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Postcard of an Hungarian painting by Borsos Jóseph, showing a woman wearing a red velvet jacket  with the same image on an Hungarian postage stamp (TRC 2018.2544).Postcard of an Hungarian painting by Borsos Jóseph, showing a woman wearing a red velvet jacket with the same image on an Hungarian postage stamp (TRC 2018.2544).Soft, smooth, silky – these are just some of the terms conjured up by the word velvet, but velvet is much more than a mere soft and silky material and often it is not even smooth!

This brief introduction, spread out over several separate pages  (see below), provides the background to the TRC Gallery Exhibition VELVET!, which opens at the TRC on 22nd January and will be on display until 27th June 2019. All velvets and the illustrations in this and following pages form part of the TRC collection and can be seen, together with many others, at the exhibition.

Velvet is one of the most luxurious textiles that has been produced in Europe and elsewhere, for at least one thousand years. Despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that it is very expensive to make, in both time and raw materials, velvet became an essential item for any self-respecting royal court or church in Europe and is now made and used in many places throughout the world.

Velvet is used for garments, and may be covering the body literally from head to foot, and is worn by men, women and children. Houses are also decorated with velvets and the soft material has been used for soft-furnishings as well as upholstery – think of the velvet cloth that was placed over a piano or table, not to mention the precious velvet curtains.



Preview of the TRC Gallery exhibition VELVET!, opening 22 January 2019.Preview of the TRC Gallery exhibition VELVET!, opening 22 January 2019.

The English word velvet, the French velour and Dutch fluweel originate from the Latin word villus, meaning ‘shaggy hair’ or ‘tuft of hair’, and Vulgar Latin villutittus or villutus or, more formally, velutum (‘shaggy cloth’). In modern terminology, the various terms are used interchangeably, whereby in the English-speaking world the word velour tends to have a lower prestige than velvet

Velvet is a type of cloth whereby short loops are worked into a predetermined set of warp or weft threads (for instance, every sixth thread), and these loops are subsequently (but not always) cut to create a raised, or piled surface. There are many types of velvets. They can be divided into weft-pile (corduroy, velveteen) and warp-pile forms, which again come in many different types. There are also knitted versions that have been available for over 150 years. In general, however, the term velvet is particularly used for warp-pile woven forms, while knitted forms are often called velours.
The various types of velvet can also be described by the way in which they are used. In this way we can distinguish between clothing velvets and furnishing velvets. It is also possible to differentiate between velvets used for religious and secular purposes.



Velvet: A luxurious textile in the TRC spotlights

A brief history of velvet

The raw materials

The production of velvet

The main types of velvet

Classic velvet designs

Clothing and velvets

Furnishing velvets

Some alternative velvets


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Hogewoerd 164
2311 HW Leiden.
Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 /
+31 (0)6 28830428  

The TRC is open again from Tuesday, 2nd June, but by appointment only.

Bank account number:
NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59,
Stichting Textile Research Centre

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -27 August 2020: American Quilts

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
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