the stage curtains. There really isn’t any usual or standard color for velour curtains any more than there is a standard size. There are two kinds of velour:

Cotton: 100% cotton is a woven pile fabric, available in a wide range of colors, as shown here. Cotton velour comes in 16-oz Princess, 20-oz Marvel, 25-oz Memorable, 25-oz combed Majestic, or 32-oz Magic. Majestic goes through an extra finishing step that makes it look “silkier” or smoother than the other velours. Cotton velour is chemically treated to be flame resistant (FR) and requires dry cleaning in pure solvent. It is important to note that FR chemicals are affected by water and may cause a whitish gray stain to appear if the curtains are made wet by a leak or by accidental spillage; this stain is difficult and most times impossible to remove. The cleaning of a stage curtain is an important step in its maintenance and can greatly extend the life of the curtain. Cleaning should only be done by professionals such as LuXout to ensure that it is not damaged or that its fire-proofing is not compromised. Cotton velour has been used for stages for many years and may be what people expect to see when they look at a stage.

The usual choice for a front curtain and valance is 25-oz Memorable. For those with a larger budget, the heavier 32-oz Magic or the smoother looking 25-oz Majestic may be preferred. For those with a tight budget, 20-oz Marvel or the 16-oz Princess is a good choice. The weight of the fabric has little to do with the extended life span of curtains.

What matters most is how well they are maintained. (See our section on cleaning and maintenance.) For those conscious of sound problems caused by reverberation, the heavier the fabric, the more reverberation control. No velour is “sound proof”, but they will absorb and muffle reverberations caused by hard surfaces in the surrounding areas. In fact, 25-oz velour curtains are one of the best sound reverberation barriers that can be used in a room. (See our acoustical curtains.)

Polyester Velours: As the name implies, polyester velour is made of 100% polyester fibers, woven in the same process as cotton velour and dyed to closely match the same colors that are available in cotton. The polyester fibers are ”shinier”, which causes the color to appear slightly different from cotton velour. The colors on the fabric color card are available in both cotton and polyester, as well as in all weights of both.

Polyester velour is permanently and inherently flame resistant and will require no further FR treatment in the future. They are less affected by moisture changes than cotton and therefore shrink and stretch less when hanging. These velours are washable; if they are stained by some accidental spilling or get wet because of a roof leak, the stains can be washed off.

These velours are available in 13-oz Plateau, 20-oz Crescent, 26-oz Prestige, or 27-oz Charisma. The most common choice for a front curtain and valance is the 26-oz Prestige. For side and back curtains, the 13-oz Plateau is most common. However, Plateau is woven to be opaque so it can also be used for front curtains where the budget requires this. Charisma has a matte finish with a great depth of color.

Colors: All weights of velour, whether cotton or polyester, are available in any velour color. No velour color is ever dropped because velour is dyed to order and not kept in inventory (except for the colors we stock at our factory). Dyeing-to-order is one reason for the typical 4-5 weeks we quote for delivery of velour to us.

If you do not see a desired color in your samples, we can custom dye velour to match a sample you provide – perhaps a piece of carpet, wallpaper, or paint chip. We furnish a “lab dip”, which is a small sample of the velour dyed to your custom color for your approval before proceeding to dye the entire order.

Velour Weights: Velour is graded in weight per yard, which is a combination of number of picks per inch and the pile height. For example, 25-oz Memorable cotton velour weighs 25 ounces for one yard of fabric 54” wide. This is true for all of the velour fabrics. The weight given implies how much that fabric weighs for one yard of fabric.

Encore Brand Polyester Velour: There is polyester velour from another mill, called “Encore”. It comes in two weights: 22-oz (which is 64” wide) and 15-oz (which is 62” wide). 22-oz Encore is IFR and 15-oz Encore is DFR (durable flameproof treated). Both IFR and DFR Encore velour are permanently flame resistant. The difference is that in IFR, the chemical goes into the fiber; in DFR, the chemical goes into the fabric after weaving. Thirteen colors are available. Custom colors are not available. Both fabrics are usually less expensive than the comparable cotton or polyester velour

Back and Side Curtain Fabrics

For years, back curtains, side curtains and borders have been made of cotton fabric treated to be flame resistant. Recently, IFR polyester fabrics have been growing in popularity for the same reasons as polyester velour. There is a large range of fabrics, colors, and appearance for these curtains.

Black is what we recomment as the best color for background curtains for a stage because it doesn’t clash with anything in the scenery, lighting, or actors’ make up and costumes. It is easy to light and disappears from view more than other colors.

When picking a color, keep in mind that the purpose of the background curtains is to form a background for the scenery and the actors, not to look “pretty” to the audience. The background curtains should disappear from the attention of the audience. Very attractive and colorful background curtains draw attention to themselves when the audience is supposed to be looking at the action and scenery on stage. It is never a good idea to try and match the background curtains to the color of the front curtain.

Nassau Chevron and Atlas Oxford Repp: These two cotton FR fabrics are the old reliables and have been for many years. They are both tightly woven with a chevron type of pattern (which is not apparent to the audience) and come in 11 colors (we keep black in stock for both types). Nassau Chevron is about 14 ounces per yard and Atlas Oxford is about 17 ounces per yard, with both materials being 54” wide. We recommend no preference in choice. The Nassau repp curtains will cost less than the Atlas Oxford. If there is strong lighting from windows behind the stage, Atlas Oxford will be more opaque.

IFR 2000 Chevron: This is woven in the same pattern as Nassau Chevron, but is made of IFR polyester and comes in a variety of colors. Consideration should be given to the amount of light behind the curtains, particularly from windows on the back or sides of the stage. This is because IFR 2000 has a looser weave than others and more light may transmit through the curtains. If this is a problem, consider a more opaque fabric as an alternative.

Regular Commando and Heavy Commando: These are 54” wide cotton fabrics treated to be FR. They have a matte “felted” appearance. Regular Commando comes in four colors and is approximately 12 ounces per yard, which is probably the lowest cost of fabric usable for curtains. Heavy Commando comes only in black and weighs 16 ounces per yard. Because it is a blackout type of fabric, it is usable not only for stage curtains, but for light control curtains in darkrooms and other areas where light control is important.

Cyclorama (Cyc) Cloth: These are IFR polyester fabrics that are 72” wide. While sometimes used as stage background curtains, they are more generally used for TV studio background curtains (in which case, they are usually flat rather than pleated). They are available in black, beige, grey, ChromaKey Blue and ChromaKey Green (colors important to TV production work).

Doral: This is an IFR fabric with an IFR opaque vinyl backing and is 48” wide. The front fabric is available in a range of colors, with the vinyl backing available in either black or beige. Used most often for front curtains, valances, and blackout window curtains, this fabric is specified for background curtains in some areas of the country.

Icon: This has the same features as Doral, but is less expensive and 54” wide

Scenery Curtains

There are several types of curtains that serve specific purposes on the stage other than a general side or back curtain. These include:

Muslin Drops: These are made of 100% cotton muslin treated to be FR. This is usually made to be flat (no pleats or fullness) with either a weighted bottom hem or a pocket in the bottom hem for a pipe weight. These are sometimes tied to an overhead pipe batten or sometimes operating on a track. Muslin comes in a variety of widths (9’0”, 12’0”, 16’5”, 20’0”, 25’0”, and 33’0”) so that curtains can be made seamless by railroading the fabric. For more economical curtains where the seams are not important, it can have horizontal seams, for example, by sewing together two 9’0” pieces to make an 18’0” high curtain. Sky Blue Muslin is called a “sky drop” and is usually behind the back curtain (the last curtain behind the back curtain) to represent the sky. The only exception to our statement that all curtains we finish are either FR or IFR is when natural Muslin curtains are purchased to be used as a paint curtain for FR paints. In that case, the curtain is supplied NFR (non flame-resistant) to avoid any interaction with the FR paints.

Sharktooth Scrim and Leno: These are limited purpose specialty curtains in FR cotton. Sharkstooth scrim resembles mosquito netting and is always flat (no fullness or pleats) with either a weighted bottom hem or a pipe pocket bottom hem (usually being tied to a pipe or on a track). Sharkstooth scrim comes in white, black, blue, gray, or natural and is usually placed mid-way on the stage. When lighted from the front with no lighting behind, it appears opaque. When the lighting is reversed (lit from behind only), it appears translucent so that the audience sees through it to the scene set behind the curtain. Sometimes called a “dream” or an “illusion” curtain, scrims require good, strong lighting on both sides of the curtain to make it work properly. These curtains are always seamless and require that the curtain be taut and unwrinkled, thus the need for a pipe in the bottom. Leno is the same as the Sharkstooth scrim, only with the openings filled in. While it cannot function the same way as scrim, it is usable for a cyclorama curtain, lighting curtain, or a bounce curtain to soften and reflect projected light. Leno comes in white or gray in 20’0” or 31’0” widths.

Scrim and Leno are also available in a limited size range of IFR fabric.

Should Stage Curtains Be Lined?

A common question is, “Should our new velour curtains be lined?” Generally, if your existing curtains are lined, chances are you will want the new curtains lined. Certain areas of the country also have a tradition of lining their front curtains and valances: lining the front curtain and valance will add about 25% to the cost of the curtains. Is it worth it?

Some specifications call for a light weight fabric with a lining. It is less expensive to use a heavier fabric without the lining. Lined curtains require higher maintenance also. Lining a curtain primarily makes it look better from the back of the curtain. We don’t think it adds much to the appearance of the curtain from the stage, nor does it add to the life of the curtain. With that being siad, we respect our customers decisions and will line any curtain you want lined. Please note, however, that window curtains should always be lined to protect against sun exposure and moisture damage.

Lining Cotton FR Curtains: The most common material used is Denim cloth, a light-weight cotton FR fabric in black or beige. Also used is Ranger Cloth, a slightly heavier-weight version of denim. If the curtain to be lined is a window curtain, then an FR white or ivory backed blackout lining should be used to protect against sun exposure and/or moisture damage.

Lining IFR Fabrics: It doesn’t make much sense to us to line an IFR curtain with a FR cotton lining, as we sometimes see specified. IFR curtains should always be lined with a compatible IFR lining, such as:

Poplin Cyc: 72” wide IFR polyester lining in black or beige.

Linings are the same fullness as the curtain to be lined, sewed to the curtain heading at the top and along the side hems, and fastened at the bottom hem to the face curtain with 6” long trim tabs.

What about Stage Curtain Fullness?

The standard curtain fullness is 50%. Drapery workrooms may also call this 150% fullness. What it means is that there is a 6” pleat every 12”. So if you have a track 10’0” wide, for example, then you would have 15’0” of curtain to be pleated down to cover the 10’0”.

For 75% fullness, 9” of material would be pleated on 12” centers (for those who want extra fullness). Once in a while we get a customer who will want 100% fullness, which would mean 12” pleated on 12” centers, or maybe 6” pleats on 6” centers, requiring more carriers on the standard stage curtain track. Drapery workrooms will sometimes write a specification for 2x fullness, meaning 100% fullness (twice the track width) or even 2-1/2 fullness (which is way too much fullness to use in stage curtains and needs to be brought to the owners attention to correct) in stage curtain terminology.

Monograms, Letters, Emblems, and Fringe

We can reproduce any kind of monogram, emblem or logo in chenille embroidered on felt for the front curtain valance. We have a wide range of letter styles that go up to 36” high (see the letter style sheet). Send us a drawing of the special artwork you want so we can see how complicated it may be in order to give accurate pricing.

Letters and emblems always go on the valance. We leave an appropriate flat unpleated space in the center of the valance onto which the letters or emblems are sewn. You may ask to have these letters or emblems sewed on the curtain itself, but this does not work and we do not have that service available. Our embroidery is done on a felt backing on the flat section of the valance, which does not fold into pleats.

Some advantages of having the felt backing for the letters or emblem are as follows: (1) it allows a two-color letter. The felt backing forms a “mat” edging all around the letter or emblem about a half inch wide. This felt edging can be (and we recommend that it is) furnished in a different color from the chenille itself. This darker or lighter edging makes the chenille part look sharper and deeper, making it stand out more from the curtain. Unless you specify a color, we pick a color for the felt that best matches the color of the valance. (2) The letters or emblem can be removed from the valance and reused.

We have done Masonic emblems, Christian and Jewish designs, tigers, lions, heraldic designs, etc. In short, if it can be drawn, we can reproduce it in chenille and felt. A wreath encircling the letter(s) is available, but they are expensive due to the amount of handwork required to make and sew the individual leaves in the wreath.

If 6” bullion is requested, our standard placement is to sew it 6” from the bottom of the valance so that the fringe falls in line with the bottom of the valance and is not hanging 6” down below the bottom of the valance.

All valance tops have our extra-strong supported vinyl heading so that it can be tacked or stapled directly to the back of the proscenium wall. We can also install Velcro tape on the top hem and send the matching pressure-sensitive piece or we can install grommets and furnish zip ties to attach to a pipe batten.

TV Studio Curtains

The most typical arrangement is to have a curved I-beam track running along three walls of the studio to form a U-shaped track. The curtain(s) move along this track to make backdrops for various camera setups. Usually these curtains are flat (no pleats or fullness). In some circumstances you may want the option of having pleats, so we put the grommets on 6’ centers in the heading that allow the curtain to be pleated every 6”, every 12” or left flat – double purpose curtains!

Because of the lack of reflectance of velour, we like to use it for studio curtains. Velour comes 54” wide and cannot be railroaded, thus creating a vertical seam about every 50”. If vertical seams are not acceptable for your use, then 100” wide polyester cloth can be used and railroaded with one or more horizontal seams. Care is taken when making these curtains so that the horizontal seam does not occur at the normal head height of the talent.

If seamlessness is required, curtains can be made in Muslin or leno scrim in up to 30’0” high without seams. This, of course, adds to the cost.

All curtains have our flexible weighted bottom hem and our standard reinforced heading construction. Tracks, straight or curved, ceiling, wall mounted or suspended, with or without switches, are available.

What Do I Do When The Curtain Is Wrinkled?

There is no way to pack a cloth curtain and ship it hundreds of miles by truck through all kinds of weather and still have it arrive wrinkle-free.

When you receive our curtains, there will be wrinkles. There will be fewer wrinkles in our curtains than in others’ curtains due to our extra care in boxing and packaging. The wrinkles will disappear as the curtain hangs over time. The higher the humidity in the room, the quicker the wrinkles will hang out. In an emergency, the curtains can be lightly steamed from the rear with your portable steamer to remove the worst of wrinkles. They can also be lightly sprayed with a wrinkle-easing solution. Be careful, however, because moisture can permanently damage a cotton FR treated fabric.

Wrinkles are normal, expected, and unavoidable, but will always disappear in time. Wrinkles most commonly occur in shipping and in the hanging process. LuXout takes extra care in packing curtains to avoid folds; we use curves instead of folds in the packing process. Be careful to avoid unpacking curtains and leaving them un-hung for any period of time. For best results, hang the curtains as soon as possible.

What About Lining Window Draperies?

Yes, they should be lined – especially if they are made of velour. Lining will help with lighting control and will provide protection against UV damage, fading and water damage. It also works to present a uniform appearance from the outside.

Our recommendation for lining is a blackout white or ivory backed lining. Linings for cotton FR fabrics should be cotton FR and linings for IFR polyester fabrics should be IFR, so that the lining characteristics match the curtain fabric characteristics. We also make sure that the lining fabric can be dry-cleaned (vinyl backed linings often require special dry-cleaning techniques). We offer complete stage curtain and window treatment dry-cleaning and repairs.

What about custom dyed velour colors?

We can do it. Custom dyeing colors requires a minimum of 50 yards, but that’s the only requirement. If you cannot find a color you like in the velour color line, send us a sample of the color you want matched (a paint chip, a piece of carpet or a piece of fabric) and we’ll dye it to match. A lab-dip sample is done first and sent to you for approval to be signed off on before the entire order is dyed.

You will see some colors on our site that you don’t see in other’s. That’s because we have had some colors custom developed and dyed for us.