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Fabric Friday: Velvet types

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Workshops - specialty vintage topics' started by denisebrain, Jan 28, 2022.

  1. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    We all know we love the feel, but what exactly is velvet and how is it made?

    Starting with a definition:

    Sumptuous fabric with a soft pile, velvet is constructed with a plain or twill weave back with one set of warp and one set of weft yarns. An extra set of warp yarns forms the pile. Velvet is now usually constructed by weaving two cloths together with pile ends connecting to both surfaces. The two are cut apart to give two pieces of velvet (double-cloth method).

    Image from JB Martin Velvet

    It may also be made by wires which lift and cut the pile.

    Velvet may be treated and varied in a number of way—including embossing, crushing, burning out—and can be made to be water- and crush-resistant. It is made of silk or manufactured filament fibers. If made of cotton it is called cotton velvet.

    The name velvet stems from the Latin vellus, or hair.

    Uses: Suits, coats, dresses, evening wear, shoes, hats, trim

    Rayon velvet
    The same fabric rumpled to show the pile

    Some velvet variations (there are more!)

    Burn-out velvet

    Velvet woven of two fibers, printed with a chemical that destroys one of the fibers, leaving a pile/ground pattern. Dévoré velvet is synonymous.

    From a 1930s rayon and silk burn-out velvet. The silk is the ground, the rayon is the pile.

    This is the same fabric in its full glory:

    An amazing outfit from the early 1970s, designed for Granny Takes a Trip. It is made of a burn-out velvet jacket and trousers, with a crushed velvet waistcoat. (Photo found on Please Kill Me—This is What's Cool.)

    Dévoré velvet

    French for “devoured,” describing the eating away by chemical printing of one fiber in a velvet made of two fibers, such as silk and acetate. Synonymous with burn-out velvet.

    Façonné velvet

    French for “fashioned,” façonné refers to velvet with a fancy weave or burn-out pattern.

    Chiffon velvet

    A lightweight, soft velvet with a short pile. The fabric has silk or manufactured fiber pile on a silk, manufactured fiber or cotton ground.

    Uses: Dresses, evening wear, women’s suits

    Ciselé velvet

    A velvet made of cut and uncut pile in a pattern on a satin ground.

    Crushed velvet

    Velvet with an unevenly pressed nap, achieved by twisting of the fabric when it is wet or pressing in various directions. The result is a wrinkled, lustrous look, the luster resulting from flattened areas. The fabric may be any sort of velvet pile, woven or, less often, knit fabric. Crushed velvet was particularly popular in the late 60s and early 70s.


    Nacré velvet

    Nacré is French for “pearly,” and nacré velvet has mother-of-pearl’s iridescence, with pile and ground of two different colors

    Panne velvet

    A lightweight velvet with its pile pressed flat in one direction, giving it a highly lustrous surface. May be made of silk or manufactured fibers, especially rayon.

    Silk panne velvet

    Gold silk panne velvet wedding dress, 1927 (V&A Museum)

    and the same dress in action (also courtesy of V&A)

    Tapestry velvet

    Made in imitation of tapestry, a patterned, jacquard-woven velvet with pile in a raised texture over the ground.


    This is a tapestry velvet jacket (previously sold).


    Velour, woven

    Velours is the French word for velvet, and velour is made in the same way as velvet (warp pile, double-cloth method of construction) except it is made of cotton or a blend. Velour differs from cotton velvet in having longer and denser pile.

    Uses: Sportswear, evening wear, loungewear

    (Let's wait to talk about velour knit which is probably best compared to terry knit.)

    Here is something that might puzzle some: What is the difference between cotton velvet and velveteen?


    Made of cotton, velveteen has a smooth, soft, short-cut pile on a plain or twill weave ground. Velveteen is related to cotton velvet, but of weft pile weave rather than velvet’s warp pile weave. It is related to corduroy but without that fabric’s vertical rows of wales. Velveteen’s dense pile is slightly flatter and shorter than that of cotton velvet.

    Uses: Dressy but less expensive (than velvet) in women’s and children’s clothing



    To be truthful, I am not sure if I would be able to discern some fabrics with any accuracy if it weren’t for this tool, a linen tester. Highly recommended if you want to know the thread count of a fabric, as well as magnify it. Obviously a magnifying glass would do just fine for close-up viewing:

    Screen Shot 2022-01-28 at 12.23.54 PM.png
  2. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    Someone needs to find me an example of nacré velvet—I have never seen it knowingly, and it sounds so beautiful.
  3. Midge

    Midge Super Moderator Staff Member

  4. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    I KNOW!
    The Vintage Merchant and Midge like this.
  5. Lady Scarletts

    Lady Scarletts VFG Member

    Great info. Thanks, Maggie!
    denisebrain likes this.
  6. The Vintage Merchant

    The Vintage Merchant Administrator Staff Member

    me too, me too, me tooooo!!!!
    denisebrain likes this.
  7. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member

    I am late to the party on this thread, but have something to add to the Fabric Resource if you feel it is applicable.

    In the early 1930s there was a new type of velvet named "Croquebille". Is is described as a "A novelty crushed velvet of great softness and rich lustre, used in draped millinery of the strictly dressy type".

    It somewhat resembled fur in appearance and if black in color it looks very much like Broadtail lamb.

    I have only seen this velvet used for hats, and find it occasionally mentioned or shown in old millinery books and magazines, and the term seems to have fallen out of favor after WWII.

    I do not have a current close up example but will keep looking for a photo.

    Maggie, like you, I would love to find a piece of nacre' velvet!
  8. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    Barbara, you sent me on a search! If you see the fabric somewhere, I'd love a photo!

    Brooklyn, 1932:


    Vancouver, BC, 1936:

    Vancouver 1936.png

    Lost track of the date and source of this one:

    Screen Shot 2022-05-27 at 5.49.06 PM.png

    It seems to have been made of silk and wool and I see it described as a crepe. I wonder how it was made?
  9. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member


    Great detective work. So it was a crepe as well as a velvet! I did read that the name of the velvet fabric was taken from the name of the character "He Who Gets Slapped" in French Punch and Judy puppet shows. Interesting. That was also a 1920's Lon Chaney silent movie, and if you get the chance to see it you should. A quite strange little film with great power and human pathos.

    As to how it was made, now I am wondering if the production technique involved some type of "slapping" to flatten the velvet pile into the fur like pattern. Like embossing, I suppose but maybe more random?
    denisebrain likes this.
  10. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    Interesting! I can imagine this being embossed. I feel as if I've seen it, but can't remember where.

    Thanks for the movie tip too!
  11. Maggie @denisebrain, many of the lovely dressy dresses and evening gowns from the 1930s were made from a velvet material that I've heard referred to as "silk velvet". It's very thin and drapes beautifully and I was wondering what is the correct name for that kind of velvet material. I've also heard of a velvet that was called Bagheera velvet. Apparently after WWII, that type of velvet was not used very much. I have a 1930s dress with the Fashion Originators Guild label and it is that beautiful deep cobalt blue extremely soft thin velvet that you see used in 30s fashions. I was going to list it as silk velvet, but since you did this your forum on velvet material, I thought I would ask about it. I did do a burn test on the material that this dress is made from and it does appear to be silk.

    Sorry that the photos are not close ups of the material, but maybe you can identify the velvet. I lightened the photos a bit to try to show the detail. The color of the material is deep cobalt blue.

    Back of the material
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2022
  12. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    It is not possible from your great photos Bonnie, but if the burn test brought silk to mind, I'd say it is silk velvet. I don't think it being thin is a great indicator, but the soft drape speaks of silk or rayon to me, and your burn test should be conclusive.
  13. claireshaeffer

    claireshaeffer VFG Member

    As usual, this is a wonderful and very informative article. Thank you, Maggie
    denisebrain likes this.
  14. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    Thank you so much Claire!
  15. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member

    That blue dress is beautiful. I often call the 1920s and 1930s silk velvet such as yours "chiffon" velvet. I have seen others use this term also. I just saw that Maggie has listed it above. It can be 100% silk, or is often a rayon backing with a silk pile (warp & weft).
  16. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member


    There is also a wonderful velvet named "Millinery Velvet". This is not, sadly, made anymore. It was French, and I think they stopped making it in the 1920s or even before. It was a special velvet made expressly for the millinery industry. It was a very low silk pile with a cotton backing, very lush and very dense so it had some bit of a stand up quality to it that made if perfect for hat making. It was made on very narrow looms and was only about 24" wide if I recall. Milliners did not need big pieces for a hat, and when cut on the bias it had fabulous stretch and made perfect crown and brims. It made great bows and stand up poufs. The density also meant it could be used for the brim edges of a hat and when folded under it would not show the backing under the pile or the rows of pile.

    Needless to say, it is a lost textile treasure.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2022
  17. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    It sounds lovely Barbara. I hate to think about all the wonderful fabrics we are missing!
  18. Thanks, Barbara!
  19. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member

    mill vel 1.jpg Here is a photo of a purple millinery velvet, circa 1880 - 1900. Sorry it is the best photo I have right now. But shows the selvage which is a good reference. It came in the most gorgeous and often very vibrant colors.
  20. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    Gorgeous. The selvage is great to see. Thank you!

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