Monday, 31 March 2014

Velvety










Velvet is a fabric unlike many others. Some hold a special affection for its luxury, screeching, “I looooooove velvet!” when a particularly choice plum blazer or blue dress is mentioned. You rarely hear people saying, “Oh my, I am the biggest fan of linen!” or “Yes, I collect items made of nylon – can’t get enough.” Cotton and wool are too ubiquitous to merit specific attention, while things like lurex or crimplene attract a pretty niche fan-base. Silk, satin and tweed might provoke similar excitement, comparable in their sense of extravagance, but velvet still rules the roost.

It’s a conversation starter. When wearing my black velvet trousers or red velvet mini-dress, I’ve had compliments aplenty. Several people have informed me that they collect velvet clothing, and they spontaneously reel off lists of what they own. It’s also a tactile fabric, one of the few aside from feathers or faux-fur where it’s acceptable to ask, “Could I just stroke that?” 

A fabric of extremes, it's a texture adored by some, loathed by others. Counterbalancing the appreciation brigade are those who can’t stand the look or touch of it. It’s one of the more common materials to have a phobia of: that strange, slippery-soft feel being repulsive to a few.

I used to be ambivalent towards velvet. It reminded me of my dimly remembered, late maternal grandmother, revisiting a sort of adolescence as she walked around the local town in long skirts and bare feet in 1999; of photos of my parents in their new age phase during the the early nineties. Velvet was the preserve of patchwork trousers and crystal healing, associated with clothes sold on the kind of stalls found at fetes and fairs where other wares included incense, plastic bangles, felted hats and belly button studs.

I discovered its merits later. My mum had some fabulous vintage items squirreled away, including an emerald-green velvet two-piece suit, found when she was a student. Probably sixties in origin, the matching skirt and jacket were a cut above casual evening wear. Other items came to light, more discovered in charity shops and markets: a black fifties gown with a velvet bodice and taffeta skirt, an eighties Monsoon short, green velvet dress with long sleeves and a sweetheart neckline, a bright blue velvet top, various long skirts in shades of mauve and turquoise. It’s a versatile fabric that finds itself shaped into all sorts of accessories from hats and bags to shoes, gloves and scarves. When the quality is good (especially silk based) then it’s gratifyingly lavish.

Even the adjective ‘velvety’ is interesting. It suggests opulence in one context, softness in another. Voices are depicted as velvety, as are smooth lakes and dusky evenings. It can be suggestive, sexy, evocative or (often) clichéd. Restaurant critics use it to describe food; travel writers to convey views. Compare it with: silken hair, satin seas, corduroy fields or skin like old leather. They're all recognizable similes and metaphors, both the visual and cultural significance of certain fabrics lending themselves to imagery we're all too familiar with. 

Another set of photos taken a shockingly long time ago - perhaps last September? However, today I'm thinking about the allure of the fabric as I'm wearing one of my favourite blue velvet dresses. All clothes pictured are second hand - assembled from various charity shops, family members and vintage markets. As a result, I'm linking this in to Bella's #SECONDHANDFIRST  post - you can read more on it here.

17 comments:

Na z said...

Such a cute look love velvet
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Roz G. said...

Beautiful... Velvety is such an evocative word indeed.
www.oddcatrina.com

Roz G. said...

Loved it! "Velvet" is such an evocative word really...

Closet Fashionista said...

I am obsessed with velvet! I have so many velvet blazers and I used to have velvet shirts when I was younger. I've been noticing them again in stores so I may bring back the velvet top ;)
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

Jo said...

Love how you match the beautiful Rowan tree in the 5th picture. So true about velvet - only the other day my friend was asking me if I still have a yellow velvet dress I wore once years ago - obviously sticks in the memory!
Jo xx

Citizen Rosebud said...

Ok, first, let me get this off my chest: I adore you. You are the best kind of beauty: smart, sensitive, articulate. I'm so pleased to see you link up- because I consider you an unofficial #secondhandfirst spokesperson!
I too used to feel a little blase about the velvet, and for much of the reasons you mentioned. Velvet seemed like velour's rich cousin, and I was sort of blech to both. Until I touched vintage silk velvet. And saw how truly lux that damn fabric could be. So I appreciate it- as a textile touching glorious thing...and while I don't collect it, I do take note and stand up when I see it in a gorgeous garment. Your blazer is one such thing of beauty. Thank you so much for the mention and for linking up. You're aces. xo. -Bella Q

PinkCheetahVintage said...

I am a huge velvet lover :)

Shawna McComber said...

I love velvet too! I can't imagine anyone not loving it. I would find such people weird and not human. I recently scored a gorgeous long green velvet skirt at the thrift shop and have been debating whether or not I can wear it now or if I must put it away until next autumn.

Melanie said...

I should not be surprised that some people are repulsed by velvet; it's a big world. I would have been pleased to meet your grandmother in her bare feet and velvet maxi.

daisychain said...

I do so love velvet, it gives any outfit a touch of class xx

Vix said...

I love velvet. My 1960s maxi waistcoat gets loads of attention whenever I wear it although I'm not sure whether its the trippy poppy print, the colour or the texture that attracts people more! x

vintagevixenarts said...

Velvet is indeedy a beautiful textile, unless it's a Velvet Elvis:0 Somehow the rich sheen and unique texture make's me feel a bit elegant,and special. I scored a well made electric blue velvet blazer from the thrift store and was thrilled to pieces. Even though it is getting springy and warmer,I fully intend to find one cool rainy day to pair with rippy jean's and a t-shirt, just another plus that it can be dressed up or down, and always look fab.

FASHION TALES said...

It's true you hardly hear people say that they adore linen, although I am a fan of linen so much because of it's versatile uses. I also adore velvet and have a vintage velvet blazer that makes me feel marvellous with every single wear. You look gorgeous in velvet, and the jewellery is styled just as smart as your whole look.

elle scott said...

All of these photos have a real look of a pre-Raphaelite muse, I absolutely love your blog too!

www.ellestolemyname.blogspot.com

Ivana Split said...

Velvet is surely a tactile fabric...it actually doesn't surprise that there are people who have phobia of this material, to touch it is a distinct tactile experience, you have described it so well...It doesn't surprise me, as I said that some people don't like it, but my feelings go in the other direction. I absolutely love the feel of velvet...probably even more then the look of it. I mean I love how it looks but there are some new synthetic materials that look like velvet and are lighter...however, it is not quite the same as the real thing.

The feel of velvet is so distinct that it is being used to describe a variety of things---you're quite right in noticing this. Besides silk it must be the material that is most often used for metaphor.

As soon as I started to read your article I remembered an episode from Beloved, there is this poor girl (the one that helps Sethe deliver her baby, Amy was her name if I recall well) whose sole ambition in life is to get to a city and acquire some velvet! How fantastical and yet I can imagine it being true. I can imagine it representing an entire new life, an entire new feeling to that character.

Ivana Split said...

It is only now that I have realized that I completely forgot to comment about the look itself. The photographs themselves might be older but the outfit is so perfect and spring appropriate. You look wonderful and this look is so unique...that is the benefit of shopping in second hand shops and of "rescuing" old items from the family closet (something I delight in doing myself)---one always ends up with such unique outfits!

Maria at inredningsvis said...

What a CUTE post :) and your blog is so fab and fun.

Check out my new post....How you decorate a small space to look bigger :)

Have a great weekend dear

LOVE Maria at inredningsvis - inredning it's, Swedish for decor :)