Velvet: The Smooth Operator
As it’s still chilly in London we have had velvet on our minds. The word ‘velvet’ brings to mind opulence and luxury: smoking jackets in the deepest of purples (traditionally the colour of royalty, and so even more intrinsically linked to decadence). Famed for its sumptuous elegance, softness and lustre, velvet has a history as rich as the fabric itself.
With humble beginnings in Kashmir, India, the fabric has been existed since the beginning of the fourteenth century. It became popular in Europe when the special double weaving process was adopted by Italian textile mills. From the striped breeches worn during the decorative Colonial period, to velvet collars on Victorian Frock Coats and later, on the Chesterfield Coat, velvet is a fabric with many facets and a never ending ability to adapt to current fashions.
A pile fabric, two layers of material are woven simultaneously, which are then cut apart to produce the raised fibre effect. Velvet’s unique structure can be manipulated in several ways to achieve different aesthetic attributes. The different forms of velvet (density of pile, materials, silk, cotton, etc.) can be used to great effect, playing up or down the properties of the cloth as required.
Thanks to its connotations with luxury, velvet has adorned everything from garments to accessories over the years. Velvet trimmings and paneling add rich details without the commitment of full-on finery. Over the years, velvet has enjoyed peaks and troughs in popularity, although now it seems to be playing a bit of a moment unlinked to faddish trends or Prince revivals.
Words by Madeleine McIndoe