Velvet is an ancient fabric, it's earliest ancestors first being woven in Egypt more than 4000 years ago. The first European masters of velvet production were the Italians of the 14th century, and some of the finest velvets available today are still produced in Genoa and Florence.
Velvet is a warp-pile fabric, meaning that is woven with one set of weft (horizontal) fibres and two sets of warp (vertical) fibres, the second set of which are evenly cut to create the distinctive soft pile. Velvets are woven on a special loom that weaves two layers of fabric, one above the other, that are connected by the extra set of warp threads; the warp threads are then cut to produce two sheets of fabric that are wound up on separate rolls. Velveteen is a weft-pile fabric and has a shorter pile than true velvet.
The extra steps and yarn involved in the production of velvet means that it is traditionally a costly fabric and one that has always been synonymous with luxury. The pile of the fabric means that dying velvet produces the richest colours available in any fabric, and the soft pile, subtle lustre and excellent draping qualities make it the ultimate choice for evening wear.
Originally, all velvets were made with silk. While 100% silk velvet is still available today, it is extremely rare and almost prohibitively expensive, retailing for upwards for £100/m. Most fabrics referred to today as 'silk velvet' have a silk backing and rayon (viscose) pile. The chemical and physical differences between the pile and backing fibres means that these types of fabric can be used produce shot velvets (where the pile is a different colour to the backing) and devore or 'cut' velvets (where the pile is burned away in a particular design).
Velvet can also be woven from polyester (often with lycra and used in dancewear) and cotton (often referred to, incorrectly, as 'velveteen' – although many velveteens are in fact woven from cotton). Cotton velvet does not have the quite the same luxurious sheen and drape of a silk velvet but it has more body and is harder wearing, so is an excellent choice for daywear and outerwear such as jackets, blazers and trousers.
Velvet fabrics were huge on both the men's and women's A/W 09/10 international runways. If you're feeling the velvet bug, A Suit That Fits.com can create your perfect jacket, trousers or waistcoat in one of our luxurious moleskin velvets – choose from black, maroon, green, navy or royal blue .
Out of all of this winter's trends, velvet is one of easiest to work into your office-wear, because it's simply very easy to get right and very hard to go wrong! The luxurious look of velvet makes it smart enough for work, and the rich but office-friendly hues it tends to come in make it easy to add much-needed colour to an otherwise dull work outfit, and the texture can give you a welcome break from wool-based fabrics.
Styling for ladies –
The smartest way to wear velvet is to buy a velvet skirt and/or trouser suit but wear it as separates – for fans of A Suit That Fits.com obviously the best choice is our ladies suit in velvet. For a jacket, nix the black and instead choose a jacket in purple, blue, red or green. Pair with grey or black trousers or a skirt.
Velvet skirts look good on everyone and are infinitely more flattering that any satin alternatives. Again, go for colour and wear with a fitted monochrome shirt such as our ladies shirt in white or black herringbone.
Velvet trousers are the ideal choice for the more adventurous – in a colour if you're feeling brave, otherwise stick to classic black straight leg trousers to add a touch of glamour and insouciance to your wardrobe.
Styling for gents-
A velvet suit looks great but for those who don't quite have the bravado to rock a full-on velvet 2-piece, a velvet waistcoat is a good choice, and can either be worn either in a contrasting colour to liven up a plain black or charcoal suit, or simply matching to add a touch of lux to stripes or patterns. Design your own using our separates wizard.
Velvet is difficult to clean and requires special care, as improper handling or storage can flatten parts of the pile and ruin the fabric. All velvets must not be touched with a regular iron – instead, either steam out creases or iron on the reverse side of the fabric over a velvet pressing board. Some all-synthetic blends can be machine washed, but most velvets can only be dry cleaned. However, unbeknown to most, some silk velvets can be washed using lukewarm water and hair shampoo (the silk fibre being similar to hair), provided that the pile is then brushed up by hand and the garment hung outside on a very windy day. The wind fluffs up the pile, removing creases and flattened areas to give you a perfect, glossy finish.