IN THE LATE 1960s, I was living in Rome and encouraged by my mother and her offer of $$, I made the bold decision to have a suit made for me — in black velvet. The tailor was located right off the swank Via Veneto. This was a time when you could do that sort of thing and still manage to afford school tuition or rent. The hip-length jacket with notched collar was double-breasted and my initials were embroidered in the silk, harlequin lining. The skirt was appropriately short — about an inch or two above my knees. Never before had I felt so fashionably cool. The next time I had a relationship with velvet was when I purchased a pair of Armani high-waisted, slightly baggy pants at one of Neiman Marcus’s big sales. I still have the pants and hide the too-tight waist by wearing a long silk shirt on top.
But now that velvet (along with brocade, fur and lace and bejeweled everything) has made a comeback — at least on fall runways of Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney, Armani and Valentino — I’m inclined to embrace it again, if cautiously. Too much of a good thing can wind up looking not so good or in the case of velvet, a little costumey. Think the Tudor, the Medici and the Borgia women swanning around in their cold castles swathed in velvet from head to toe.
The season’s favorite fabric is particularly well-suited for holiday wear. A great-fitting velvet jacket can be paired with a pleated skirt for a fancy dinner party or to dress up a pair of jeans for a casual Sunday night soiree. Want instant glam and opulence? Choose velvet accessories — bordeaux pumps, lace-up flats and skinny scarves.
See runway examples and our market picks in the photos above.
— Janet Kelly
Janet Kelly is the editor of MyLittleBird. She last wrote about skirts with swish.