Choosing between fabrics is never a simple task, especially when they nearly look and feel the same. If you are reading this, chances are that you are in this very situation with velvet and suede.
So, velvet vs. suede – what are the differences? Velvet and suede are not the same. They may share some similarities in appearance and texture but have different origins, processes, properties, and applications.
Need more information to reach a decision? Read on to learn more as we compare and contrast velvet and suede in this article.
What Is The Difference Between Velvet And Suede?
Before comparing velvet and suede, here’s a little introduction to their background.
Velvet is a classic fabric dating back to the 13th century and has its origins in East Asia. Back then, it was reserved for royals due to its plush feel, attractive sheen, and beautiful drape.
Initially, the fabric was exclusively produced using silk. Silk was synonymous with wealth and nobility, so velvet cost a fortune.
It was cost-prohibitive partly due to the status it symbolized and the high cost of production at that time. Before industrialization, the process of making velvet was complex and labor-intensive.
Today velvet fabric is available in fibers other than silk and is accessible by nearly everyone. Cotton, polyester, nylon, viscose, and rayon blends all make velvet.
These non-silk velvets are more affordable thanks to industrialization and new technology. Nonetheless if you know your velvet, you’ll realize they are slightly inferior in quality and texture than the original silk velvet.
The higher-quality silk velvet remains expensive and is a rare gem only accessible by upmarket shoppers.
Regardless of the fibers used, velvet is generally characterized by a soft short pile with a luxurious feel. It is also light reflective at angles and glistens.
Suede fabric is relatively new and not as old as velvet. The term suede has its roots in the French language, meaning gloves imported from Sweden.
Therefore, the fabric possibly has origins in Sweden around the 18th century. Natural suede is a type of leather but is nothing like tough full-grained leather. Suede is thinner, more pliable, and comfortable. It has a soft fuzz and luxurious look.
For many years it was primarily used for making women’s gloves before it was discovered to be favorable for other applications.
Like many other natural fabrics with a synthetic twin, we also have faux suede, which is made from synthetic fibers. Faux suede costs less and lasts longer as it is waterproof.
It’s no surprise that velvet and suede often get mistaken for one another. Both fabrics are napped and have a fine fuzzy texture making it hard for some folks to tell them apart.
But velvet and suede couldn’t be more different. Here’s a quick chart summarizing their main differences before diving deep into the details.
|Source||Textile fibers like silk and polyester||Raw hides from lamb, goat, deer, cows, and pigs|
|Processing||Weaving and spinning threads using a loom||Leather separated, brushed, tanned, and dyed|
|Properties||Medium heat retention, high breathability, doesn’t stretch, doesn’t pill or snag, shrinks, medium moisture wicking||Medium heat retention, medium breathability, has some give, doesn’t pill or snag, shrinks, wicks moisture|
|Care||Hand wash||Dry clean|
|Uses||Clothing, hats, upholstery, beddings, and curtains||Shoes, hats, bags, jackets, seat covers, and sofa lining|
The Source Of Velvet Vs Suede
Genuine velvet and suede are both natural fabrics made from animal-based materials, but that is as far as the similarity goes in terms of origin.
Velvet fabric is woven from silk threads. Silk is a natural fiber spun from the cocoons of silkworms into yarn.
We also have wool velvet from animal hair and cotton velvet from a natural plant-based fiber. Synthetic velvet made using polyester, nylon, or rayon blends has become prominent too.
Suede is obtained from raw hides of animals, just like leather. In fact, suede is leather without the top grain. It is the soft layer underneath it.
But like velvet, we also have synthetic suede, also known as faux suede or suedette. This type of suede is made from synthetic chemicals, otherwise poly plastic fibers. It can be woven or non-woven.
The second difference between velvet and suede is in the processing. The latter is obtained as a whole material and undergoes modification, while the former is put together from scratch using threads.
Velvet is a woven fabric. It utilizes silk threads that undergo weaving and spinning as other textiles do but in a unique way. To construct velvet, a special loom that spins two layers of fabric simultaneously is utilized.
The fabric is constructed by warp threads dragged up over evenly spaced wires to form loops which are the basis of velvet’s structure. The weft threads include the foundation fabric from which the loops project.
The wires are withdrawn as the weaving advances leaving behind looped threads. Finally, the layers are split by cutting the loops creating a short pile on either fabric layer.
Suede, on the other hand, utilizes an entirely different procedure from the typical construction of fabrics. There is no weaving or spinning involved.
The creation of suede begins with animal skin, otherwise known as rawhide. Lambs and young goats are preferred for high quality softer suede. Mature cows also produce suede, though this variety is slightly tough and not as soft. Pigs produce suede too.
Processing suede involves drying and splitting the leather. Here, the underside, which is softer and more supple, is separated from the rough full-grain top side.
This split entails sanding the upper grain until the softer napped underbelly is exposed. The resulting material is pliable with a soft fuzz on both sides. It is then conditioned and treated to prevent rotting, brushed, and finally dyed.
Properties Of Velvet Vs Suede
Velvet and suede share a couple of similar characteristics and some diverse ones.
Velvet and suede both have a short nap with a soft buttery feel. The only difference is that one is a naturally occurring fuzz, and the other is created by thread manipulation.
Also, suede has a matte appearance compared to velvet which is glossy and shimmers at an angle.
Velvet is highly absorbent. It is capable of absorbing water up to three times its weight.
Genuine suede is not waterproof as you’d expect. It is a permeable membrane and absorbs water, though this is not a desirable trait. Water tends to damage the suede.
Both fabrics, despite being lightweight, are surprisingly toasty when worn. That’s because the heat retention is high for suede and medium for velvet.
Velvet is a highly breathable fabric with medium moisture-wicking properties. Therefore, despite being good at heat retention, it allows airflow, which prevents you from getting too hot.
Suede is a relatively breathable fabric too, thanks to its porosity. It is good at wicking away moisture. Allowing heat and moisture to escape prevents excess sweating.
Velvet does not stretch. However, it will stretch if it has an element of elastic fiber like spandex or lycra incorporated into the weave.
Contrarily, suede does stretch. It is not super stretchy but has some give. It will stretch out with time after tension is applied consistently.
A perfect example is with tight suede shoes. You can break in suede shoes by always wearing them.
Shrinkage is an inherent quality of natural fibers, particularly when exposed to heat. So, you can expect both suede and velvet to shrink when exposed to heat, such as when washing in hot water.
Pilling And Snagging
Both suede and velvet are unlikely to pill or snag. However, the pile on suede may matt if not cared for well.
Laundering And Care
Caring for napped fabrics is not always easy. Caution must be taken to avoid ruining the softness and density of the pile. Damage to the fuzz is irreversible and cannot be repaired, so your suede or velvet item will be as good as done.
Similarly, laundering suede fabric requires a great deal of care as inappropriate cleaning methods could damage it. Water is the greatest enemy of suede.
The nap has tiny natural “hairs.” When left wet for too long and then allowed to dry, they turn stiff and brittle. Brittle hairs have elevated chances of breaking off. The loss of these hairs ruins the look and feel of suede as the nap becomes uneven and rough.
Also, vigorous scrubbing and agitation will certainly cause loss of hair. For this reason, you should never clean suede in the washing machine. This only means that a non-water-based cleaning method like dry cleaning is the most ideal for suede.
It is best to leave the cleaning of suede items to professionals unless you know exactly what you are doing. It’s better to pay that small fee than ruin a beautiful and high-end suede item.
Unfortunately, leather-based suede is not waterproof. It is porous and lets through water which is also absorbed by the hairs.
So as much as you avoid cleaning your suede using water, you should also reserve it for indoor use. You can take suede outdoors when it is not raining or snowing.
Caring for velvet is slightly easier than suede. Although velvet appears more delicate than suede, it is less sensitive to water. Velvet is more resilient and not damaged as easily. Still, caution must be exercised when laundering it.
Like suede, you want to avoid the forceful cleaning of a washing machine. Instead, hand wash your velvets in cold water and rub any stained spots gently.
It would be best if you did not wring velvet. Just let the excess water drip out before hanging the article. You should never iron either fabric. You can use low heat steam and a soft brush to tame any wrinkles.
Brushing the fabric in the nap’s direction regularly also goes a long way in preserving the pristine look of the materials.
For non-clothing items like suede or velvet-covered sofas, vacuuming before spot cleaning is necessary to eliminate dirt trapped inside the hairs.
Uses Of Suede And Velvet
Wondering when and where to use suede or velvet? Well, the applications are almost similar, but one fabric would be better suited than the other for specific uses. Your choice also depends on your style and budget.
Furniture And Upholstery
Both suede and velvet are popular fabrics for interior design. What you choose, however, will depend on the style and theme you are going for.
They are excellent choices for lining sofas and upholstered chairs and Ottomans, as well as slipcovers for various items.
If you want a rich, vibrant, and flashy style at home, go with embossed velvet. It is also an attractive option for throw pillows covers and curtains due to its striking sleek appearance and easier drape.
Velvet would be the best for a home setup because it is more durable and easier to clean correctly than suede.
At home, furniture is more prone to spills and stains from food, beverages, hair, and feet. You’d appreciate the less fussy fabric of the two when it comes to cleaning.
But for simplicity with a touch of class, opt for suede. It is particularly great for office or automobile interior furnishing due to its formal look with a touch of class.
Suede usually is used for making shoes such as loafers, moccasins, mules, and dress boots.
It is preferred over leather due to its flexibility which makes manipulation of the shoe’s shape easy. Also, because it is super soft, comfy, and breathable.
Velvet is rarely picked for making shoes as it is less formal. Yet, finding a velvet shoe is not impossible. You may opt to line shoes like heels with velvet for a fancy look.
Clothing And Accessories
Both velvet and suede have secured a place in many people’s wardrobes as warm weather essentials. The two fabrics keep you warm while allowing you to breathe so you do not get too hot and sweaty.
In clothing, suede is primarily used for outerwear such as jackets and coats. Furthermore, it has a more masculine charm than velvet due to its clean, minimalist appearance; hence men prefer it for a sharp and polished ensemble.
In addition, suede is a go-to for making accessories such as bags and hats.
Velvet being plusher and shinier, works best for feminine wear. Its lavish looks and alluring sheen and drape make the fabric ideal for long elegant dresses and gowns.
And because an elegant dress needs a matching purse, velvet is also used to make ornate purses and other accessories such as hats and feminine gloves.
Moreover, its softness and coziness have earned it a name for quality robes and intimate wear.
Velvet and suede are sumptuous fabrics, but you’ll splurge extra for genuine suede than you would for cotton and synthetic velvets.
Natural suede is a premium fabric and certainly costs significantly more. It is harder to come by as faux suede takes over.
Authentic silk velvet, however, has the highest price tag among all types of velvet and suede. It sits at the top tier of fabrics and commands the attention of elite consumers.
We believe we’ve touched on everything you desired to know about these two premium fabrics, velvet, and suede. Let’s go over the highlights once more.
Suede and velvet are exquisite fabrics that, though sourced and manufactured differently, bear close resemblance. They even have comparable properties.
They are warm, cozy, breathable fabrics with fair moisture-wicking properties. You can use them for lining furniture and upholstery, clothing, and accessories.
Suede is better suited for outerwear, footwear, and accessories like bags, while velvet plays a better role in fashionable and elegant clothing. It is incredibly good for feminine dressing.
However, suede requires more delicate handling and maintenance than velvet to avoid ruining it. Therefore, if frequent professional care is not a constraint for you, go for suede.
Velvet is more durable and only cheaper than suede if made from fiber other than silk. Silk velvet is the epitome of luxurious fabrics and costs a fortune.