Fashion Terminology

No matter what your profession is, you are bound to find yourself in a situation where you need to know the meaning of an unfamiliar word. If you’re lucky, it’s something simple like “pants.” But most often, it’s not so easy. Like when someone mentions “pinstripes” and you have no idea what they mean. Or if someone says “shoelaces” and all that comes to mind is tying shoes.

45+ Common Fashion Terms

This article provides a list of common fashion terms with definitions.

  • Activewear: Clothing or garments that are designed for physical exercise and other activities.
  • Androgynous: Refers to clothing, designs, or styles which have no specific gender identification. It may be unisex or specifically masculine-or feminine-based.
  • Appliqué: Small pieces of fabric sewn onto a larger piece in order to decorate the main garment with motifs like flowers, animals, patterns etcetera….
  • Asymmetrical: Differing from symmetry; not balanced equally on two opposite sides as in an object’s shape and proportions. A design asymmetric is one where there are unequal parts such as height–the right side being shorter than the left side…An animal has an asymmetric tail because it cannot be balanced equally on both sides.
  • Atelier: A studio or workshop in which an artist, designer, or other creative professional works and the place where a painter’s canvases are stretched.
  • Bespoke: Tailoring clothes to order for one person from fabric of choice as opposed to ready-made clothing sold off the rack at retail stores…The word bespoke is derived from Old French “bespeek,” meaning ‘to speak.’ The term was used centuries ago when tailors would use chalk marks on cloth that they were sewing so that clients knew what type of garment it was supposed to be.
  • Brand: Something (such as a product) with a name associated with its producer, trade name, or trademark.
  • Bugle beads: A type of bead that is made from a horn and usually has a sharp edge to cut the thread.
  • Capsule Wardrobe: A small selection of fashionable clothes for any given season–a wardrobe consisting only of items which go well together, but not necessarily those with matching colors or patterns. It’s generally considered easier to assemble outfits when dressing according to this principle.
  • Classic: Something regarded as a standard example of its type. New inventions or styles are often classed into this category, and it is contrasted with the new and modern.
  • Corporate: A word describing clothing suitable for business attire such as suits, blouses, skirts etc.
  • Cruise wear: Clothing appropriate for people going on cruises e.g., sundresses, sandals, shorts.
  • Designer :A person who designs garments (as clothes) usually out of cloths cut by hand; fashion designer.
  • Dolman sleeve: A loose-fitting, short or three-quarter length sleeve that flares out from the shoulder to the cuff.
  • Eclectic: Diverse in character; composed of elements drawn from diverse sources.
  • Edgy: Extremely modern and fashion forward–not following traditional styles but instead taking a risk with cutting edge design and creativity (also known as avant garde).
  • Elegant R efined, tasteful, graceful. Refers to highly styled clothing often made of luxurious material such as silk or satin…In contrast to ‘fancy’, elegant is an adjective typically used for female attire while fancy can be applied more freely between both genders.
  • Eponymous: Pertaining to something which derives its name from a person or place, for example: the ‘Diana’ gown is eponymous because it derives its name from Princess Diana.
  • Fast Fashion: Clothing that is inexpensive and aimed at those who prefer to buy what they need when they need it–as opposed to investing in clothing which will be worn season after season.
  • Fit-and-flare dress: A garment with flared skirt below fitted waist; sometimes called an A-line dress .
  • Fitted: Clothing that has been tailored so as to fit closely but comfortably around all of your curves. Contrasts with loose, tight, oversized etcetera…The adjective ‘fitted’ also means “composed” or “suitable.”
  • Flare: The shape of a skirt that widens from the waist to hem.
  • Fitted dress: A garment with fitted waist and skirt below it, usually flared; sometimes called an empire-waist dress or columnar dress .
  • Fashion Press: The fashion press is a segment of the news media that reports on and covers all things related to fashion.
  • Glam: Glamorous, elegant and expensive–usually applied to clothing. The term is often used for the type of clothes that celebrities wear on red carpets….
  • Haute couture: Haute couture (literally “high fashion”) refers to high-end or exclusive custom-fit clothing created by a prestigious designer at his or her workshop in Paris, Italy, London etcetera…It is usually worn with evening dress such as ball gowns and tuxedos rather than daywear.
  • Hemline: Refers to the lower edge of a garment’s skirt; can be either short enough to show your shoes (above) or much longer so you don’t see them (below).
  • In vogue: A synonym for fashionable–referring to clothing styles that are currently popular.
  • Juniors: A term usually applied to clothing for girls in the age range of 12-19 years, but can also be used as a catch-all category which includes all sizes below misses and plus size. Juniors is often regarded as the commercial or main line of any given company’s clothes whereas miss refers more specifically to higher end garments made for women 18+.
  • Off the rack: Clothing that is available to buy without any alterations made–definitely not custom-fit.
  • On trend: Something which is fashionable or in vogue; typically refers to clothing styles rather than accessories, makeup etcetera…
  • Oversize: Clothes with a generous sizing (generally size XXL and up).
  • Petite: A person of small stature, usually below average height. Refers to clothes labeled as “petite” due to their short length and/or smaller proportions eg sleeves. Contrasts with ‘oversized’.
  • Punk: Clothing style that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a reaction to mainstream culture; characterized by clothing with bright colors, unusual cuts or graphics (sometimes graffiti) .
  • Ready-to-wear: Clothing that is off the rack–available to buy without any alterations made. Contrasts with ‘made-to-order’ which refers to custom garments created for an individual customer at their request.
  • Relaxed fit: Clothes designed so they are not tight but still have shape around your curves like a slouchy sweater dress. This term contrasts with loose, tight and oversized clothes–which can often refer more specifically to pants/jeans.
  • Reversible: Clothes which can be worn in two different ways, such as a cardigan with buttons on the front and back or a skirt with two side seams that allows you to change between wearing it pleated at the waist or gathered below your hips .
  • Sample: In fashion, an example of new clothing design made up for display purposes; also called ‘mock-up.’ Contrasts with production garment–the actual article created from this sample after being graded by grading board (see below).
  • Silhouette: The shape/contours of a person’s figure seen cast against the light. Refers specifically to how clothes hang on someone’s body. The term is most often used when referring to women’s wear.
  • Slipover: A loose fitting outer garment that is worn over one or more other garments, usually a dress shirt and trousers (or skirt) . The term contrasts with sweater which hangs down the back while slipovers are generally oversized in front. Slip overs can be buttoned up at the neck like a cardigan or left open–a style popularized by British designer Mary Quant in 1965 called ‘the mini-dress’.
  • Sophisticated: Refers to clothing styles for women who want to portray an image of elegance and sophistication but still appear modern; may also refer more specifically to clothes made from luxury fabrics such as silk velvet etcetera… Contrasts with elegant which typically refers to classic looks without being too trendy.
  • Sweater: A knitted garment designed to be worn close-fitting and/or long sleeved, typically made from wool or a wool blend fabric–especially associated with the casual look of college students in the United States (known as ‘sweatpants’). Contrasts with cardigans which are usually looser fitting and can also refer specifically to sweaters that have buttons down one side rather than up both sides like traditional pullovers.
  • Sportswear: Clothes designed for sports and active wear–typically made from synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon or spandex. Contrasts with casualwear which is more relaxed in fit and may also refer to clothes that can be worn casually but are not optimized for sportswear (eg a dress).
  • Tailored: Clothes cut/sewn specifically to suit your body shape; typically refers to suits or trousers fitted through the waist rather than loose-fitting like sweatpants, jeans etcetera…
  • Vintage: Clothing modeled after past styles–generally 20th century vintage clothing would date back before 1980. A garment labeled “vintage” often features aspects of design from previous decades such as pleats on skirts, cap sleeves on blouses or a longer length of jacket.
  • Workwear: Clothes designed for work, typically made from durable fabrics such as wool, cotton or linen.

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