Tab Top Curtains & Window Drapes: A Complete Guide

White sheer curtains


The choice of the curtain heading style is an important design decision when shopping for custom curtains because it directly impacts the overall looks and features of the drapery. Hence, having taken an adventurous leap with bespoke drapes, don’t miss out on the luxury of choosing the heading style that best serves your needs and aesthetic vision. 

The tab top heading style stands out from the rest for its unique construction and casual chic aesthetic.  The curtain hangs on fabric loops typically made of the same fabric as the drapery, cancelling all requirements for rings, clips or pins. 

The decorative header punctuated with fabric loops adds a lovely relaxed appeal to the room. Especially perfect for boho chic, feminine ornate and rustic country decor styles, tab top curtains add an organic touch and a lazy charm to any space.

If you want to evaluate the prospects of this drapery fulfilling your home’s requirements and aesthetic vision, stay tuned. We will introduce tab tops to you, throwing more light on their functionality and styling techniques.

What are Tab Top Curtains?



Tab tops are curtains that hang on fabric tabs sewn above the drapery panel. These tabs are stitched at equal intervals and expose the drapery pole in between. The tabs, in this style, do not just fulfil the functional role of connecting the drapery to the hardware but also offer a decorative element.

The pleats of this drapery are formed by the gathering of fabric between the tabs. Hence, you get curtains with uniform pleats but not with a strictly structural form. As the tabs may not keep equal spacing while moving, you get a relaxed, bit unstructured visual appeal to the drapes that are apt for casual rooms.

Not to be mistaken with back tab curtains that have their fabric tabs concealed behind their header, tab tops show off their tabs as well as the drapery pole. The highlight of this drapery is not stitched-in pleats or architectural structure but the simple elegance of the fabric loops and their lounge-friendly vibe.

Note that while fabric loops eliminate the need for additional hardware and accessories, they do not provide the same functional ease as smooth metal/plastic rings. Therefore, tab top curtains offer their best performance when designed with light to medium-weight fabrics or used for low-use windows as large/heavy tab top panels tend to not glide as easily. 

What are the Reasons to Choose Tab Top Curtains?


Canopy bed curtains


Curtains often become the finishing touch of a room as they control incoming light and create the perfect ambience with colours and patterns that complement the decor. Tab top curtains go one step ahead and emphatically proffer a casual grace that laidback spaces and decor styles can lean on. Look out for tab tops if you find these qualities compelling:

CASUAL AESTHETIC: The tabs of the header that make tab tops a unique drapery style also render an easygoing appeal to the space. They sync well with the organic and laidback aesthetic of farmhouse, country, coastal and bohemian style themes that derive beauty from handmade rustic elements.

LIGHT-FRIENDLY SETTINGS: Tab tops are not meant for strict light control; on the contrary, they are meant to provide privacy without cutting off the light completely from the ambience. Hence, you'll mostly find them gracing the tops of lightweight linen curtains, and semi-sheer or sheer curtains that add to their easy-breezy looks.

DECORATIVE LAYER: Tab tops’ ‘loopy’ headers have won them favour in nurseries and kids' rooms as they can be made to be quite playful with a bit of imagination. Combined with room-darkening shades, they can go a long way to create a sleep-friendly ambience for the little ones while bringing cutesy charm to the space.

EXHIBIT HARDWARE: While tab tops reduce dependency on hardware accessories, they also are perfect to flaunt a show-worthy pair of drapery poles and finials. Those who want to bring statement hardware into the picture can design their windows with tab tops.

ECONOMICAL: Tab top curtains offer ease of operation without depending on additional accessories like rings and grommets. When you’re working on a budget to design a space, this saving can go a long way in facilitating more investment in something else.

What are the Factors to Consider When Shopping for Tab Top Curtains?



Tab tops are a great choice of window treatment to bring relaxed vibes into any home. They offer a balance of visual appeal and function that many homeowners and designers find very delightful. However, there are a few matters to bear in mind when shopping for them, including:

OPERATIONAL EASE: Since fabric tabs replace rings, the operation ease of these drapes is not as high as that of curtains hanging on smooth-rimmed rings. If you’re looking to operate your drapes often during the day - especially on large-sized windows - tab tops may not be the best choice. So, consider them for less frequented windows, and/or smaller-sized windows.

FABRIC COMPOSITION: Since fabric loops don’t accord the same strength as metal rings or clips, it is advisable to stay on the lighter side when selecting fabrics so you can easily glide the curtains. Light and medium-weight non-sheers and sheers should be the preference if you’re looking for operational ease and longevity. 

LOW-FULLNESS PANELS: Tab top curtains don their casual beauty at best when designed with a flatter look that entails shallow pleats or a sparse gather of fabric. This is achieved by stitching the panels with about 1.5x fullness, that is, 1.5 times the width of the window. With this low-fullness look, the tabs get to be the highlight as their intervals get more pronounced. Conversely, if the panels are stitched with more gather/fullness, the tabs may bunch up. And, when they are gathered to the sides, the tabs tend to crowd together and the panel does not stack neatly. Therefore, the low-fullness look is highly recommended for this style.


Boho room ideas


LIGHT CONTROL: The tabs are stitched at intervals providing room for light to pass through, making them a less-than-perfect style of curtains for bedrooms and media room and, even when combined with a layer of blackout curtains. That said, if you can place the drapery pole approximately 30cm above the window trim, you can minimise light leaks from above the drapery to a great extent. 

SINGLE PANEL CONSIDERATIONS:  For a long drapery pole that stands on centre support brackets, the number of curtain panels will have to be considered keenly as the tabs will not run past the bracket. A one-way draw, single curtain panel is not an option as it will be unable to provide full coverage of the window with the centre bracket blocking its movement. 



What are the Hardware Options for Tab Top Curtains?


Tab top drapery hardware


Tab top curtains are hung on drapery poles. And that’s about it. They don’t need any more accessories as the tabs fulfil the role of rings, pins and hooks. Only ensure that you invest in show-worthy poles and finials as they are visible all the time through the intervals in the tabs.

Note that tab tops are not compatible with curtain tracks. If you already have installed tracks in your home and would prefer to not have to swap for new hardware, we recommend considering drapery designed in other heading styles like our flat panel top curtains or pinch pleat drapes. 

How to Hang Tab Top Curtains


How to hang tab top curtains


Since tab top curtains do not require any prep like pin insertions or clips, hanging them is easy. Here’s how:

STEP 1: Slide tabs onto the pole. Thread each of the tabs of your tab top curtains onto the drapery pole with care, ensuring that you do not miss any tabs in between or you will have to redo the entire work. 

Keep in mind that the returns (edges) of the curtains should be turned inwards towards the wall or window, and not outwards towards you as you position the first tab. Otherwise, it can result in the fold/pleat direction being reversed, with the back of panels showing on the edges, and light leaking in through the return/edges. 

Additionally, take care to position the first tabs before the first bracket on both sides to lock in their position. This way the curtains won’t keep moving to the centre.

STEP 2: Mount the pole. Once all the tabs are threaded onto the pole, position the pole onto the brackets. Tighten any screws to hold the pole steady in its place. Double-check its level and centre before securing it.   

STEP 3: Attach finials. After ensuring the curtain rod is securely in place, it's time to screw in the finials, adding that extra touch of finesse and completing the overall look of your window treatment.

How are Tab Top Curtains Measured?


How to hang tab top curtains


For curtains to look their very best, it is important to get the measurements right. And while measuring for your drapes may seem unnerving at first, we’re sure our detailed step-by-step guide will ease you into the simple math of measuring for tab-top curtains. 


Start by measuring the length from the top of the drapery pole to the desired endpoint. Just be careful to measure the length from the top of the pole, not the underside of it. And that's it, that simple. You’ll have the final length to specify in your order for tab top curtains from us.

As to what the endpoint should be, you may choose between any of the standard sizes of short curtains that stop at the sill or go for long curtains that reach the floor. The choice is entirely personal based on your preferences and requirements. 


As tab top curtains are not sewn with fixed, pre-stitched pleats like in the case of pinch pleat headers, they offer a certain amount of flexibility on ‘pole coverage’. A 300cm wide panel can go over a 100cm long pole, providing lush pleats and dense gather, or over a 200cm long pole with shallower pleats and sparse gather. Since you can adjust the look/gather of the pleats for tab top curtains, they are much more forgiving with width measurements than styles like pinch pleats that require precision in measurement. So, if you’ve chosen tab tops, you’re in a better position already. Now, we get to the math:

To keep up the casual elegance and laid-back charm of this heading style, we advise clients to avoid overly-dense gather of pleats and order 1.5x fullness for their tab top curtains. This level of fullness helps avoid ‘bunching’ of tabs when curtains are stacked to sides. And what does ‘1.5x fullness’ mean? Let us take you through the steps to measure panel width and explain.

Start by measuring the width of your pole, finial to finial.  Then, to achieve 1.5x fullness, simply multiply the number by 1.5 to determine the end-panel width. Ideally, this should be the total width for your tab top curtains.

For example, if your drapery pole is 100 cm long, we recommend ordering a single drapery panel with a width of about 150 cm (100 x 1.5 = 150cm), or a pair of curtains with a panel width of (roughly) 75cm (150 cm/2) each.

You may also order up to 2x fullness if you have chosen lightweight/ sheer fabrics as 1.5x fullness may look a bit sparse on a thin fabric. For 2x fullness, you’d need to double the number that you get after measuring your pole. 

For example, if your pole is 100cm long, then doubling that figure to 200cm, we recommend ordering a pair of curtains with a panel width of (roughly) 100cm each, or a single panel close to 200cm.

Do note that we recommend not going below 1.5x fullness for tab top drapes. If you order a curtain panel with a width that is the same length as your drapery pole, it will hang like a flat sheet when drawn open to cover the entire window. Also, avoid ordering more than 2x fullness for non-sheer and heavy fabrics because that will challenge easy movement on the pole.

In Closing


Grey striped curtains


Tab tops are a unique style of drapery that cancels the requirement of additional hardware accessories while still providing similar functional ease. With a very relaxed contour and appealing presence, tab tops are great for casual spaces in any decor style. Dress a short kitchen window or a lazy sunroom with these curtains and enjoy their breezy appeal. If tab tops speak to your style and needs, you can now make your plunge into the fabrics section and find that perfect fabric for your drapes to go with this casual, homely heading style. Make the dive and shop curtains online. The White Window welcomes you!

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