Few will cite George Costanza as a fashion icon, but the short and stocky misanthrope from Seinfeld has one particular sartorial preference I feel on a deep level.
“I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable,” Costanza declared in episode 98, The Label Maker.
Georgie-boy, I’m with you, and I’m happy to say that your time has come. In 2017 draping oneself in the woven fabric so smooth that it coined its own adjective (“velvety”) is not only socially acceptable, it’s practically mandatory.
Whether shopping at high street stores or high-end designers, it’s hard to escape the velvet fog. No longer restricted to evening gowns and smoking jackets, velvet is everywhere and it’s being used for boots, culottes and even jumpsuits (as seen on Poldark star Eleanor Tomlinson, pictured).
Moreover, after months of watching northern hemisphere celebs wearing the latest crushed, burnout and pile-on-pile styles, we’re finally in the right season for it. Yes, winter is coming, and velvet is a gorgeous, cruelty-free alternative to those furs they wear at Winterfell.
Historically associated with nobility, velvet was especially popular with rock stars – 20th-century royalty – a few decades ago. Lucienne Whealing, senior womenswear buyer for The Iconic, says its vintage credentials were key to its revival.
“We’ve seen the fashion industry look to retro influences, specifically the ’70s opulence trend for AW ’17,” she says. “Velvet plays a key part in showing this trend through texture, jewel tones and luxe appeal.”
Less is more: Velvet is versatile – choose a sleek, structured piece for a glam look, or a Stevie Nicks-esque duster for hippie chic flair. But it’s best to stick to one velvet item an outfit. OK, sometimes two.
By sticking to stand-alone statement pieces and a less-is-more mindset, you’ll keep your look fresh and avoid the heavy, musty velvet-style associated with ’70s game-show hosts and dated BBC period dramas.
Mix to match: Since we’re avoiding a velvet overdose, figuring out how to pair it with other fabrics is key to creating your look. Whealing says contrast can work a treat, and recommends juxtaposing velvet with silks and leathers.
“I love how the velvet textures play alongside silk satins, laces and leather this season for a really tactile, premium feel to winter dressing,” she says.
Lighter fabrics can balance out heavier velvets, and denim is a great way to add a tougher edge, and make velvet easier to wear during daylight hours.
Colour: There’s no denying velvet looks amazing in jewel hues – it’s that nobility factor again – but experimenting beyond navy, ruby and emerald is in. Rose quartz, baby blue and pale gold velvet pieces are proving popular – great news for those who prefer pastels.
Boho-inspired label Tree of Life, a brand so pro-velvet they recently had a collection dubbed Velvet Underground, has a number of pieces in lighter shades.
“We believe that the luxe look of velvet works well in unusual shades and we include neutrals, rather than just jewel tones, to update the look,” says Meherose Borthwick, Tree of Life’s digital media coordinator.
Accessorise: If reluctant to go full-velvet, adding just a touch via shoes and accessories can be an accessible compromise. Velvet is a key trend in footwear at the moment, and velvet ankle and sock boots are everywhere.
Those velvet chokers we all wore in the ’90s have also made a comeback, and a cute velvet handbag is another way to literally carry off the velvet look.
Melissa Singer returns next week