A Cautionary Tale…


As part of my mini “Livingroom Refresh”, I mentioned that I would have slipcovers custom-made for the chairs we use for dining in the living room. Although these chairs aren’t technically dining chairs, they have the same seat height as most.

As you can see, these chairs are well-used and quite soiled (embarrassingly so!), but they are comfortable and fit the space perfectly, and I didn’t want to replace them. It would have been more economical to have them reupholstered but knowing there would be spills and accidents before long; I wanted a simple option to keep them clean; therefore, I decided on slipcovers.

People have slipcovered furniture for hundreds of years, from the 17th century. In 1807,  Jane Austen mentioned in a letter that she was repairing a slipcover. You may also remember a dramatic scene in the Masterpiece Theatre version of “Pride and Prejudice” when Mr Bingley leaves his country house to return to London. As his carriage leaves, the servants are seen draping all the furniture with dust covers, suggesting he will not return for some time.

***Your parents or grandparents may have protected their sofas with sheets or plastic…saving them for special occasions. When I was growing up, a neighbour had all her living room furniture covered with sheets and threatened us with our lives if we entered that room! It was popular in the 1950s to have slipcovers made of clear vinyl (not only to protect but also part of a space-age look).

Slipcovers have come in and out of fashion. Initially, the style was loosely draped over furniture as protection against dust, sun and rodents. Still, by the 18th century, slipcovers became stylish and more tailored, often with contrasting piping or braid trim. Today slipcovers can be custom-made (however, many upholsters don’t want to be bothered making them because they’re labour intense), or you can purchase slipcovers online for a one size fits all option. They’re suitable for a seasonal change or just extending the life of your existing furniture.

Slipcovers, like furniture, come in many different styles. The “Shabby Chic” look was popular in recent decades…tailored styles have always been fashionable for a more formal look. These images are from Pinterest and show different styles.

Now for my cautionary tale…

I made the mistake of assuming my decorator had the same vision for how I wanted my slipcovers made…and you know what they say about assuming…I know better! Because my chairs are simply styled and unfussy, I envisioned a tailored slipcover.   But when I picked them up, I was disappointed to see that they were loose fitting, too big to my eye, and not tailored. Thankfully, I could return them to the workroom to be refitted.

Round 2 was much improved, especially for the covers made in the printed fabric. Although the velvet covers are virtually the same size as the printed ones (I’m sure the same pattern was used for both fabrics), they still look too big…I’m not sure if it’s the fabric or what… I have washed and dried the velvet set, hoping they might shrink a bit…which they did every so slightly (the workroom also preshrink the fabric before sewn).  The velvet set will still need some adjustments…

If you are considering custom-made slipcovers,  I suggest you clarify how you want them fitted. Do you want them to gently “slip” over your furniture or prefer a more form-fitting “spanx” fit? Also, ensure that the fabric you choose is best suited for your desired fit. It may be better to have a fabric with some stretch for certain styles. Preshrinking the fabric is always a must.

These are images of how the slipcovers look after round 2 in the workroom.  I also painted the chair legs to compliment the mahogany table base.

This is my first experience with slipcovers, and I will consider having more made in the future. I will, however, heed my advice next time around…

xox Judy



4 thoughts on “A Cautionary Tale…”

    1. Hi Karen, it has been a bit frustrating trying to achieve the final look for the velvet slipcovers. Unfortunately the fabric is not easy to work with and has too much stretch. There has been more than one lesson learned on this project! xox Judy❤️

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this Judy because I am planning to have slip covers made for two antique chairs. I’m trying to decide on pattern and colour but now that I have your suggestions I feel like I’ll be much better prepared for what else I should consider with respect to fit etc.. Come to think of it, if they offer a “spanx” fit I may have a dress made at the same time LOL🥴😂! Your chairs turned out beautifully and I think that was a great idea to change the leg colour. Hugs, Karen xo❤️

  2. Hi Karen, Spanx is always a good idea! Slipcovers offer so much flexibility for decor and maintenance. I hope you find the perfect fabric and that you love your final product. xox Judy ❤️ PS I think the original colour of the legs was a little anemic and I’m happy I changed them too!

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