Two Countries Separated by a Common Language – Part I

Or, what is the American for duvet?

Up until now I have been an extremely cruel mother and confined my little, exceedingly wriggly, girl to a Grobag sleeping bag and cot (quite a big one as it has potential to be converted to a toddler bed).

The extent of my cruelty was brought home to me when we were staying at the very new and very swish Hotel du Vin in Cambridge and the Minx’s cot came equipped with a zoo-print toddler duvet.  Never have you seen a more delighted girl.  And never have you seen a more shamefaced mummy, when on the next few nights, the Minx proceeded to unzip herself from her Grobag and wear it ‘like a duvet’. 

So a toddler duvet must be procured, and it is yet one more thing where I don’t have a clue where to begin here in the US. 

I was quite young when the so-called ‘continental quilt’ took the UK by storm and became the very thing for the well-dressed bed.  Somewhere along the line we adopted the French word ‘duvet’ and now I think there is hardly a bed in the UK where they aren’t used.  After all, who would want to go to all the trouble of fussing with sheets and blankets?

The Americans, that’s who.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but from experience of staying in US hotels and from searching for duvets online just now, it would seem that most Americans are still in thrall to traditional bedding with sheets and blankets and quilts and things called shams. 

Do you guys know what duvets are?  Are ‘down comforters’ the same thing?  Is this a toddler duvet? Can you suggest anywhere where I might get a funky toddler duvet cover in pink and green which is not as wishy-washy as the Pottery Barn ones (we  – by which I mean I, because the Minx would probably love one – would also prefer not to go the Dora the Explorer duvet route either).  Any advice on American bedding etiquette would be much appreciated, because I really have no idea where to begin.



  1. Beth says
    Here is a pink and green floral to get you started! It might not be your style. I have purchased from both (above) and by internet and by catalog. I feel they both have quality products in a wide price range. If you are handy with a sewing machine you might want to try making a duvet cover of your own (choosing a fabric you love). I found this at the Waverly website:
    How to Make a Duvet Cover & Pillow Shams –
    “Originally intended only to protect your heirloom duvet, the decorative duvet cover now serves as protection as well as the beautiful focal point in a well appointed bedroom. Only the most basic of sewing skills are needed to complete a few straight seams and self fabric ties. This carefree duvet cover and open backed pillow shams eliminates the need for blankets and bedspreads, ensuring the task of making-up-the-bed to also be quick and easy.”
    Here is the link:
    Having grown up in the US, it has always been my understanding that a duvet and a down comforter are the same thing. I believe that in the US they are more commonly referred to as “comforters.” You can find extremely inexpensive comforters in most department stores that are filled with a cheap synthetic fill (instead of down). These are not nearly as cozy but suitable in some situations. Some people buy a cheaper duvet but cover it with a nicer fabric or I’ve seen the reverse as well…a more expensive down-filled duvet with a sturdy, easy-care fabric duvet cover (for easy wash and “wear” on the bed).
    I am in total agreement about all the bedding we use in America (flat sheet, fitted sheet, etc.) Thanks for pointing that out! It has always bothered me, but I can’t say I’ve broken the habit. In Europe, do they only use the duvet? Do they cover the mattress with a fitted sheet? Keep up the great posts!

  2. Anna says

    Here in the UK we normally put a matress protector over the matress – which usually stays on for a while – and then put a sheet (fitted or flat) over that. Then we just use a duvet (in a duvet cover) to sleep under. I don’t know anyone that has sheets and blankets anymore.

  3. says

    Thanks Beth for all the wonderful advice. I can’t sew for toffee, though would love to learn, so the idea of actually MAKING a duvet cover is scary one.
    We bought the Minx a ‘down comforter’ yesterday, so I’ll do a post later this week discussing all the facinating things I’ve learned about the difference between US and UK bedding habits. I bet you can’t wait.

  4. roundabout says

    I found it interesting in Sweden that couples each have a single-sized down duvet to themselves on their beds (instead of one large double, queen or king to share). It was nigh on impossible to buy any duvet covers in sizes other than a standard single bed size.

  5. tanya says

    Been reading the comments and am still a little confused. Coming from the UK I’m a duvet user and am desperate to buy my two boys some ‘Star Wars’ bedding for Christmas. Not much on offer over here so thought I’d look at getting some from the US. In the UK I’d be looking to buy a single duvet set which consists of one single duvet cover and one pillowcase, but all the US sites talk about ‘comforters’ and I’m not sure if that would be the same size or even the right thing!!??!! Any help gratefully received as time is running out!

  6. says

    In America my husband laughs at our bed and how elaborately I make it. Sheets, duvets, euro shams, regular shames, throw pillows, blah blah blah. When we’re in his home country of Germany there’s a fitted sheet, euro pillow with case, and one “comforter” “duvet” or whatever you want to call it, and it’s twin size and folded in half, each person has one on their side of the bed. No top sheet, no blanket, that’s it. Fitted sheet, pillow, duvet.

  7. says

    I am from America but I lean more towards the tradition bedding style you find in Eurpomean countries. Sometimes it is just too much out here in America. There are pillows, sheets, duvet cover, inserts….and the list goes on and on.


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