CURTAINS AND THE IDEA OF HOME. In her history of the British home, Judith Flanders attaches considerable importance to the role of curtains. By the middle of the nineteenth century, living without curtains seemed odd to the British. Flanders thinks that “the primary purpose of curtains is to protect the home from what is happening outside—even light”. Bee Wilson says that: “Curtains enable the occupants of a house to feel that [in Flanders’s words] “what is happening outside is far away.'”
My father occasionally used the phrase “lace curtain Irish” about his Chicago South Side Irish family. I had always thought that the phrase referred to curtains as a mark of propriety and social ambition. I wonder now if the phrase also suggests a family that looks inwards toward the home.