In winter 2023's capsules and runway collections, one material stood out as a clear favorite amongst designers. No, not luxe leather or 'ol reliable denim—but velvet. Soft and silken, buttery and plush velvet. From Versace's crushed velvet looks in hot Barbie-esque pink (opens in new tab) to the matching sets (opens in new tab) from Anna Sui to Coach's gothic velveteen frocks and the liquid-like couture gowns at Schiaparelli, the velvet trend is a definite seasonal standout. But why? What prompted this industry-wide interest in the luscious fabric?
Senior Strategist at WGSN, Sofia Martellini (opens in new tab), has a theory: "Since the pandemic, when our lives became even more dependent on screens, and almost all activities were online, we've noticed a growing interest in fabrics and materials that offer tactility, with textures and surfaces that have a sensorial quality." Forget constant Zooming and doomscrolling on our phones—we want to take a more active, tangible role in our lives. We want to touch, feel, and play with materials (like velvet!), and we demand more from our clothing than the passive comfort the 2020 loungewear craze provided.
Martellini theorizes that the material's presence in today's trend cycle calls back to its high-brow origins. "Velvet is traditionally made of silk and is a very complex, labor-intensive weave," explains Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell (opens in new tab), a fashion historian, curator, and journalist. "Historically, it was very expensive and frequently was the target of sumptuary laws that banned middle- and lower-class people from wearing it." And like the past eras of sartorial excess when velvet symbolized in-your-face opulence, "we're now in an era of fashion maximalism," says Chrisman-Campbell. "So it's not surprising that a visibly luxurious fabric like velvet has made a comeback," she says. Also, pointing out that history, as you know, has a funny tendency to repeat itself.
Martellini concurs. "Although [velvet] is no longer exclusive to nobility and is produced at different price points, its luxurious connotations remain front of mind. [Velvet] has become a fabric used especially for nighttime, party, and occasionwear for its lustrousness," she tells Marie Claire. And if there's one season synonymous with festivity and sartorial celebration, it's certainly winter.
Ahead, see how the trend expert and fashion historian expect 2023's velvet trend to manifest. Shop each by category, ranging from flirty velvet dresses to sleek tailored suits that are far from the velour tracksuits you donned during the early aughts.
Martellini expects velvet dresses, especially sultry "bodycon styles," to be a breakout silhouette in 2023. She spotlights dresses made of material ideal for your holiday party outfits (opens in new tab). "It is quite common for occasion-led design directions to trend up during the holiday season, and velvet offers a glamorous look with a soft, warm touch," the trend expert shares.
"Velvet's three-dimensional structure gives colors high saturation," says Chrisman-Campbell. The material's color-enhancing capacity is perhaps best observed with indie label RABÔT's color-blocking velvet tops. "Plush, lustrous, and opulent—these are words that come to mind when we think of velvet," Jacqueline Rabôt, founder of the eponymous brand, tells Marie Claire. "We love color at RABÔT, and our palette appears more vivid when cut in velvet," she explains.
"For Winter 2022-2023, velvet was often used in contemporary silhouettes, such as tailored sets," WGSN's Martellini explains, based on observations from the seasonal runways and collections. Do your best to channel Gwyneth Paltrow at the 1996 VMAs in a Tom Ford-era Gucci red velvet suit by picking up a similar ruby red set made entirely of the material. Or, opt for a deconstructed attempt at suiting and snag a velvet blazer or trousers.
When it comes to velvet pants, Martellini expects to see hoards of them in "jewel tones like emerald green, bloodstone red, deep purple," saying the hues "directly correlate with [velvet's] royal origins and [add] a touch of decadence."
Have you grown bored of your standard nylon puffer coat (opens in new tab) and want a winter jacket (opens in new tab)that offers more inspired fashion-y flair? Jackets made of velvet will provide the bold pop that's missing from your outerwear collection (no offense to your trusty parkas—you just deserve more of a statement look in 2023!). Consider a quilted, down iteration for a style that will protect you from the cold-weather chill and offer a head-turning impact.
Meet the Experts
With almost 10 years of experience in working with trends, Sofia's passionate about understanding how consumer behavior shifts impact product design. Responsible for the Fashion Feed, WGSN's daily curation of fast-emerging trends, and for our Catwalk coverage, she's constantly analyzing major and micro influences shaping the industry while considering the commercial potential they offer different businesses.
Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell is an award-winning fashion historian, curator, and journalist. She is the author of Worn on This Day: The Clothes That Made History, The Way We Wed: A Global History of Wedding Fashion, and Skirts: Fashioning Modern Femininity in the 20th Century, among other books. She has written about fashion, art, and culture for The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Politico, Slate, and The Wall Street Journal and has appeared on NPR, the Biography Channel, and Reelz, along with several podcasts. She lives in Los Angeles.
Emma Childs is the Style Editor at Marie Claire, where she researches up-and-coming trends, curates shopping guides, and gushes about the must-buy items she can't stop thinking about. She previously wrote for TZR, Editorialist, Elite Daily, and Mission Magazine and studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University. When she's not writing up fashion deep-dives or finding the season's best pieces, you'll find her fiddling around in Photoshop and perusing HBO Max for the next show to base her personality on (currently, it's "Succession").
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