I'm Majorly Afraid of Velvet—Here's My Story

I remember it like it was yesterday. My mother bought me this dress that was so beautiful—it was a gorgeous black and purple paisley pattern with an adorable peter pan collar, puff sleeves and a satin waistband with an oversized bow in back (hey, it was 1992).

I was five years old, and delighted by any piece of clothing that seemed fit for a barbie. In fact, I insisted on wearing fancy dresses almost everyday to preschool and kindergarten.

I loved the art of getting dressed up from a young age. So believe me when I say this dress was special—it was my dream dress. I remember the day I got to wear it. It was my fifth birthday party. Excitement rushed through my little veins as my mom finally slipped the silk lining over my shoulders, and then I shimmied my arms through the puff sleeves. This was it, this was the moment I had been waiting for. I finally get to wear the dress. 

But then, as I grabbed the dress to help my mom pull it down, something wasn't right. "What was that terrible feeling?" I thought to myself. I touched the paisley print fabric of my dreams again, only to be greeted by something that felt even more disturbing than the last touch. My arms flared up in goosebumps and I think I even let out a little shriek.

Velvet dress

How could something so beautiful feel this awful? What was happening to me? That's the day I learned about my fear of velvet and how I despise it with every inch of my being. For a while, I kept this secret to myself. How many things are actually covered in velvet? When you're five, not many. But slowly, velvet started creeping it's way into my life.

Velvet dress

While the velvet torture didn't stop there (see horrific photo above—also what's up with that pose?), the next major moment I remember was buying a dress for our holiday dance cotillion. I went to a really small school, and was teased a lot in middle school even though I was still "friends" with the popular crowd. My mom was good friends at the time with another girl's mom in my class, so in turn, we hung out often, except she was way cooler and prettier than me (or so I thought).

My popular friend's mom took us shopping for cotillion and by some stroke of luck my friend wanted to get matching dresses. With me. I was so excited I could burst, until I saw the dress she picked out–an empire waisted, long sleeve dress with the bottom portion coated in the devil's fabric. She was to wear red and I was to wear green, and we were going to look so cute with black tights and white gloves and our matchy patchy dresses… that is, if I could hide my velvet phobia.

Desperate to be cool, I happily agreed on the dress. I still remember every painstaking minute of that cotillion, too. The way I could feel my dance partner's hand touch my back, grazing the velvet… even if it wasn't me physically touching the velvet, I could feel him touching it and that even sent shrills through my spine. I somehow made it through the dance class, but decided to swear off the fabric for good.

Fast-forward a few decades and yes, I am a grown woman and still hate the feel of velvet. I learned that while it's not super common, I'm not entirely alone either in my disdain for it. Like most things, the phobia has faded to more of a murmur, and since velvet is so in vogue these days, I've managed to make a few exceptions. I do have a velvet blazer, but the lining is so thick I can't even tell that it's velvet from the inside (if you hate velvet like me, you know what I mean).

allison mcnamara velvet blazer

Ironically, I love the luxe look of it. There's something about velvet that just feels so posh and glamorous. So much so that I was desperate to incorporate velvet into my home decor. I settled on these sumptuous, navy velvet chairs in my living room. Now obviously I haven't sat on them (nor will I ever), but they do add tons of texture and dimension to any space or outfit.

Velvet chairs velvet phobia

The moral of the story is I've learned to live with my fear of velvet. It makes for a pretty funny talking point when it comes up in conversation, too. In fact, the reason I'm writing this story today is because my editor wanted me to try out the velvet lip trend and I had to politely pass on that one.

Does anyone else have a fear of velvet like me? I'd love to hear your story– you can find me @allisonmcnamara on Instagram.


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