There is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between a down comforter and a duvet. The two seem interchangeable, but even those who master bedding 101 might not know whether or not there is actually a difference between them.
In order to understand the differences further, you have to look deep into the history of a duvet. Some of the earliest recollections of a duvet coming into existence go back to 3000 B.C. when the Chinese first used duvets; using silk as the filling. There are sources which argue origins go back to a man named Paul Rycraut who tried to market the duvet around 1700 A.D., but the idea never caught on.
Around the mid 1800’s Victorian Britain caught on with a duvet style called the ‘eiderdown’. It was marketed as a lightweight substitute for blankets. Moving forward to the year 1964, Sir Terence Conran noticed the bedding while in Sweden and he became the first to market duvets in the United Kingdom. The idea caught on for children’s bedding. They were denounced as adult bedding early on because people thought those ‘stuffy, fluffy, soft slippery’ coverings would not stay on.
The duvet was called many other things in the old times such as a fedder decker, a feather tick, a puffin downlet or a continental quilt. This was due to the fact that no one knew how to pronounce duvet. Over time, these words became obsolete, leaving duvet as the preferred term.
The ’10 Second Bed’
Why is history relative to the comforter-duvet comparison? Duvet is an old-French and old-Norse word originating in 1750 to mean ‘down’. The introduction of the duvet into America in the 1970’s allowed the word duvet to become water-downed in simplicity to mean ‘down comforter’ and today it is referred to with any kind of filled comforter. But wait, this is specific as well.
The duvet was marketed in the 60’s as the ’10 second bed’ because it was so easy to make a bed with it. So the guideline lies right there, in the ’10 second bed’. While the rest of the world is making their bed quickly with a duvet, Americans are making their bed with a down comforter, alternative comforter, and a duvet. The word confusion is forthright. Yet…
People are still trying to express the difference. If you dig deep into the Google machine you will find many arguments of difference. A comforter, according to many, is slightly unique due to it being less thick, used as a top sheet, and does not have a cover.
However, down comforters take to duvet covers very well. Most bedding products being marketed as duvets or comforters are equally thick or thin depending on the manufacturer. So, does this mean the two are interchangeable? Yes, dependant on where you live, and how you define it personally. In Australian English, it is called a ‘doona’.
The terminology of the word comforter derives from the word ‘comfort’. It is used to refer to warmth and down feather fillings to insulate against the cold. It implies ‘thickness’, asserting the definition to now include alternative down comforters. Some people will say the difference between a comforter and a duvet is the packaging. Comforters can be sold as a ‘bed in a bag’ which is an entire bedding set. Duvets are more often sold separately because they are down comforters, and down filling can be expensive. Duvet covers are sold in bedding set combinations.
Down traditionally comes from the Eider duck, and has evolved to include goose, or a blend of fillings. Feathers were the common filling among rural Europe. Goose down is the most popular comforter being used today, aside from less expensive fillings found in alternative comforters. Alternative comforters were created to combat allergy issues commonly found with feathers.
Next time you are shopping for comforters, you will know exactly what you are buying and you can refer to it as either a comforter or a duvet. The more important consideration is whether you need to buy one or two, as in Scandinavia it is common for couple to purchase two so they don’t have to play blanket tug-of-war.
In fact, if you and your bedmate argue over the room temperature at night, you can even splurge on duvet inserts, which are weights to hold down your sides of your comforter.
Did you know—
‘Duvet day’ is a common term used in some countries to allow employees to have one or two days off from work simply by calling in and saying they are not coming into work. They are not required to be ill, or have a reason. It is considered a work benefit originating out of the late 1990’s.