Who’s that princess? Velvet is back in vogue
Velvet is back again: as the north, east and west of India shiver through an unusually cold winter, velvet is the comeback fabric.
Remember that saying about all things that glitter? Velvet has similar connotations. It has lent its name to a soft, smooth feeling that is heavier than silk. Just because you find yourself using the adjective, velvety, need not mean you’re touching the right fabric!
Velvet is a silky, piled woven fabric in which the cut threads that give it that velvety touch are evenly distributed. It’s the fabric of royalty, the stuff trailing capes and trains have been made of.
It’s been woven in Asia for centuries. Soon, every civilisation worth its pelf was weaving velvet and so, velvet got used as drapes and in places of worship. “Velvet was the fabric of royalty in pre-Independence India,” shares designer Arnab Sengupta who now uses it liberally for its rich look. A much thicker, heavier and cumbersome version was used in the colder parts of India like Kashmir and Punbjab.
Sizzling the screen
In the 1950s and 1960s, Bollywood was set afire by the swish of velvet-wearing heroines sporting a bouffant. As the century turned, so did fashion fortunes: velvet, now more accessible in quantity and price, begun to be used by the country’s toniest designers. Sridevi scorched Page 3 in a black, ivory and gold saree, half of it in velvet. At the Marrakech Film Festival, Sridevi proved her loyalty to velvet again in a gorgeous black and gold dupatta, part of a silk and velvet ensemble by Manish Malhotra.
Sabyasachi, recalls a fashion observer, scorched Milan Fashion Week with regal velvet. But then, they call him the God of Indian couture, don’t they? How many of us can flaunt a Sabya? It took about a decade but finally, velvet is here for you, me and Savitri.
Modern technology has brought velvet into Everyman’s wardrobe. “I’ve never known of velvet in warmer places like Bengal, except in the wardrobes of royalty. Now, it has arrived,” shares Sengupta.
This time, the secret is micro-velvet, lighter and more drape-worthy. Can’t afford the original stuff? Opt for viscose and polyester. It is being used not just in salwar kameez sets and Patiala pants but in jackets and even in lehengas and sarees. The latest tweak to ethnic fashion is the Dogri shawl in velvet: 2.5 metres of swishy warmth.
Does the shine of traditional velvet scream out? Opt for viscose and cotton which are not that shiny. They are also affordable. Find the fabric heavy? Team it up with a lightweight like georgette to make a Chennai Express saree with velvet for the pallu. That way, it also acts like a shawl on a winter evening. Net and velvet go very well, as proved at the 3 Idiots premiere by Kareena Kapoor.
Want to look elegant and regal? Take a look at what designer Sayan Mitra does with the fabric: he uses it as a narrow border or a part of a jacket.
Does velvet have any minuses? Well, as Mitra points out, the stuff flooding the market isn’t of the best quality. The fabric can be heavy, if you don’t use it in tandem with something lighter. And if you are using it against your skin in a kurta, shirt or blouse, be sure to dry clean after each use and be liberal with the anti-perspirant before. Between uses, run a lint roller over it to catch the dust and particles that tend to cling to velvet.
After all, you want to look royal and fresh without looking dusty and smelling stale!
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