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A portière is a hanging placed over a door or over the doorless entrance to a room. Its name is derived from the French word for door, porte. From Asia, it came to Europe at a remote date. It is known to have been in use in Europe in the 4th century, and was probably introduced much earlier. Like so many other domestic plenishings, it reached England by way of France, where it appears to have been originally called rideau de Porte (literally, "door curtain").
Common in wealthier households during the Victorian era, it is still occasionally used either as an ornament or as a means of mitigating drafts. It is usually of some heavy material, such as velvet, brocade, or plush, and is often fixed upon a brass arm, moving in a socket with the opening and closing of the door.
In Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind, the protagonist Scarlett O'Hara makes a new dress from her mother's green velvet window curtains. In the book, Mitchell correctly uses the word curtain, however, the term portière is used incorrectly in the movie adaptation by both Scarlett and Mammy: the characters are talking about green velvet window curtains, whereas portieres are so named because they hang in doorways. This usage may have reflected that of WW civil defense instructions, which referred to window blackout coverings as "portieres" (see articles on "civil defense" (Encyclopaedia Brittanica Nook of the Year, 1941-1945). The scene was famously parodied on The Carol Burnett Show when Carol Burnett, playing the role of Starlet, wore not only the fabric but the curtain rod as well).
- "Disorder in the house
- I'll live with the tosses
- And watch the sundown through the portiere."