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What exactly is a slipcover and how will it look on my sofa?

Wondering what a slipcover is? How it’s used? Why you’d want one? Or just curious about the benefits & downsides of a slipcover. We’ve got you covered!

Slipcover Basics and Definition

noun: slip cover; plural noun: slip covers; noun: slipcover; plural noun: slipcovers
  1. a removable fitted cloth cover for a chair or sofa.
    • a jacket or slipcase for a book.

A slipcover (sometimes called a loose cover) is defined as a protective fitted cover that be slipped on or off a piece of upholstered furniture. Slipcovers are usually made of cloth and may be removed for the season, or for cleaning, moving, or simply for long storage.

The Slipcover Origins

Slipcovers have been used since the European medieval period and became more important during the formal traditional period. Originally, these were very simple dust covers for fine furniture in rooms that were rarely used. Everything of value in the room would be covered in white muslin, or lightweight canvas (duck, drill) covers. Think bedsheets but sewn to approximately fit each piece, protecting them from the sun, humidity, grime and even insects / rats.

The turn of the century comes, and it’s the 18th century in England. The wealthy start using custom-tailored sofa covers as seasonal furnishments. Lightweight plain or twill weaves of cotton, or linen, or cotton-linen blends were very much in style as they absorbed moisture and were breathable. Perfect for summer.

Time passes and now the definition of slipcovers is attention to detail. Piping, welting, cording, ties and bows, covered / contrasting buttons, French pleats, box pleats, ruffles, and more are found in custom slipcovers. Slipcovers are now fabricated by tailors and seamstresses, just like clothes.

Victorian style shabby chic cottages

And the wheel turns, it’s now the Victorian Era. Slipcovers move towards a looser fit, what we call shabby chic these days. The sofa covers are bigger than the furniture and flow to the floor with strategic wrinkles. The reason behind this? Slipcovers were made from linen or linen blends, and due to the change of heat and humidity in the seasons, would expand and shrink unevenly. Thus, fashion changed to suit.

Modern(er) Times

In modern times, some slipcovers were even available in clear vinyl, or plastic slipcovers. These clear plastic slipcovers were available in large department stores or were custom made by artisans.

Vinyl covered yellow sofa with and without a smoking lass

Slipcovers took off in popularity around 1935, and peaked at about 1950, before declining due to the cost of new furniture falling below the cost of a custom slipcover. New manufacturing techniques, new upholstery fabrics that were easier to maintain and clean, all contributed to the decline in popularity.

Since the 70’s, they’ve been making a comeback!

The Comeback for the Slipcover

The advent of new production techniques for slipcovers, new fabrics and other textile advancements seems to have sparked this comeback in sofa covers. Knit covers, elasticated covers, ties and other fashions meant that slipcovers could now be mass-produced for every size and shape of sofa out there.


The tradeoff was a loss of the custom look for the ability to price-match the cheaper sofas out there. Because of these, there’s been a pre-conceived notion that all slipcovers or sofa covers have to be the above lumpy mess.

But wait, there’s more!

Well we don’t really believe that. Because we’ve made custom sofa covers or custom slipcovers completely affordable and easy to obtain for anyone in the world 🙂

Check out what we’ve done:

Comfort Works Custom Ekeskog Slipcover Before & After in Herringbone Ivory

Slipcovers are a great way to bring back that lost lovin’ feelin to your couch, that same feeling you got when you first bought it.

After several years of wear, pet scratches and some unwashable stains – all you really need is to re-cover it without having to throw away your sofa.

Custom Sofa (Armchair) Cover by Comfort Works with Ruffled Skirt

The other benefit of slipcovers is to provide yourself alternative looks, something that makes it uniquely you.

Personalisation is something we strongly believe in at Comfort Works, and the sky’s the limit as to what you want custom made to your preference – be it a snug or relaxed fit, piping or plain seams, pleated or straight skirts even.

You design it, we’ll sew it.

Comfort Works Custom Slipcover Before & After
IKEA Ektorp Sofa with Custom Slipcovers and Stained legs

I mean, I don’t want to brag. But I think we’ve done a pretty good job at shaking those horrible old stereotypes.

Inspired? Let us know and we’ll put the same effort in on your custom sofa slipcover 🙂