You are currently viewing We solemnly swear to protect our sofa at all costs -fun historical facts of furniture slipcovers.

We solemnly swear to protect our sofa at all costs -fun historical facts of furniture slipcovers.

Did you know that Jane Austen mentioned needing to repair a "sofa-cover" in a letter in 1807?

Couch covers or chair slipcovers are sometimes defined as "clothing for furniture." Indeed, they are tailored just as clothing is, and are fitted loosely or snugly to the taste of the owner or tailor. Some people order furniture upholstered in plain muslin with the intention of using slipcovers only. Slipcovers—at one point, most popularly found in grandparents’ homes and discount furniture stores—are in the middle of a high-style revival. The audience for this one-time “outdated” sofa style has shifted to a younger demographic, and with plenty of innovative brands redefining the look and feel of slipcovered sofas, they might just become a major trend.

The Earliest Slipcovers

In the 17th and 18th centuries, fine furnishings in the home were often considered to be display pieces rather than truly usable. To protect these expensive items from dust, wear, and sunlight, owners often used less costly materials to cover them up, even going so far as to live year-round with completely encased furnishings that were removed only on special occasions.

Coverings were also used on wooden furniture—especially those with delicately gilded or inlaid surfaces—as well as beds and huge carpets. These first slipcovers, add-on coverings, were quite loose at the outset.

Although slipcovers came into existence purely as a practical solution, they quickly became a focal point for interior décor. By the 18th century, the wealthy English were requesting custom-made sofa covers from their tailors, who rose to the challenge by adding piping, cording, bows, buttons, ruffles, and other flourishes. Well into the Victorian Era, slipcovers were an area of showmanship for tailors, and a chance for people to express the latest home fashions.

In terms of materials, at first wool was preferred, but by the mid-18th century, linens and cottons became more popular.

As for furniture cover patterns, checked and striped furnishings were often found in rooms like parlors and libraries, so slipcover fabrics followed suit. In bedrooms, cotton prints were in vogue. If you ever wanted your sofa covers to match your window drapings, well, this was the era for you.

The Modern Slipcover

In the 1910s, a few companies began to mass-produce ready-made slipcover brands. Over the next 100 years, the market has continued to steadily evolve.

Along the way, in the 1940s and ‘50s to 1970s, slipcovers experienced a resurgence with new materials like clear vinyl and plastic. It was common for Americans to use transparent plastic–vinyl coverings onto upholstered furnishings, or wrapping the seats of the family automobile.

transparent plastic–vinyl sofa cover in 1950sAt the time, these plastic coverings felt modern, novel, and high-tech, but they were a short-lived trend as new technologies evolved for cleaning and maintaining furniture. Gone are the days of sticky plastic, or rushing to uncover your sofa before guests arrive.

Gradually fabric slipcovers prevailed . In some cities in U.S., slipcover tailors were sometimes given the nickname “summertime millionaires” as their busy season was in the spring and summer. Custom slipcovering was done then, each one cut and sewn to order.

Finally, new stretch materials have stepped up to the scene and what we have now are the Ready-Made Slipcovers. They are affordable and serve as viable way to transform your favourite couch into a fresh, new piece of furniture. And since it’s a couch cover, it still serves it’s initial purpose – sofa or chair protectors, just like it did hundreds of years ago.

Manufacturers often provide foam sticks to tuck slipcovers into the sides and creases of couches. Design and materials used have also improved allowing different kinds of generic slipcovers to be sold to consumers including elastic covers that fit near perfectly around a couch, loosely fitted covers that are placed over key areas of a couch, covers with skirts, and pet couch topper made with material designed to withstand use from pets.