I’ve always thought velvet and velour are near identical fabrics. Both have a soft pile and ooze decadence. It turns out they are different materials and give a distinct finish to a project. So which one should you use? Velvet vs velour, what is the difference? Which is better?
The main difference between velvet and velour is the fiber content. Velvet is a silk-based, natural material dating back to the renaissance. It has a luxurious sheen. Velour is a synthetic, cheaper alternative introduced in the mid-1800s. While it is similar in texture, it doesn’t have velvet’s sheen.
To find out about the differences between velvet vs velour, carry on reading this article. We’ll explore the properties, pros, and cons to see if you should use velvet or velour in your next project.
Velvet vs Velour: Key Points
Velvet and velour have been around for generations. Although it’s a natural mistake to make, many people wrongly identify the names as being a description of the fiber content. They are not. Both terms refer to the type of weave used to produce the fabrics.
While velvet is a woven material with a distinct sheen, velour is a knit fabric with a slightly duller finish. The difference in surface shine is down to the pile in each fabric. Pile is the name given to the little tufts or loops of fiber that rise above the base of the material.
Each material has loops that make up its pile but, in the case of velour, the little loops are cut off. This creates a longer, loose pile effect. It also reduces the amount of sheen the fabric has.
The fiber content of velour and velvet can also differ. Velvet was traditionally made using silk and was a firm favorite of the wealthy and nobility. These days velvet tends to be made from linen, cotton, wool, and even polyester.
Velour, on the other hand, is almost exclusively made from cotton or a synthetic fiber like polyester. Sometimes it can even be a mixture of both.
With such subtle differences, it can be hard to pinpoint the key factors that identify whether a fabric is velvet vs velour. The fabrics are so similar it can be an almost impossible task to decide between the two. In the following table, we’ll look at some key characteristics to highlight those elusive features that set the two fabrics apart.
|Silk based fabric can be expensive
Synthetic options are cheaper
|Cheaper than velvet
Modern velvet can be linen, mohair, wool, silk-rayon blend, and polyester
Cotton is a less common fiber
|Can be made from cotton or synthetic fiber
or a mixture of both
|Depends on fiber content
|Synthetic versions have some resistance to flames
|Many velvets are dry clean only
Check the care label
Cold machine wash
Small amount of detergent
Do not iron
Do not blot
Excess moisture can be shaken off
|Some velour is dry clean only
Check the care label
Wash in cold water on
Shake off excess moisture
Avoid too much detergent
Do not iron
|Not as stretchy as velour
|Slightly more stretchy than velvet
|Soft, shiny, and luxurious
|Soft and luxurious but lacks the shine of velvet
|Type of Fabric
|Woven fabric with a distinctive looped pile and sheen
|A knit fabric with distinctive pile loops cut short to create a slightly duller finish
|Drapery, upholstery, clothing, protective covers for jewelry
|Drapery, upholstery, clothing, protective covers for jewelry
|Slightly heavier than velour depending on the weave
|Lighter than velvet
What Is Velvet?
Velvet is a densely woven, short-pile fabric with a soft and shiny texture. Traditionally, it was made from silk. Due to the expense of silk, the fibers were mixed with rayon to form a cheaper alternative. As well as the silk-rayon blend, modern-day velvet can be produced from linen, wool, and synthetic fibers like polyester. Although velvet can be made from cotton, this is less common.
The fabric is woven on a special loom which creates two layers of fabric, back to back. Known as a double cloth, it’s separated to form two pieces of fabric, each with a flat underneath and a short-pile surface. Velvet’s sheen is the result of the weave. Dominant warp, or vertical threads, are woven into tabby, twill, or satin weaves, depending on the type of velvet being produced.
Originally popular in the Middle East, velvet was a fabric reserved for royalty, nobility, and the wealthy. Because of this, it became synonymous with decadence and luxury. With silk being the main fiber, the fabric was very expensive and became a status symbol for those who could afford it.
Trade routes like the Silk Road from the Middle East helped the fabric spread across the Mediterranean and Europe. During the Renaissance period, Florence in Italy became the main production center. The popularity of the material grew, bringing it to the attention of a larger market of nobility across the European Continent.
These days, velvet is more widely available throughout the population. Main producers of the fabric are now located in India and China due to their links to the production of both silk and synthetic fibers.
The introduction of synthetic velvets has reduced the price considerably, making it more affordable. As well as clothing, the fabric is used for curtains, blankets, and other items that need a super soft and stylish feel.
- Soft and luxurious
- Densely woven
- Uses include upholstery and clothing
- Adds a hint of class to a room’s décor
- Comes in a range of weights and types suitable for different projects
- Silk-based traditional velvets are rare and expensive
- Synthetic velvets lack the opulence of historical versions
- Can be uncomfortable to wear, especially in hot weather
What Is Velour?
Velour is a knitted fabric with a cut pile. Unlike velvet, it is produced from a choice of fewer fibers. Originally, the main fiber would have been 100% cotton. These days, modern velour is made from a cotton and synthetic blend known as polycotton. Or it can be fully synthetic and made from artificial fibers like 100% polyester.
Almost identical in both properties and characteristics, it can be difficult to tell velour from velvet. The fabric’s close resemblance to its more expensive cousin is evident in its name. Velour is actually the French word for velvet.
Made in a similar way to velvet, the velour fabric is knitted to form looped threads. These threads are then cut at the loops to form a cut pile known as a nap. It’s this nap that gives the fabric its unique texture and slight difference to velvet. Although it does have a slight sheen, it isn’t as pronounced as the sheen on velvet.
Introduced in the mid-1800s, velour also originated somewhere in the Middle East. Just like velvet, it too would have traveled along the famous Silk Road to Europe. The Silk Road was a popular trade route for products, including a range of fabrics from as far back as the 2nd Century until the 18th Century.
The 1840s were a golden age for velour. This was the decade that brought the cheaper, new, and improved alternative to velvet to the attention of the European market. It became a popular fabric for wealthy people looking for a cheap alternative to velvet. Now, they could achieve the look of decadence and luxury at a more affordable price.
Over time, the need for opulent clothing as a status symbol became less important. Velour was reduced to being used as an upholstery fabric. It wasn’t reinvented as a popular clothing material until the 1960s and 1970s.
In those decades, it became the symbol of rebellion against the normal social constraints of well-tailored suits and smart clothing. Velour, in its bright, bold colors, was soft, comfortable, and instrumental in liberating a generation of young people from the perceived stuffiness of their parents.
Gaining traction thanks to popular music bands of the era, the material became the go-to choice for sportswear companies like Adidas. Recognizing the soft, comfortable properties of the fabric, coupled with the lightness of polyester and cotton, they made tracksuits and sports clothing out of it.
Today, velour is still used in tracksuits. It’s also used in lounge suits, dressing gowns, slippers, and blankets. Anything that needs a touch of softness is a great project for velour.
The introduction of polyester into the fibers used for velour has helped create a more easy-care fabric. It has also led to the material becoming more affordable. Because of this, velour is now more widely used than velvet.
- Knitted fabric giving it extra natural stretch
- Warm, comfortable, and very soft
- Luxurious yet affordable
- Machine washable
- Not easy to work with
- Can snag or pill
- Raw fabric edges are prone to fraying
- Wears out easily
What Is the Difference Between Velour and Velvet?
Now we’ve taken a look at the similarities between velour vs velvet. It’s easy to see why these two fabrics are confused with each other. At the moment, it would seem the only real difference is the fibers used and the cost.
Let’s take a look at some characteristics side by side. Comparing one against the other should help us identify any other noticeable differences between the two inherently diverse materials.
TextureThe unique way in which both velvet and velour are produced gives them an almost identical texture. Both are soft fabrics with a one-way nap created by little loops of fibers.
This one-way nap runs from the top of the fabric down. If you push your hand upwards from the base of the fabric towards the top, you’ll see a color change in the fabric. It becomes darker or duller. Knowing this is important. If you are making anything with velvet or velour, you need to cut the fabric so this nap is always going from top to bottom. Otherwise, the difference in direction will stick out like a sore thumb.
Velvet’s sheen comes from the little loops created by the fibers. In velour, these loops are cut, so the amount of shine is lessened. This is why velour lacks the sheen of velvet.
This is one of those properties that is dependent on the fiber content of the fabric. If we look at velour first, it’s usually synthetic. Most synthetic fabrics don’t breathe. A cotton velour would have the characteristics of cotton fabric, so it would have some breathability.
Velvet’s breathability relies on whether it’s linen-based. Linen, a well-known and loved summer fabric, makes velvet light and airy. This type of velvet will have the breathable qualities of the linen fiber it contains.
Neither velvet nor velour is considered to be fabrics ideal for wearing in warm weather or hotter climates. They are usually associated with keeping you warm.
Although there is a fabric called stretch velvet, the textile isn’t usually known for being a stretchy material. The stretch version has an added percentage of elastane or spandex to give it extra flexibility. Used for close-fitting garments, stretch velvet has around 50% stretch giving more than enough room for movement.
Overall, velvet is more commonly used for projects that require drape rather than being form-fitting. As a structured fabric used for upholstery and curtains, it’s better known for the opulent and luxuriant feel it can give to a room.
Velour, on the other hand, has more stretch than velvet. Being a knit fabric gives velour natural flexibility. It’s also more likely to be made from synthetic fibers. Both points make velour the perfect choice for your stretchy project.
SoftnessBoth velour and velvet are inherently soft. Whether the fabric is woven or knitted, the little loops formed give both materials a super soft feel. So much so, it’s impossible to tell which one is softer than the other.
This softness can be altered by the thickness of the weave or knit. An upholstery fabric needs more durability than clothing fabric, so it is likely to feel less soft to the touch. Regardless of whether it’s velour or velvet. On this point, they are equally matched.
When it comes to caring for velour vs velvet, there isn’t much to choose between the two. Both are relatively easy to clean. However, neither fabric likes to be handled roughly.
As velour and velvet have a pile or napped surface, they are susceptible to damage from an overzealous spin cycle. While crushed velvet is a thing used to create interest in a garment, you usually buy your clothes that way. You don’t want your expensive dress coming out of the wash looking like it has been crushed. It’ll ruin it.
The key with both velvet and velour is a light hand. Don’t rub, blot, or squeeze either material to get rid of excess moisture. Simply shake the water off and allow it to air dry naturally. Similarly, don’t use too much detergent, as this can turn your soft, luxuriant fabric into an unappealing flat surface with the texture of a brick.
Flame Retardant Qualities
One of the advantages of velour is its synthetic content can give it a certain amount of resistance to fire. This is determined by the type of manmade fiber in the fabric. To be completely fireproof, the material needs to be treated. However, the level of retardant qualities it contains could make it a safer option for natural fiber velvet.
Velvet is made from a range of fibers, including polyester. It can also be made from linen, wool, or silk. Now, wool and silk can be difficult to burn but, linen is one of the easiest things to catch fire.
When it comes to fire-retardant qualities with velvet, the fiber content will make a huge difference. To be safe and confident your upholstery and drapery are fire-resistant, make sure the fabric has been specially treated to provide fire protection.
Traditionally, velvet has been the more expensive of the two fabrics. It was originally woven using silk fibers, giving it a rich elegance few could afford. Reserved for royalty and nobility, velvet was exclusive and oozed decadence.
Velour was seen as a cheap alternative. Being cotton-based reduced the cost of the fabric to such an extent, it soon overtook velvet as the fabric of luxury. Not just for nobility but for the population as a whole.
These days, with the introduction of polyester into both fabrics, velour and velvet are closer in price than they have ever been throughout history. Velvet, because of its name and links to opulence, is still slightly higher in price. But, not by nearly as much as it was at the height of its popularity.
UsageVelvet and velour are so similar. The terms are used interchangeably to refer to upholstery and drapery fabrics. It can be difficult to know for sure which one you have. As they are both equally good and offer the same results, the difference between the two is minuscule. Their excellence as a décor material is a strength they share.
Clothing is slightly different. As velour is a knit fabric and velvet is woven, their structures give garments a slightly different feel. It’s like the difference between a tee-shirt and a tailored shirt.
Velour is the more comfortable of the two due to its inbuilt flexibility. It can also be a slightly more lightweight fabric. Because of this, you’re less likely to find garments made out of velvet. Velvet can be extremely heavy.
The long pile of velvet makes it an ideal fabric for protective cases and wraps for jewelry or gemstones. Its structure and stability make it a durable option to keep your precious items safe. Velour, on the other hand, can snag on jewelry causing it to pill.
What Is Velveteen? Is It Velvet or Velour?
Velveteen is the midpoint between velvet and velour. Slightly denser than velvet, it has a shorter pile. Made from cotton and sometimes from a cotton and silk blend, it is an imitation velvet but not as good a substitute as velour.
It doesn’t drape as well as velvet and isn’t as flexible as velour. Having a short pile gives it a harder, stiffer feel. The overall effect makes it feel more like a corduroy than velvet or velour.
Popular Products Made of Velvet and Velour
Infanzia Velvet Sofa CoverMade from 100% Grade A velvet, the Infanzia sofa cover is both elegant and luxurious. The fabric is ultra-soft and super stretchy, making it ideal for a range of sofa sizes.
Fitted with a non-slip foam rod and elastic band, the cover is easy to fit and will stay in place. Meaning you don’t need to constantly readjust the cover to straighten it out. Better still, it will protect your sofa from spills, tears, and scrapes.
The cover is 85% polyester, so both machine washable and quick to dry. Dirty covers can be removed and washed in no time. Simply follow the washing instructions, don’t iron or add bleach, and these covers will last a long time.
Velour TracksuitComfortable and stylish, this velour tracksuit is made from a blend of 60% cotton and 40% polyester. The velour knit makes this a flexible garment ideal for a trip to the gym or casual daily wear.
This easy-care garment is machine washable and can be ironed on a cool setting if needed. You can also machine dry it on a low setting. Being part polyester makes this a wash and wear solution for your active life.
A flexible drawstring waistband, half-kangaroo pockets, rib-knit cuffs, and hem make this top and pants set versatile and a pleasure to wear. Available in several color options, this tracksuit will suit both your style and budget.
Velour vs Velvet: Which Is Better?
Both velvet and velour are luxurious and soft fabrics. Although velvet is shinier than velour, they are suitable for the same projects. Their different levels of shine will give a different texture to the finished item.
There isn’t much to choose from between the two. Neither is better than the other. The one you use depends on your personal preference and the look you are trying to achieve. It’s also down to your budget. Velvet is more expensive than velour. You may find your project will only be affordable if you choose the cheaper option.
Let me know in the comments if you liked the article. Have you used velvet or velour in your projects? Which one do you prefer?