While many people tend to consider a dust ruffle and a bed skirt to be the same type of bedding accessory, that is not the case. While both serve the purpose of covering the space between the edge of the comforter or bedspread and the floor, they are actually constructed differently and are positioned on the bed using different means.
The dust ruffle is a pleated or gathered piece of fabric that is normally just long enough to fill in the space between the top of the box spring and the floor. The ruffle is actually a circular construction that is configured to fit around and snugly hug the box spring. Many are equipped with a stretchable band around the top so it can be slipped around the sides of the box springs and kept in place by the band. Slits at each corner make it possible to position the ruffle around bedposts without bunching.
In recent years, the dust ruffle has also been manufactured to use hook and loop closures (also known as Velcro®) for installation, rather than rely on the stretchable band. One half of the closures are placed at strategic points along the top of the ruffle, with their companion sections are positioned along the sides of the box spring. When joined, the sections attach the ruffle securely, but also make it easy to remove for cleaning.
By contrast, a bed skirt does not involve the use of a stretchable band or closures to stay in place. It is constructed as a solid fabric body and a sewn ruffled or pleated outer section on three sides. In order to use a bed skirt, it is necessary to insert the body between the mattress and the box spring. The outer section is positioned to hang down the two long sides and the foot of the bed. It does not provide coverage to the floor at the head of the bed.
In most bedroom settings, a dust ruffle and bed skirt provide the same look when the bed is fully made. The color or pattern of the skirt or ruffle should compliment the color scheme of the bedding and should be constructed of a linen material that is similar to the sheeting or the comforter. Doing so will help to provide a unified look to the bedding and allow the material to enhance the overall appearance of the bed.