Chenille is a thick fabric like bruised soft corduroy. The stuff lurked spongily under every table cloth when I was young.
It came in the colours of decay - blood red, corpse yellow, dead-leaf brown, sludge green - and, as for its purpose, that was a complete mystery to me at the time.
Still, if people wanted to feel gloomy then it was just the stuff to encourage feelings of doom.
I expect it'll be back in fashion any minute.
Word To Use Today: chenille. The great thing about the word chenille is that it's named after both an insect and a mammal. It comes from France, where it means hairy caterpillar (the hairy thread chenille is made from is also called chenille) which comes in turn from the Latin canicula, which means little dog.
I think the purpose of the stuff was to prevent dents to the table top - not that anyone ever saw the table top, naturally, because it was always covered in chenille.