Real Clothes: Velvet underground

If there's one thing you can depend on this winter, it's that velvet will be putting in an appearance. But fear not, the Sloane Ranger's favourite fabric has moved on this season, and we are mercifully no longer limited to frumpy evening dresses. It's Gucci we have to thank for shaking things up this season - its rouched boots, glam skin-tight trousers and knee-skimming skirts in burgundy, lilac and black have given velvet the injection of louche sexiness it desperately needed.

But that doesn't mean that wearing it is limited to the night. Choose a simple velvet jacket, team it with jeans, boots and a polo neck sweater or, for a more formal look, a smart pair of smoking pants. If your imagination stretches a little further than the occasional piece, then pay a visit to Ghost. Its winter collection has some exquisite pieces - quilted skirts, simple slip dresses and velvet tops embroidered with mohair.

Alas, quality doesn't come cheap, and you may find yourself hitting the high street. Luckily, there's no shortage of diversity here either. Oasis has come up trumps with its folksy tunic top and skirt, while Karen Millen's rouched V-neck comes over all rock chick.Warehouse has also done a whole range in velvet, from skirts with pretty hemline details to the perfect empire-line dress.

Above: burgundy velvet dress (sizes 8-14), pounds 340, Elspeth Gibson, 7 Pont Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 235 0601). Pink velvet boots (sizes 3-8), pounds 445, Gina Couture, 9 Old Bond Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 409 7090).

Right: purple knit top (sizes s-l), pounds 57, Joseph, 26 Sloane Street, London SW1. 81 King Street, Manchester (tel: 0171 590 6200). Red quilted skirt (sizes petite- large), pounds 425, Ghost, 36 Ledbury Road, London W11 (tel: 0181 960 3121).

Opposite page, clockwise from top left: purple velvet butterfly top (sizes petite- large), pounds 150. Stone velvet skirt pounds 235, both Ghost, 36 Ledbury Road, London W11 (tel: 0181 960 3121). Zebra print slides (sizes 3-8), pounds 275, Gina Couture, 9 Old Bond Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 409 7090).

Pink mohair embroidered top (sizes petite-large), approx pounds 145, Ghost, 36 Ledbury Road, London W11. Red velvet trousers (sizes s-l), pounds 145, Joseph, 26 Sloane Street, London SW1. 81 King Street, Manchester. Red velvet diamante scarf pounds 55, Studd, Browns Focus, 38-39 South Molton Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 514 0063).

Lilac cotton sweater (sizes s-l), pounds 890, purple velvet skirt with satin trim (sizes 6-14) pounds 625, both Marc Jacobs, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1 (tel: 0171 235 5000). Purple glitter pumps (sizes 3-8), pounds 65, Bertie, 36 South Molton Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 380 3800).

Heather fine mohair sweater (sizes 6-14), pounds 168, Krizia, 25 Conduit Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 491 4987). Cream rouched velvet skirt (sizes 8-16), pounds 230, Whistles, 12 St Christopher's Place, London W1 (tel: 0171 487 4484).

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