Rather than just having curtains or heavy drapes to frame the window, consider using lace by itself or as an inner curtain. Lace curtains may seem old-fashioned, but they are a great way to guard your privacy. They let in a lot of light and at the same time they prevent people seeing into your room. TV's "Murder She Wrote" character Jessica Fletcher, spying on the villain from behind a lace curtain, is a good example of how you can see out but people can't see in.
Historic patterns from the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Deco and Victorian Eras are all available. These look very elegant, especially if you are trying to get a romantic or heritage look to your room. You can choose from a variety of detailed patterns in light or heavy lace. Modern treatments are also very popular, especially very sheer panels which enhance a contemporary room. Of course nowadays not all "lace curtains" are actually made from lace. You can buy easy-to-care for lace curtains in polyester, which you can just stick in the washing machine.
Genuine Victorian lace patterns are still available in machine-made lace from 100% cotton. These come from factories which are still using the same techniques as when lace curtains were the height of fashion in the 19 century. There are two main styles of traditional lace - Madras Lace, which actually comes from Scotland or Nottingham Lace. These types of curtains are much more expensive and usually need to be washed by hand, or even dry cleaned.
If on the other hand you are looking for the genuine handmade article, browse through your local antique shops or flea market. You may even be lucky enough to inherit some lace from someone in the family. If you have antique lace, ask advice from a lace expert about caring for it, as it is often very delicate, and could get damaged even by gentle hand-washing.
Measure the inside of the window frame where you are going to hang the lace curtains to get the right width if you are also planning to hang drapes. If on the other hand you are just having lace you can choose to measure either the inside or the outside width. Lace patterns usually repeat and to get the best heritage effect you need to allow for one and a half or even two times the width of the window when you measure. Some patterns also look beautiful if the curtains are longer than the length of the window so they fall in a 'puddle' on the floor. If on the other hand you want a more modern sheer look you may prefer to buy a panel with the width the same or just a fraction wider than the window. This gives a flatter appearance.
Many people like to use a lace scarf to top their full length lace curtains. This gives a wonderful luxurious feel to the whole window. If you have café curtains, swags treatments give a cottagey atmosphere, alternatively you may prefer a valance, which gives a similar effect. Lace curtains usually come with a rod pocket to make them easy to hang, but of course rings or clips can work equally well.
If you aren't sure whether lace curtains are for you, many companies will actually lend you one or two pattern lengths so you can try before you buy.