Sheer curtains are translucent drapes which cover a window while allowing light in so the curtains can be kept closed. Their purpose is to screen an unpleasant view or prevent passersby looking in. Sheer drapes are made of fine, delicate fabric so they allow daylight into the room while ensuring privacy. Any sort of open-weave fabric is ideal - net or lace curtains are popular in suburban homes.
A great alternative for those who want plain drapes without any pattern or frills is muslin, a thin fabric made of cotton. A single sheer panel can work well as a permanent fixture on a front living room which looks into a road. Heavier curtains which can be drawn at night go over the sheer panel.
Printed muslin is also available - for instance white muslin with a white printed pattern such as a fleur de lis looks striking. Plain muslin is translucent and the printed pattern is opaque so the pattern shows up when the sun is shining. Another thin fabric used for sheer curtains is voile which is made of silk or cotton. Silk curtains are attractive and elegant but not the cheapest option.
Sheer curtains can either be the sole window dressing or can be supplemented with heavier curtains to exclude light, particularly in bedrooms. Drapes that are plain panels of sheer fabric work particularly well on small windows - they can be kept closed permanently if desired.
In addition to ensuring privacy, sheer curtains can be chosen for decoration. Using different colors can create different effects. For instance sheer pink curtains would add a warm glow to the room. Experiment with having sheer drapes in two or more different colors, say plain white underneath and fuchsia pink sheer curtains over the top - the combination will shut out more light but still be translucent enough to give a glowing effect through the curtains. For sheer translucent curtains choose either plain untextured fabric or a fabric with a simple pattern or texture which is the same front and back - particularly if these are to be the only window drapes. Sheer drapes with subtle patterns provide variety - such as a check or narrow stripe. Either have one panel that goes across the whole window or have two panels which can be drawn like normal curtains or drapes. For variation try gathering the sheer panels so they hang in folds.