Crush on velvet for the party season

Red velvet ruched dress, �35; wrap playsuit, �28; faux fur bomber, �59; ruched back skirt, �28. All at Miss Selfridge.

The plush stuff is a major trend on the High Street for this season. Stephanie Smith has tips on what to look out for, plus hot picks.

There’s something about velvet. With its rich and lustrous shine, its saturated colour and its luxurious touch-me texture, it’s not difficult to understand why it has always been a fabric of desire, especially in winter.

Velvet rose midi dress, �68, at Oasis.

First, the technical stuff. Velvet – or so I have just read – is created on a loom that weaves yarn into two thicknesses of material simultaneously, after which they are sliced apart to create the pile.

Traditionally, velvet was made from silk, although velvet material made entirely from silk now is rare. Usually, what we call silk velvet is actually a blend of rayon and silk. Other fabrics such as cotton, linen and wool can also be used to make velvet fabrics.

Now for the history bit. It is thought that the art of velvet-weaving originated in the Far East. Cairo was the world’s largest producer of velvet in medieval times, exporting to Venice, from where it spread out to the rest of Europe. Ever since, it has been associated with royalty, nobility and religion, its colour density and plushness suggesting opulence, rarity, money and power.

In Italy and then Belgium, velvets began to be made using a number of different techniques to create pattern, by varying the length of the pile, or brocading with uncut pile .

Decadence velvet jersey tunic, �49.95, at White Stuff.

In modern times, synthetic velvets use polyester, nylon, viscose, acetate, sometimes combined with silk, and maybe a little stretch, to great success, meaning that velvet is far more accessible and affordable, allowing us plenty of plush luxe looks on the High Street.

And so, turning to this autumn/winter, velvet looks have never been so plentiful, varied or so downright versatile.

Velvet fabrics for this season are are light and fluid, rather than having the dense, heavy feel of curtains.

This season, we are seeing it used to create statement coats, trenches and jackets – sometimes embellished – and for tactile dresses in shapes ranging from bodycon mini to flowing maxi.

Velvet burgundy Bardot bodysuit, �18, at Miss Selfridge.

Separates are getting in on the act too, so look out for velvet shirts and tees, Bardot tops and camis, while there is also a rich seam of skirts and trousers for autumn/winter, all in velvet. The velvet trouser suit, perhaps in a soft pink, is a key look for the season. A simple velvet blazer in soft pink, plae gold, burgundy or silver grey will instantly add an elegantly opulent look to many an otherwise unremarkable outfit.

Floral velvet is another plush trend interpreted from the catwalks to the High Street. There were fuchsia and vibrant orange velvet printed fabrics at Peter Pilotto and golden yellow and violet at Erdem – exotic tapestries of colour and texture. Roland Mouret showed elegantly fluid black velvet silhouettes, while Emilia Wickstead presented designs in velvet lace.

To sum up, for this autumn/winter, with velvet, it’s all about fluidity and ease of movement in light, lustrous and luxurious texture. This means that velvet is probably now more wearable than ever, and definitely not just for night-time and parties.

A velvet skirt, or one in its sister fabric of corduroy, is ideal winter office wear, while a light velvet shirt or tee-shaped top will instantly elevate a weekend jeans and boots outfit with a touch of soft, rich texture.

Dayla boots, �42; velvet wrap jumpsuit, �45; puffa, from a selection, all at Miss Selfridge.

Accessories in velvet are always a festive favourite, and this year sees an excellent supply in a mix of texture and colour. So look out for quilted velvet pieces and velvets with pattern such as mock croc and leopard. Whistles has a great selection of clutch bags, including one in a gold wood grain effect – unusual and expensive looking (it costs £69).

Try Ted Baker, Dune and Steve Madden for velvet shoes and boots – the ultimate luxe outfit finisher.

* Find more fashion tips and picks on


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Cherwell velvet jacket, �69.95; Galaxy V-neck jumper, �49.95; hazel velvet jegging, �45. From White Stuff.

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