Velvet Fabrics with Retro Inspiration

It may only be October, but the holidays will be here in the blink of an eye. Meaning? It’s time to get a jump on sewing those formal gowns, party dresses and maybe a darling frock or two for the little girl in your life.

Perhaps the fabric most closely linked to winter months—aside from flannel and fleece—is velvet fabrics. Its distinct luxurious texture lends itself flawlessly to fancy occasions. And no, it’s not just a thing for ‘80s hair bands (though Katy Perry is doing her best to bring that look back). If you’re hunting for timeless evening inspiration, turn to Marilyn Monroe sheath dresses or Audrey Hepburn fit-and-flares.

My favorite place for this kind of inspiration is the online vintage marketplace Etsy.com, where you’ll find endless authentic ideas you know will stand the test of time. Take a look at this grass green floor-length number with a bowed waist and short sleeves, and this LBD with a winged neckline, or this simple scarlet wiggle dress. You can even use the fabric as a glamorous trim for a collar or a bow. See? Endless ideas! Heck, you can even find a plethora of original vintage patterns to use or customize.

Once you choose your design, here are three techniques you should keep in mind while working with velvet:

  1.  Keep a consistent direction. It may sound obvious, but velvet fabric has a directional nap to it so you’ll need to place all your pattern pieces with the tops on the same side. You can choose to have the nap go up or down, you’ll just need it to be consistent.
  2. Buy extra fabric to account for the pattern piece placement. Since you won’t be able to squeeze together your pieces in any direction you choose like a puzzle, you’ll need more yardage than you think.
  3. Velvet is slippery, and pins can often leave unsightly dents. You’ll want to hand baste prior to machine stitching to be safe. Heaven forbid you have to seam rip through that pile!

Bonus tip: If you crush the fabric, steam it with a steamer or hang it in shower to get it back to its original shape!

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