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What is a Duvet?

Did you know? The definition of the word duvet can vary depending on where you’re located, so I wanted to take a few moments to clarify these differences. It will also give you the bottom line when it comes to what I’m talking about on the various pages of this site.

Duvets in the US

US MapSince most visitors to this site hail from the United States (and that is where I myself am located), I’ll begin here. In the US, there is actually some ambiguity about the word duvet. Generally speaking, you’ll hear the words “duvet insert” or “duvet cover” used more often. What Americans refer to as a duvet insert is what most Europeans would refer to as a duvet, which generally refers to a quilt or comforter of plain design. These are often covered in white fabric, and generally filled with down or other feathers. They range in heaviness from a lightweight duvet insert intended for use in the summer or in warm climates, to very thick, heavyweight and puffy design like this Norske duvet insert. As logic would dictate, a duvet cover refers to a sack-like enclosure, into which a duvet insert is inserted in order to change its color and pattern, as well as protect it from direct wear and tear.

Just to confuse things a bit more, you’ll often see the term “duvet set” used (you know, like in the name of this site…”king duvet set?”). This generally refers to a set of duvet cover and pillows or pillow shams, all designed to coordinate with one another. However, it can, from time to time, mean an actual duvet (quilt) which comes with color-coordinated pillows or shams, as well as the occasional bed skirt, neck roll or other accoutrements. While these differences may be immediately evident when you are shopping in a store (due to the sheer size of a package), they can be slightly more confusing online. I’ve found that your best bet for determining whether something is an actual duvet, or just a duvet cover, is to examine the listing for a closure type. If there is a closure type listed (generally buttons or ties), then you’re looking at a duvet cover, since duvet inserts don’t have closures – they are sewn closed all the way around in order to retain their stuffing.

Duvets in the UK

In the UK, I was surprised to find that there is still a wee bit of ambiguity, although certainly less so than in the US. As mentioned above, a duvet is generally the quilt, and the duvet cover equates to the enclosure or sack into which it is fitted for decorative or protective purposes. However, there are still a few web sites which confuse this, for example you can see here on Oxfam’s site, where a duvet cover is titled simply “double duvet.”

Duvet Sizing

Silk Duvet InsertAs with so many other things, there seems to be a bit of disagreement regarding what size a duvet should be. One thing is for certain, though; duvets are not intended to drag the floor when draped over the bed in the same way a bedspread generally does. Instead they tend to hang about 3/4 of the way to the floor, like the silk duvet insert shown at right. This is probably the main reason you’ll see many duvet cover sets which come with dust ruffles.

Leaving aside the many permutations of UK sizing, there are still a surprising number of measurements to be found for any one size. For example, while writing this article, I looked at three random manufacturers’ duvets. For their King size, they claimed measurements of 102″x88″, 106″x90″ and 102″x90″, respectively.

While this may seem to be a major problem, in practice it isn’t. The reality is that most duvets fit easily inside most duvet covers, because they are almost always cut to accommodate a bit of variation. I assume this is because it’s a given that duvets will vary in thickness, and manufacturers want to be sure to accommodate even the puffiest duvet. The only time I’ve run into real trouble is when trying to find covers to fit duvet inserts which are called “oversized” or other euphemisms for larger-than-normal. In those cases, you’re probably best off sticking with the same manufacturer for both duvet insert and duvet cover. Otherwise, you may have difficulty finding properly-sized covers for your “oversized” duvets.

To Sum Up

So, when I refer to a duvet or a duvet insert, I am using what I consider to be interchangeable terms, referring to a comforter-type piece of bedclothing which is used instead of a blanket. When I talk about duvet covers, I’m only making reference to the sheaths which are designed to enclose said duvets. And when I reference a duvet set, it could consist of either a duvet or only a duvet cover, depending upon the manufacturer. While I’ll try to remember to specify which, I can’t promise that I’ll always make that distinction. But remember that any mention of a closure type implies a cover rather than a full duvet.

I hope this helps, but if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask via my contact page. I’ll happily answer you, and your question (along with my answer) might just wind up a permanent part of my site!