Velvet fabric dates back to the medieval era and was introduced to European nobility by Crusaders returning from the Middle East. This extravagant material became a symbol of wealth and power in Europe and was so favored by kings and queens that it became known as "the royal cloth." It's little wonder that for many, the smooth, sensuous feel of velvet evokes a sense of luxury and elegance.
Velvet is a type of pile fabric -- a fabric woven in such a way as to create tiny, densely-packed fibers that stand up from the back of the cloth. A variety of base materials can be made into velvet, such as silk, cotton, polyester and rayon. Silk velvet has a softer finish that drapes well, making it a better choice for formal wear; cotton velvet is a sturdier choice for day wear.
Velvet Care Tips
Velvet garments should be professionally dry cleaned. Pressing velvet fabric with an iron irreparably flattens the pile, so use a steamer to remove wrinkles. Hold the steamer unit a few inches away from the fabric to prevent burning. If you don't have a steamer, try hanging the piece on a hanger in a steamy bathroom for 15 or 20 minutes.
A Fabric for All Seasons
Like wearing white after Memorial Day, wearing velvet in warmer weather was once considered a fashion faux pas. But celebrity stylist Laurie Graham says that velvet is "the perfect way to make a grand entrance" in summer months, if it's cut for warmer weather. Opt for sleeveless or strapless velvet pieces to make a statement in spring and summer.