There are so many terms when it comes to window treatments that it’s completely understandable to confuse them sometimes. Also, some terms are often unfortunately misused, and that is very true when it comes to window valances.

So, what is the difference between a valance and a swag? A valance is simply a term that represents a top window treatment. A swag is a part of a valance. It’s a piece of fabric that’s usually pleated or gathered to create a half-circle shape. Some swags can also be flat.


What a Valance Is and Isn’t

A valance is simply a top window treatment. A swag is a part of a valance, but a swag itself usually isn’t a valance. Here’s a traditional valance you may come across, deconstructed in more detail:


Empire Swag Valance Curtain in Detail Notice how the valance has three pleated swags.


Single Window Empire Valance Curtain on Board This valance is made of two swags. The swags are anchored by three horns, while the sides of the valance have cascading jabots to frame the window. This valance is board-mounted. The swags are pleated on top of the board, so a waterfall effect is created as the swags fall down to the front of the valance. To recreate a valance like this, the pleats must be deep and the swags must be long (the swags on this valance were 20 inches deep, excluding the black trim).


Red Swag Valance Curtain with Rod Pocket Even though this rod pocket valance has a single swag, the valance also has two bells and tails on each side of the swag section.


Red Casual Swag Kitchen Valance Curtain This kitchen valance was made of four repeating swags, but the bells in between each valance were hung on wrought iron medallions.


The Three Ways That Swags Are Usually Constructed

When sewing a swag valance, the swags are usually made using one of three common methods:

  • Pleated swags on top of the valance.
  • Shirred (or micro-pleated) swags behind the horns.
  • Flat swags.

Let’s take a look at some of those variations.


Pleated Swags On Top Of the Valance

Traditional swag valances typically are made using this method. Here, the pleats of the swag are folded towards the top of the piece of fabric that’s used to create the swag. The swag is then stapled on top of the board, which makes the swag look like it’s draping from behind the board like a waterfall.


Traditional Cascading Swag Valance Curtain in Dining Room A single swag valance in ivory. It’s side jabots fall down as pleated cascades. The swag section was stapled on top of the board.


Swag Valance with Side Jabots A similar example, with two swags.


Shirred Swags Behind the Bells

Some swags are gathered behind the horns. This can be done by hand-forming micro pleats or using Austrian shade tape. You needn’t worry about the way this look is achieved – just know that the swags look like this: Red and Khaki Valance Curtain with Back Tabs Dining Room Austrian Swag Valance, Custom Made


Swag Valance Treatment on Bay Window


Flat Swags

There has been a push in valance design trends towards tailored, flat valances. Swags that we typically think of – pieces of fabric that drape luxuriously – are now simplified and flat. Don’t be surprised that nowadays flat sections that appear to mimic the shape of a swag are also being called swags.


Medallion Swag Valance in Red Even though this valance is flat, it’s considered to have two swags and three horns. The valance was hung on brushed gold knobs, while a green banded edge was added to the bottom of the valance.


Shaped Window Valance with Center Bell This shaped window valance can also be considered as having two flat swags.

Want to see more valance ideas? Read about the different styles of valances that you may come across. Or, check out all our custom valances.

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