Even if you think you don’t know what a pipe and drape system is, there’s a good chance you’ve seen them thousands of times in your life. The ubiquitous pipe and drape systems used by event planners can be employed as photo or video backdrops, to cover unsightly equipment, or to highlight important areas of an event or get-together. Pipe and drape kits are primarily used to divide, conceal, decorate, and create spaces. They consist of a few simple components: bases, aluminum uprights, drape hangers, and the drapes themselves. While the first three components are structural, it’s the drapes that are the most visible component of any pipe and drape backdrop.

Because the drapes are the most design-critical component of pipe and drape systems, event planners have a variety of materials they can use to create the desired aesthetic. While there are many types of fabrics and materials used for drapes, those materials can be classified into three primary categories. Those categories are opaque, translucent, and sheer. Keep reading to learn more about the variety of materials included in those three categories and how they’re used by event planners to support their event concepts.

Opaque

As the name indicates, opaque drapes are made from materials that don’t allow light to pass through them. Therefore, you can’t see through them. Usually, opaque drapes consist of two layers. There’s a facing material that will be outwardly visible and a backing material that’s heavier in thickness and is designed to help block light transmission. Because of their thickness and rigidity, opaque fabrics tend to be stiffer and don’t gather in the same way as lighter drape fabrics. Some of the materials commonly used to make opaque drapes include velour, Commando or Duvetyne, cotton, or polyester. Event planners use opaque drapes as backdrops to mask equipment or activities that are happening behind the scenes, such as in theatrical performances. They are also well-suited for use in dividing spaces, since their opaque nature provides a degree of privacy that isn’t afforded by other common drape types. They can be used to create dressing rooms, food prep areas, or discreet staff break rooms at large-scale events. In short, opaque drapes are perfect anywhere that privacy is desirable or when you want to create a backdrop that will mask backstage activities during the event.

Translucent

Again, as the name would indicate, translucent drapes are made from materials that allow for partial light transmission and provide some degree of visibility. They usually consist of a single layer of drape material, which makes them much lighter than opaque drapes. They’re easier to style because they gather well on drape hangers due to increased pliability. Commonly used translucent drape materials include poly silk, poly pongee, poly satin, and sateen. As you can see, in most incarnations, translucent drape materials are crafted from synthetic fabrics. In an event setting, translucent materials can be used as attractive backdrops for photo or video as well as any masking applications in which there’s a desire to provide partial coverage without a need for privacy. They can be used to divide rooms, create spaces where privacy isn’t a concern, and mask walls and doorways.

Sheer

The final category of materials used in event pipe and drape setups is the sheer category. These materials are thin and airy, and they’re almost completely transparent in most cases. They can be found in a variety of finishes from matte to high sheen and a rainbow of colors, making them one of the key materials used when creating a visual event design. Some of the most common types of sheer drape materials are poly organza, poly voile, poly tulle, and poly chiffon. These materials are typically easily shaped, and they can be used for anything from room dividers to decorative backdrops. They add an upscale air to any event, and they’re perfectly suited for weddings and galas.

When shopping for pipe and drape online, make sure you understand the different types of drape fabrics that are available. Choosing the right one for your event and application is critical. Whether you need opaque, translucent, or sheer fabrics for your event, there’s likely a pipe and drape kit that can provide you with what you need. To learn more about the different types of drape materials used by event planners, contact VIP Crowd Control at (888) 521-0328.