I can’t begin to rave on about why velvet is such a beautiful fabric and why I love having it in my wardrobe. It offers a different kind of texture to other fabrics that you might normally have in your wardrobe, and for not much more money or effort you can look a little more dressed up if desired.
It’s sheen and aesthetic appearance is like no other material on Earth, giving it such a stand out and iconic look from a distance.
It can be very hard to tell, but velvet fabrics can be made from any number of fibers. I want to go through the kinds of materials that make up a lot of velvets, and which ones are probably the safest and best to choose from.
I do have my favorites after doing a lot of browsing so this comes from my biased opinion, but there are a lot of facts that you can take away from this as well.
The most common fabric used to make velvet garments or textiles is usually polyester, though this covers a little umbrella of other types of plastics too. It will most likely be labeled as polyester on the care tags though.
If you’re not sure if your velvet is made of polyester, you can read this short guide here on identifying it. Polyester can be molded into practically any shape or texture for various weights of clothing. This means that this kind of velvet is very easy to make.
You’ll find that it’s very light weight and doesn’t absorb water or spillages, so they make good durable clothes. On the underside though, it will feel more smooth and plastic like, and I find this velvet has a spongy feel when I press on it.
The reason a lot of high street retailers use polyester is due to it’s affordability. The ease and relatively low cost of producing this fabric makes it a worth while investment for most retailers, and you’ll find it pretty much everywhere you go.
As we all know, there is the issue of the environmental and social impact of the existence of plastic garments, particularly in the fast fashion industry where making something so cheap makes it all the more easy to throw it away.
And, when thrown away, it’s impact on the natural world and the environment is far worse that it should be worth, so I would personally suggest this type of velvet should be avoided. If you already own something made of velvet polyester, just be mindful of what you are doing with it once you no longer want it.
Typically easy to come across, the cotton velvet fabric is my favorite type at this current moment in time. I would describe it as a mid weighted fabric, and you can definitely feel it when you hold it in your hands.
It does have it’s issues though, as it’s definitely not the most environmentally friendly type in terms of its production methods.
Though cotton is a great and natural fiber (read about it here), it requires a lot of water to be wasted, in addition to a fairly small yield for it. Though it’s only concession is that it’s biodegradable and does not leave much waste in the seas for decades.
When searching for cotton velvet, I will usually search in thrift stores to find this, as a lot of more vintage clothes utilize cotton velvet, and I feel this is a better sign of the quality and care taken to make these compared to more modern made clothes.
I would say that this is probably the next most common type of velvet on the market, along with one other type. (You can get an idea what what viscose is like here.)
Again, it’s a fairly light weighted fabric, but slightly heavier than plastic velvet. I would argue that it also feels much softer, however like cotton velvet, it can absorb water quite well, giving it a longer drying time and not a good choice in the rain.
But much like polyester, it is a fabric that is easy to mold into almost any kind of shape, except it does have a difference to polyester.
Unlike polyester, viscose does not come from plastics, but rather from plant or tree pulp, that is manufactured into threads. Because of this, it’s ability to be disposed of carefully makes it just a little bit better for the environment.
Some methods of viscose production use a closed loop method where nothing gets wasted and all by products are reused. This is a good direction to go down in the production methods of fabrics, even if it isn’t quite perfect yet.
It is a good type of velvet to choose from though if you want to steer clear of unnatural yet affordable types of this fabric.
I’m not all too familiar with this last type, mainly because it’s not very widespread on the high street. Although it is the original kind of velvet to be manufactured, it’s quite rare to find.
Another thing is it’s definitely on the pricier end of the spectrum, due to the nature of silk not being readily in abundance. This usually puts off a lot of people, so understandably people will buy a cheaper version on velvet where they can.
It does have its pros, such as being a fairly natural and biodegradable material that is also quite strong. For a smaller and finer amount of silk, it can be incredibly durable.
It’s more common to find silk blended velvet, such as those mixed with viscose or rayon. This blend helps to keep the cost of production lower, while still providing some level of quality. If you’re lucky enough to own the most luxurious kind of velvet, then it’s a pretty good choice to go for!
Once again, if I ever look for silk velvet, I will most likely try to thrift it and find it second hand, as this is the most eco friendly way of seeking new pieces.
Well, there you have it. Those are the types of velvet that are most prevalent, and so long as you treat all types responsibly, then I think there’s not really a problem owning any of these fabrics. Though saying that, I still always steer away from polyester if possible as I know that it can be harmful to the planet, plus I find it a little rough and uncomfortable on my skin. I will usually thrift cotton velvet, followed by viscose based velvet, due to their natural origins, and I personally enjoy the feel of it’s slightly more weighty and soft texture.