We often get requests for a quote for a “standard” stage curtain – standard size, standard fabric, standard finishes. In reality, there is no such thing as a “standard” stage curtain. For one thing, every stage is different – different heights, different widths, different everything! In addition, there are so many options in terms of fabric and drapery style that the only limit is your vision and your budget.
So, perhaps you are thinking about replacing those old, tattered main drapes in your school auditorium or community center stage with beautiful new custom stage curtains. Or perhaps you are involved with renovating or building a new theater or auditorium and know that you will need stage curtains. It can seem like a daunting proposition, especially for a school parent or church volunteer with no background in the theatre.
Don’t worry – it’s not as hard as it seems. To get you started, I’ve prepared this quick checklist:
- Determine the approximate height that you will need, based on the size of the existing curtains. Check for a label to see if the height and width are listed. If not, measure the existing drapes. Measure the drape from the top of the curtain to the floor. If you do not have existing curtains, but curtain track is installed, measure the height from the bottom of a track carrier (the wheel-like items that the curtain will hang from) to the floor. If you don’t have existing track, measure from the floor to the bottom of the ceiling joist that new track will be attached to. Make sure to let your drapery company know that the height indicated would be for both track and curtain; the drapery company representative can recommend the best track for your application and can take the track dimension into consideration when determining the appropriate curtain height.
- Determine the approximate width that you will need. To measure width for pleated drapes, measuring along the top edge generally gives a more accurate measurement than measuring along the bottom hem (especially in regards to pleated drapes). If you have bi-parting curtains (two panels that open in the center and stack to both sides), measure both curtains to confirm that the width is the same. If you do not have existing curtains, measure the width of the curtain track. If you don’t have existing curtains or track, measure the width of your stage opening.
- Determine the top, bottom and side finishes used on the existing drapes. Is there webbing on top? Grommets? S-Hooks? On the bottom hem, is it weighted with chain? For the side hems, simply measure the size of the turn back on the back of each side of the drape. If there are no existing curtains, your drapery company can recommend the best finishes for your application.
- Determine the fullness used in pleating. You don’t have to figure it out exactly, just have a rough idea. One way to determine the fullness is to measure the width at the bottom hem, pulling the pleats out flat so that you are measuring the original “flat” width prior to pleating. Divide that width by the finished width measured on the top in Step 2. If the result is approximately 1.5, then the drape is sewn with 50% fullness. If it is approximately 2, then the drape is sewn with 100% fullness. For example, if the drapery width as measured at the top is 10 feet, and the width as measured at the bottom is 15 feet, then 15 divided by 10 = 1.5, making the fullness 50%. Again, if you don’t have existing curtains, your drapery company can recommend the appropriate fullness to meet your needs and your budget.
- Consider your fabric options. Generally, theatrical velours or similar fabrics are used for traditional stage curtains. However, within that category, there are many different options to suit your budget and your taste. Think about fabric weight, color, and fiber content (cotton vs polyester). Determine what your budget is and what options are most important to you. Would you prefer to choose a lighter, more affordable fabric so that you can upgrade to a color (rather than black), or would you rather have a heavier, more luxurious fabric? If you are going for a specialized stage curtain such as an Austrian Curtain, a lighter fabric such as a satin might an option. Still not sure? Don’t worry, your drapery company is happy to recommend fabrics to meet your needs.
- Consider lining. Are the existing drapes lined? If not, or if there are no existing drapes, consider whether you would like the new drapes to be lined. Lining is primarily used to provide greater light blockage, protect the face fabric, or give a more finished look to the back of the drape.
Want to learn more about stage drapery styles and finishes? Click here to download our pdf “Guide to Stage Drapery Styles and Finishes.”