Whether you view the '90s as the sartorial gift that just keeps giving or as a decade-long hiccup in the history of fashion, there's no denying the fashion world is having an extended love affair with the era.
In the warmer months we flirted with crop tops and ditsy florals, and now with winter setting in we're turning to the quintessential fabric of the decade: velvet.
But one question lingers: how to breathe new life into a material that hasn't felt fresh since Nirvana topped the charts? To put it simply, I found wisdom in the F/W 12 runways. The slightly gothic and completely glamorous gowns at Gucci and the sharp British-inspired suits at Ralph Lauren reminded me that velvet is just a fabric--it's how you use it that matters. The secret to making the material feel current is to choose pieces with modern cuts and tailored details. Please read on for my tips on how to make the luxurious fabric work right now.
Look 1: Slim Trouser
Velvet pants can have an unfortunate association with a certain tracksuit made in the fabric's close cousin, velour. To steer clear of any comparisons, it's important to pick a pant that is fairly structured. I picked a pair from Piamita with tailored details--like soft pleats and an angled yoke--which keep them from looking like loungewear. When shopping for your own pair, anything with an elastic waist, drawstring, or a legging-like fit should be an immediate red flag.
For this outfit, my goal was to recreate the enviable off-duty style pioneered by models like Cara Delevingne and Lily Kwong. The look relies on certain street style basics, like a moto jacket and beat-up boots, worn with the standout trends of the season. My chunky knit sweater layered over a t-shirt added the requisite I-just-threw-this-on air. To finish the outfit and make it feel completely current, I added two of-the-moment accessories: a trendy see-through messenger bag and gold sneaker wedges.
What I Wore: IRO Kailey Sweater ($393); Zoe Karssen Bat T-Shirt ($100); Piamita Charlotte Trousers ($329); ASH Metallic Leather High-Top Wedge Sneakers ($265) in Gold; ShoeMint Le Petit Bowler ($80) in Smoke/Black; Melinda Maria Hammered Band Ring Gold ($35); Melinda Maria Hammered Band Ring Rose Gold ($35); Melinda Maria Nailhead MM Bangle ($63 each) in Rose Gold.
Look 2: Relaxed Blazer
If you don't yet harbor a full-on velvet crush like yours truly, I recommend starting off on the JV team with a blazer. The jacket doesn't have to be your outfit's main focus; it can act more as an accent piece. As for the fit, while a sharply tailored blazer is perfectly acceptable, my slouchy version is a fresh departure from the uptight schoolboy vibe. The relaxed silhouette combined with the luxurious fabric lends an overall feeling of louche glamour to the whole outfit.
My two-piece floral ensemble hits on two key fall trends: pajama dressing and head-to-toe prints or co-ords (short for co-ordinates), as the British so charmingly call them. And since the printed Paul & Joe set demands so much attention, I chose understated accent pieces to support the overall look. I cuffed the pants to show off my mid-height Mary Janes, which offer the sort of quirky schoolgirl charm Alexa Chung has perfected. A gold clutch and a soft take on marcel waves set the final tone for my bohemian ladylike look.
What I Wore: Kenneth Cole New York Meredith Slouchy Blazer ($150, 212.965.0283); Paul & Joe Toutal Top and Portbou Pants ($855, $435, 310.270.4620); Tod's Mini Leather Shoulder Bag ($1,325) in Copper; Valentino Pumps ($745) in Patent Black; Melinda Maria Pyramid Chain Earrings ($95) in Oxidized and Yellow Gold; AK Vintage Poet Necklace ($135).
Look 3: Maxi Skirt
If the aforementioned blazer is the perfect way to get your proverbial feet wet, a maxi skirt is only for those willing to take the velvet plunge. Since any full-length skirt is an inherently dramatic piece, an iteration in the plush fabric is not for the sartorially faint of heart. Since I was obviously ready to commit, I chose a soft champagne color, which is ideal for showing off the material's luster while simultaneously giving a nod to the fabric's regal roots.
On its own, the maxi skirt was decidedly too precious, so my first instinct was to pair it with tomboy staples. I added an oversized acid-wash denim jacket, which nods to the '90s revival, while the maroon hoodie lends an unexpected edge. Together, they easily cut the girly vibe of the maxi skirt. As for my accessories, I chose a single glamorous, chunky bronze necklace to act as a foil for my grunge-inspired sweatshirt. The resulting look is a study in contrasts that feels interesting and daring.
What I Wore: J Brand 409 Boyfriend Jacket ($297, Available in January) in Wasted; Element Colbie Fleece ($44.50) in Cranberry; Ralph Lauren Blue Label Velvet Sharon Skirt ($798) in Platinum; Stella & Dot Sierra Necklace ($148) in Gold/Brass; Charles by Charles David Bandi Booties ($125) in Black.
SHOP THE TREND
If you're willing to try the touchable fabric, why not pick velvet pieces that truly make a statement? A printed dress, burnout polka-dot tank, or rich jewel-tone blazer have personality in spades.
Elizabeth and James Velvet Rex Blazer ($545) in Slate Blue; Creatures of Comfort Miriem Tank ($179) in Velvet Dot Black; Tucker Backless Mini Dress ($398, 212.938.0811) in Mary's Special Tea Velvet.
P.S.: Do you have a trend you're not quite sure how to wear? Leave a message in the comments, and yours truly might try it out!--Kat Collings