How to say it: vel-vit skurt
- can be any style, as long as it is made from velvet fabric
…of the style: Velvet has been around for a long time; it originated in Kashmir and was introduced into Baghdad during the reign of Harun al-Rashid by Kashmiri merchants.
In the early days velvet was produced in Cairo and exported to Europe and the rest of Africa until European weavers began to create high quality velvet in Lucca, Genoa, Florence, Venice and eventually Bruges, during the Italian Renaissance. Velvet is a soft, decadent fabric that can be dyed to deep rich colours, and was traditionally made from silk, making it a very expensive textile to own. This meant that for many years velvet clothing was associated with wealth, power, nobility and the Church. Portraits of Henry VIII were apparently the first evidence of velvet being worn outside of the Church, but by the 17th and 18th centuries, velvet was more common among women’s clothing – although it was still a fabric of the rich and powerful.
The elite standing of velvet continued until the 19th century when silk became scarce and producers of the textile had to turn to other fibres to make their fabric. Dutch weavers were able to produce high quality velvet out of single yarn cotton, but linen, and rayon were also used. This change of yarns meant that velvet was no longer as expensive and became more available to the common man, or woman.
The Arts and Crafts movement of the late 18th/early 19th century showed a real love for velvet, and the fabric has remained a staple in the fashion world ever since. The introduction of polyesters and cheaper, synthetic fibres meant that even cheaper velvet could be produced, and it became a widely available textile. Due to this availability and varying quality, velvet as a clothing fabric experienced a bit of a downturn, thanks to links to the darker side of fashion – think Goths, and the tacky side of fashion – think shiny, ill-fitting, ill-coloured 80s prom dresses. However, velvet comes in many different textures, colours and qualities and the higher, softer versions of the fabric have a beautiful drape and handle and are a wonder to wear.
Velvet has been worn throughout the 20th century, with designers using it to relay a feeling of decadence and royalty to the consumer. Velvet clothing experienced a bit of a renaissance in 2012 and 2013 as designers looked back to the 17th and 18th centuries for inspiration and shoes, jackets, dresses, skirts and accessories littered the runways.
In terms of the velvet skirt, it has existed in various styles since at least the 17th century, and probably longer than that, but I couldn’t find any evidence to back up that assumption. In the 21st century, velvet skirts come in all shapes and lengths, although the majority tend to be short and slim-fitting. High-end designers and high street labels alike regularly feature velvet skirts in their new collections and it looks like the fabric is secure in its position as a staple; it has highs and lows but never truly disappears from the fashion landscape.
…of the name: It is called a velvet skirt because it is made from velvet.
21st Century Velvet Skirts
Short, long, tight or flowing, velvet skirts are no longer solely the realm of Goths or Punks. Modern styles include soft, slim fitting sheaths in deep, rich colours create smooth silhouettes and make the wearer feel like absolute royalty.
Givenchy, Saint Laurent
Kenzo Vintage, Haider Ackerman