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The Evolution of Bedding

Bedding came into being over five thousand years ago.  Before that time we must assume that man… and woman… slept on the ground or on the floor of a cave or hut.  According to most historical reports the pharaohs of Egypt were the first to use the most basic of mattresses.  With the demarcation of a specific place to sleep bedding became a necessity.  Bedding does not refer to the mattress or cushion, but rather to the covering laid over the mattress and the covering a person uses for warmth.  In other words, bedding is best defined as sheets, bedspreads, quilts, etc.

By the time of the Roman Empire, sacks were being stuffed with hay or feathers… anything softer than the hard ground or floor.  However, it was during the Renaissance that mattresses were covered with softer fabrics that could easily be placed to protect the person from the mattress and for covering to add warmth.

From that time up through the early 20th century, bedding evolved into basic flat white sheets.  For years we were satisfied with the basics.  Those days have passed.  Today when shopping for bedding the choices are vast and for some the terms are confusing.

Among the bedding selections today are:

  • Sheets: flat and fitted
  • Tailored: fitted bedding that keeps the sheet in place, often wrinkle free
  • Quilts:  thicker than a blanket yet relatively flat, top stitched often by hand
  • Comforter:  a thick puffy cover designed for warmth, often reversible
  • Bed Spread:  a cover that adds warmth over the top of the sheets, often reaches the floor
  • Shams:  pillows primarily used for decorative purposes, with covers that can be removed

This list is not complete.  It is only a sample of the names and words one must consider when shopping. 

While bedding was once designed solely designed for utility purposes, today it has found its place in home decor.  The colors and patterns available today can add ambiance to any bedroom.  Bedding ensembles are available that take the guesswork out of buying.

Children’s bedding now comes with cartoon character designs.  Toddlers bedding for cribs has been created in soft pastel colors with special attention to a proper fit for safety.  Some bedding comes with the sheets sewn together on one side, assisting in making up a bed that is next to a wall.  The attached sheets are a favorite among families with bunk beds and for kids going to camp. 

With so many choices available today, it is important that we know exactly what we are looking for when we go shopping and what we can afford.  The prices of sheets today can vary from less than $10 per sheet to hundreds of dollars.