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Would You, Could You, Wear Summer Velvet?

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Kendall Jenner and Taylor Swift have been pushing the plush fabric in a major way this summer — and I, for one, am here for it.

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Hailey Baldwin wears a green velvet dress by Vatanika. Photo: @haileystreetstyle

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When I first moved to New York City 11 years ago, it wasn’t the promise of endless West Village brunches, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, or nights out in the Meatpacking District that excited me most. (Although all three were key motivating factors — after all, it was 2005.) Rather, it was the fact that after spending the first 18 years of my life in season-less, sunny South Florida, I finally had a reason to fill my closet with gorgeous camel coats and nubby knit scarves.

I had never experienced a real winter before, but I’d watched Love Story enough times to know that the season offered plenty of exciting new outfit opportunities — ones that surely outweighed the nuisance of numb extremities and trudging through dirty sidewalk slush. Right?

Not exactly. Winter, no matter how stylish Ali MacGraw made it look, is the absolute worst. But for as much as I loathe the cold weather, I still love the look and feel of cold-weather fabrics and silhouettes.

Luckily, fashion has been gradually moving in a more season-less direction over the past few years, with retailers now casually throwing around objectively absurd terms like “summer sweaters” and “fall florals” — and I, for one, am here for it.

Taylor and Tom out to dinner last night in Santa Monica

A photo posted by Taylor Swift Updates (@taylorswift.updates) on

So imagine my delight when I spotted a photo of Taylor Swift (my personal style muse for all seasons) out for date night with Tom Hiddleston last month, wearing a black velvet minidress from Bec & Bridge’s upcoming fall collection. The high on that particular day in Los Angeles? 89 degrees. And yet, thanks a midriff cutout and the fact that Swift paired it with flat sandals, it somehow worked.

Another celebrity who considers the touchable fabric to be totally season-less? Hailey Baldwin, who wore a green velvet Vatanika dress with spaghetti straps in the middle of a Manhattan heatwave back in June, pairing it with delicate gold necklaces and black ankle boots.

Fellow model Stella Maxwell is a fan of the soft stuff as well, having braved a 92-degree New York City day in a blue velvet minidress and matching heels just last month.

But no celebrity’s welcomed summer velvet into her wardrobe quite as enthusiastically as Kendall Jenner, who’s worn everything from bralettes to boots covered in the fuzzy fabric — all in hot weather, and often accompanied by a coordinating velvet choker, arguably the Kardashian-Jenner equivalent of the Planeteers’ superhero-summoning rings.

Kendall Jenner wears a velvet bra top and choker, both by Are You Am I.
Kendall Jenner wears a velvet bra top ($279) and choker ($49), both by Are You Am I.
Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Now, if the mere idea of slipping into velvet on a scorching summer day is enough to make you sweat bullets, you’re not alone. (In fact, most of the Racked editors I polled would agree with you). But as long as you opt for a plush piece with summery design elements — think spaghetti straps, cutouts, lace paneling, or a high hemline — you won’t feel stifled.

What’s more, velvet hides perspiration far more effectively than, say, silk, or even a light-colored cotton. And best of all, most modern velvet garments — i.e. ones made from a polyester or rayon blend — can be washed by hand or even thrown in the machine on the gentle cycle. Call me crazy, but I’d rather be wearing an — ahem — absorbent and easily washable summer dress than one that shows every last spot of sweat and requires a pricey trip to the dry cleaner after each wear.

Above all, though, velvet is just so. Damn. Soft. Truly, it’s comparable to sweats or leggings in terms of comfort — but unlike activewear, velvet won’t make you look schlubby at a party. Just think of it as athleisure’s stealthily fancy older sister.