Velvet – The Party Season Staple

Selecting a party season style that stands apart but stops short of peacocking can prove difficult. Case in point? Velvet. Get it right and you’re the epitome of understated opulence, but mess it up and you’re a woeful throwback to a bad, 1970s-flavoured acid trip.

Luxuriously smooth, soft to the touch and always equipped with a subtle sheen, velvet is a statement fabric that will get you noticed – if you want to make sure it’s for all the right reasons, take note of these foolproof tips for wearing velvet, whether you’re bound for a full-on formal affair or something a little more low-key…

On The Runway

While velvet’s been an autumn/winter evening wear classic for decades, this season saw designers put out a slew of new, much more decorative takes on this fabric that included everything from jacquard to digitally printed styles.

Credited with giving Gucci its sexy back in the 1990s, Tom Ford now seems more an advocate for understated elegance at the helm of his own label. For AW14, smoking jackets in silk jacquard and velvet were at the fore of his offering, running the gamut from slick and sophisticated to a little psychedelic.

The black smoking jacket with a jacquard that seemed to merge both floral and leopard prints was an obvious highlight – at once classic in its colouring and eye-catching in its finish. Also, sensing (albeit a little slowly) that sports luxe is still a force in fashion, Ford put a particularly luxurious spin on the hi-top trainer (or what he likes to class as the ‘tennis shoe’) with an upper made entirely of black velvet – covetable, yes, but probably not the best for hitting the court in:

tom ford

Elsewhere, Dolce & Gabbana gave velvet their signature grandioso treatment, showing smoking jackets and full suits printed with feudal-inspired imagery that ranged from saints and knights to cathedral interiors.

Though these showpieces definitely piqued interest, the Sicilian-Italian duo’s contrast-trim velvet suits in black and bottle green seemed much more wearable:

Dolce & Gabbana

Given that velvet’s a firm fixture for autumn/winter 2014, there’s never been a better time to have a go at sporting this tricky material.

In The Details

If you’re looking to take a tentative step into the world of velvet without leveraging the fabric’s full va va voom, adding a velvet accessory or detail to your look is your best bet.

Obvious options include a velvet bow tie or velvet-covered cuff links, but you could also try your hand at something a little more unexpected like a velvet pocket square, velvet contrast lapels or even a pair of velvet slippers. Each of these would lend your ensemble a subtle hint of extravagance while still keeping you well within the confines of classic evening wear.

You can either choose one or two of these elements or incorporate them all at the same time (having the good sense to keep each of your velvet accents in the same colour, of course).

Pulling off velvet footwear, particularly formal slippers, is certainly more difficult, both in terms of the confidence required and the post-revelry aftercare. Still, a pair of velvet shoes is the perfect accompaniment to an understated velvet blazer and wool trousers combination, for a look that’s formal but not as fussily black tie.

  • Reiss Brando Velvet Bow Tie NavyReiss Brando Velvet Bow Tie Navy
  • Reiss Marlon Velvet Slim Tie BurgundyReiss Marlon Velvet Slim Tie Burgundy
  • Topman Green Velvet Crystal Pocket SquareTopman Green Velvet Crystal Pocket Square
  • House Of Hounds Whitman Velvet Quilt Dress SlippersHouse Of Hounds Whitman Velvet Quilt Dress Slippers
  • Noose & Monkey Bow Tie In VelvetNoose & Monkey Bow Tie In Velvet
  • Rolando Sturlini Velvet Dress SlippersRolando Sturlini Velvet Dress Slippers
  • Handmade Black Slim Velvet TieHandmade Black Slim Velvet Tie
  • Handmade Green Velvet Ready Tied Bow TieHandmade Green Velvet Ready Tied Bow Tie
  • Churchs Sovereign Embroidered Velvet SlippersChurchs Sovereign Embroidered Velvet Slippers
Velvet Separates

If adding mere accents of velvet doesn’t get you going, then you could step your party season style up a notch with a velvet blazer or a pair of well-cut trousers. We won’t pull the wool over your eyes here – going down this route does come with its risks, but you can reap some outstanding rewards provided you make a considered investment.

Before opening up the outfit possibilities, it’s worth taking note of two need-to-know points when it comes to wearing velvet:

The Cut

Though important most of the time, choosing a sharp, flattering cut is imperative when it comes to occasions calling for velvet. You’ll want to look for a blazer that offers a snug fit without appearing skimpy.

If you’re going for trousers instead, then slim styles work best – a skinny fit is too glam rock and anything wider and looser than slim is probably god-awful. Experiments with oversize fits and proportion play are definitely not appropriate here, so avoid unless you’re after a look that falls somewhere between Austin Powers and an unfortunate mystic.

The Colour

Equally key in ensuring your velvet venture is a resounding success is choosing colour carefully. Given that the fabric itself speaks volumes, you needn’t shout as loud when it comes to hue.

Black is an undisputed classic and comes highly recommended for those who are investing in velvet for the long haul rather than one night only. For similarly timeless alternatives, you could try maroon, Byzantium purple (a dark shade of purple that’s particularly luxurious), navy or bottle green.

Velvet Jackets

If you’re looking to go for more velvet than a few subtle accessories affords, then a velvet blazer is a great option. Put simply, if it’s a formal aesthetic you desire, team your jacket with a pair of slim-cut wool or cotton trousers, a smart button-down shirt (in a colour that doesn’t detract from your velvet focal point), and add a finishing touch with some patent leather/velvet shoes and maybe even some velvet accessories.

If the above seems a little overkill for your particular occasion, then opt for something smart-casual. Try a velvet jacket in a dark colour (black or midnight blue work best here) with a plain tee (whichever neck style suits you best), pair of slim jeans in grey/black and whatever footwear feels right – whether Chelsea boots or chunky sole brogues.

  • Asos Slim Fit Blazer In VelvetAsos Slim Fit Blazer In Velvet
  • Asos Slim Fit Db Blazer In VelvetAsos Slim Fit Db Blazer In Velvet
  • He By Mango Applique Velvet Tailored BlazerHe By Mango Applique Velvet Tailored Blazer
  • Peter Werth Velvet Blazer With Shawl Lapel In Slim FitPeter Werth Velvet Blazer With Shawl Lapel In Slim Fit
  • Noose & Monkey Velvet Blazer In Skinny FitNoose & Monkey Velvet Blazer In Skinny Fit
  • Autograph Online Only Pure Cotton 1 Button Velvet JacketAutograph Online Only Pure Cotton 1 Button Velvet Jacket
  • Reiss Jenson Slim-fit Velvet Blazer BordeauxReiss Jenson Slim-fit Velvet Blazer Bordeaux
  • Austin Reed Contemporary Fit Plum Velvet JacketAustin Reed Contemporary Fit Plum Velvet Jacket
  • Massimo Alba Slim-fit Unstructured Double-breasted Velvet BlazerMassimo Alba Slim-fit Unstructured Double-breasted Velvet Blazer
Smart-Casual Styling Lookbook

Men's Velvet Blazers - Smart-Casual/Night Out Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

house of fraser aw14 avva aw12 banana republic aw14 armani collezioni aw14 unknown primark aw13 river island christmas 2014 river island christmas 2014 Canali aw13 noose and monkey aw14 David Naman aw14 river island christmas 2013
Formal Styling Lookbook

Men's Velvet Blazers - Formal Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

suitsupply aw14 suitsupply aw14 suitsupply aw14 gieves & hawkes aw13 drykorn aw13 jaeger aw14 mango man winter 2014 gieves & hawkes aw13 dunhill aw14 Americana Manhasset Holiday 2014 reiss aw14 dunhill aw12
Velvet Trousers

Not for the faint-hearted, a pair of velvet trousers constantly teeters between sartorial success and absolute disaster. Apart from teaming them with a velvet blazer, there’s little else you can do without looking like the unfortunate guy who failed to read the memo.

Wearing a perfectly cut, inoffensively coloured pair of velvet trousers with a non-velvet blazer or jacket isn’t a punishable crime, but it isn’t all that brilliant either. What you can do in situations where a jacket isn’t required is style some velvet trousers with a roll-neck and a pair of monk-straps for elegance with an edge.

  • Topman Navy Velvet Ultra Skinny TrousersTopman Navy Velvet Ultra Skinny Trousers
  • French Connection Trousers VelvetFrench Connection Trousers Velvet
  • Noose & Monkey Skinny Fit Suit Trousers In VelvetNoose & Monkey Skinny Fit Suit Trousers In Velvet
  • Massimo Alba Washed-velvet TrousersMassimo Alba Washed-velvet Trousers
  • Richard James Velvet Trousers 215181Richard James Velvet Trousers 215181
  • Gucci Slim-fit Velvet TrousersGucci Slim-fit Velvet Trousers
The Velvet Suit

One for true velvet enthusiasts, the suit seems at first frighteningly full-on, but – provided you adhere to the rules set earlier – will have jaws (and hopefully not glasses) dropping throughout the night.

Given the sheer amount of velvet on show, busy jacquards and bright-coloured velvets won’t work here, so stick to darker shades and subtler finishes.

Flesh your look out with a white dress shirt, patent leather court shoes (you’ll want a contrast between the leg of your trouser and your shoe) and a few velvet accessories. It’s easy evening sophistication.

Men's Velvet Suits Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

tommy hilfiger unknown m&s best of british aw14 dolce & gabbana aw14 dolce & gabbana aw14
Final Word

Though you may have seen it murdered by others before, there’s nothing inherently ugly about velvet. On the contrary, when styled correctly velvet is at the very top of the list of show-stopping evening wear options.

Follow the dos and don’ts we’ve set out here diligently and you’ll be en route to an unforgettable party look.