Balloon shades, which are full fabric window coverings that gather into voluminous or tailored puffs when raised, may be styled with simple pleats at the hem that form symmetrical scallops, gathers on the curtain rod that create a less tailored look, or smocking on the curtain rod sleeve that creates a loose fall of fabric caught into puffy half-moons at the hem. Different patterns include shirred pencil pleats, reversed pleats, and London shades that resemble more relaxed Roman shades.
Deeply shirred pencil pleat balloon shades have very close, narrow pleats falling from a smocked top border that fits over the curtain rod. The combination of smocking and heavy pleating creates full, semi-circular swags of fabric along the hem when the cords are pulled to raise the curtain.
Reversed or inverted pleats falling from a straight top border are neat and formal, with relaxed horizontal gathers draped at the hemline. London shades have only two cords to pull the hem up into jabot-style fish tails framing a wide center drape.
The choice of fabric changes the look of the shade. Stiff silk taffeta balloons out to hold a very full, opulent shape, while softer cotton prints and sheers drape in more regular, less puffy gathers.