Fabric headboards with matching bedcovers and pillow shams have long been popular in the fancy lady's boudoir. Now the hoi polloi can loll about in like style.

Once a custom-only look, affordable fabric headboards are now available through furniture stores in either in-stock fabric or the customer's own. There are also matching comforters, bedskirts, pillows, skirted dressing tables and chairs.These ensembles are part of a trend toward products that straddle the line between custom and mass-produced home furnishings. Patterned bed linens introduced in the 1960s and a growing demand for more stylish decor have contributed to a desire for the look.

"Upholstered headboards are very comfortable, especially if you read in bed a great deal, and I do them all the time for clients," says New York decorator Georgina Fairholme.

Pearson Co., a Lane subsidiary, and Carson's Inc., both of High Point, N.C., are two upholstery manufacturers now marketing fabric headboards. Spokesmen for both companies say they were somewhat surprised by their favorable reception.

"We were getting requests for bedroom ensembles from customers who were having to go to a custom source to get them made," says Ruth R. Clark, vice president of design for Pearson.

So, now the company makes quilted comforters, bedspreads, dust ruffles, pillow shams, skirted dressing tables and upholstered benches, chaises and chairs. Yardage is available for window coverings, too.

Although Pearson has 300 fabrics in its line, Clark says many customers prefer to supply their own. Pearson has four types of upholstered headboards ranging from tailored rectangles to more ornately curved shapes. Prices range from about $575 to $820 for a queen-size upholstered headboard in a medium-grade fabric.

Thomas C. Stout, president of Carson's, says his company appeals to customers with more contemporary tastes. There are 400 fabrics to choose from, including 60 shades of Ultrasuede. Headboards can be all fabric or fabric with brass or black nickel trim.

Typically, a Carson customer buys a matching chaise, bench or chair, with yardage available for spreads and window treatments. Some stores make these for customers. Others refer them to fabric workrooms.

Stout says Carson's best seller has been a channeled fabric headboard, $580 in queen size. An Art Deco style with brass trim is also popular. Prices run about half of what custom-made would cost, he says.

Fabric headboards are timeless and suited to many decorating styles, Fairholme says. The type of fabric, shape of headboard and how it is upholstered and trimmed can turn the look into either masculine or feminine, traditional or modern.

When choosing fabric, it is wise to select one that won't show dirt readily. And choose one you love since it will be greatly in evidence.

"Sometimes a client will have an extra slipcover made in a different material so that the look can be changed in the summer," Fairholme says.

The second cover also extends the life of the original. If there are matching fabric treatments - say a bench at the bottom or the bed - these, too, can be slipcovered.

"A tall fabric headboard makes a complete picture by itself and can eliminate the need for wall decor behind the bed," says Pearson's Clark. Furthermore, it's an excellent foil for those piles of pillows that are so popular today.

By coordinating fabrics in a bedroom, you eliminate some of the visual clutter. "You have the feeling the room is well decorated without having lots of elements," Clark says.

There are few rules in creating the effect, other than to avoid an over-coordinated or fussy look that comes from too many frills and bows, according to Fairholme.