Origin of the Trend: Velvet

It seems that as the weather gets warmer (or teases us with hints of warmth in the midst of 10 degree days), clothes get girlier. While the highlights of late 2010 included “masculine” silhouettes and accessories, this spring promises a sprinkling of feminine elements. The next lush-and-royal fabric trend is velvet, accompanying lace. I imagine wearing velvet to be a stuffy experience, meant only for sitting around in the winter, but apparently there are ways get velvet to drape and not seem so constricting (aka combining silk and velvet into one fabric, according to Fashion-Era.com).

Velvet was, however, originally worn as very thick, suits, according to ErasOfElegance.com. The fabric can be traced back to the Early Gothic Era (years 1000-1200); it spilled into the Renaissance, Elizabethan, Georgian, and subsequent eras, retaining its formal nature for both men and women.

An article in the October 14, 1897 issue of the Meriden Daily Republican(from West Meriden, Connecticut) explains that a dressy winter staple was “a velvet blouse coat trimmed with jet or embroidery. …as velvet is always dressier than cloth.” Some thirty years later, a column ran in a December issue of the Rochester Evening Journal the Post Express entitled “Shopping for Velvet Evening Wraps With Alice and Evelyn” (including an illustration captioned “Fashion’s Delight – Velvet Wraps At Night!”).

Around the Industrial Revolution, velvet’s accessibility increased, though it was consistently used as a warm cover-up on classy evenings out on the town. This era also witnessed the shift from velvet men’s suits to a focus on advertising velvet in women’s garments.

The 1950s, according to Retro-Fashion-History.com, saw the emergence of velvet sportswear. Spring 2011 channels a bit of the 1950s in this sense, as the velvet cardigans and casual separates of the era are reasonable choices for increasingly busy women needing versatile pieces in their wardrobes.

And then, in the fall/winter 1977-78 season, Yves Saint Laurent made a gorgeous velvet and taffeta dress, channeling the nighttime beauty of the fabric from the early 1900s.

Published at The Lion, The Stitch, and The Wardrobe on February 25, 2011.

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