This is a list of fashion-related words that differentiate the fashion talk of the common man from the fashion elite. You can call it the fashion jargon tossed around by the designers and editors who decide the course of fashion.
The fashion connoisseurs use them as part of their everyday conversation. Some of these words are common terms but some were unfamiliar to me, even technical.
If you want to be part of the fashion crowd you have to sprinkle some of them in your conversation or at least know some of them so that you know what they are talking about.
Common Fashion Terms
In the meantime, you may want to check out some other categories and terms very much related to fashion.
I have skipped these terms in this post, because they are better elaborated elsewhere. But they are also very much related to fashion and you may want to read them after this one is over.
Emphasis given to a distinctive characteristic of a garment. It can be a colour or trimming or accessory.
In fashion, accessories refer to items with a useful or decorative purpose used in conjunction with one’s outfit. They complement and enhance the clothes worn. Include Belts & Suspenders, Bridal Veils, Eyewear, Footwear, Gloves & Mittens, Handbags, Handkerchiefs, Headwear, Jewelry, Legwear, Neckwear, Shawls & Wraps, Umbrellas, Watches.
Treatment done on fabric to fade the colour with bleach solution. Check out the post on different ways (15) to distress your jeans to look fashionable
Characteristic clothes worn by those studying or teaching in colleges/ universities.
Bright dark colours like fluorescent colours. These are used as an emphasis rather than as the whole colour of a design.
Refers to things like shoes, hats, jewellery, neckwear, belts, scarfs, gloves, corsets, lingerie, boutonnieres that are added to an outfit to make it more fashionable.
The process of adding accessory to clothing on display.
Clothes worn by the participants in sports events.
This refers to having no colour; in fashion, it means black or white colours.
A popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behavior.
Garment/design similar to another original design/model but having some characteristic changes.
Warm colours like shades of red.
Androgyny in fashion refers to dressing in styles that make it difficult for the viewer to determine the gender of the person. Gender-neutral fashion. Also called Unisex fashion. A style that is neither strongly feminine or masculine. More details on androgynous style here.
Anime is short for animation and refers to a dressing style that follows the fashion on Japanese Anime cartoons. Mostly features punk style clothing.
Dressing in styles different from the fashion of the day; showing an indifference to fashion and its varying trends. Other terms used synonymously are anti-establishment, edgy fashion, alternate fashion, counterculture, and counterfashion.
A style of the past.
Treatment done on fabric to increase the wear resistance, preventing uneven and worn look of fabric surface.
A style that resembles an army uniform (military style).
Style incorporating geometric patterns in typical colours of yellow green gold silver and black.
Style that incorporates linear and curvilinear designs.
a la mode
French term for fashion. Pronounced as a-lə-ˈmod
A sporty easy going casual style of clothing.
Another word for clothes, clothing and garments.
Involves assembling, cutting, finishing, grading, labeling, marketing of garments in an industrial set up.
One sided, not balanced. Learn more about asymmetrical hemlines here.
Large dressmaking organization. Pronounced a-təl-ya
Clothing worn for athletic activities. Brands like Puma specialize in athletic clothing.
This French origin word is used to indicate something in its natural state. Like a nude body.
Refers to never seen before innovative designs by designers who are original thinkers bringing change to fashion.
Balance / symmetry
Having two opposing sides of same dimension.
This refers to a made-to-order garment made as per the customer’s characteristic measurements and specifications. Usually said about men’s formal clothes or wedding clothes.
Clothing suitable for wearing at cocktail bars.
Exaggerated style ; over ornate clothing style.
Clothing suitable for beach.
The fashionable world.
Black tie event
A dress code for evening events and social functions ; involves a tuxedo, tie and formal shoes. For girls, this is a long gown.
The term used for flashy ostentatious accessories.
Tight fitting clothing eg. Bodycon dress.
A store or shop (usually high end expensive store) selling unique items to a specific set of customers. Learn more about starting a boutique here.
Meaning borrowed from boyfriend; Clothing style belonging to males adapted to suit females; eg. Boyfriend jeans.
Bib and tucker
Colloquial term for clothes ( wear one’s finest clothes)
A design that is seen along the border of a fabric.
Bohemian style of fashion (Boho)
An unconventional style of dressing that draws inspiration from bohemian and hippie influences. Boho chic is a stylish bohemian fashion with many celebrities and socialities following this trend. Check out.
Business Formal dress code
Garments suitable for a formal event – suits for both men and women and tailored dresses for women.
Business Casual dress code
Clothes suitable for a semi-formal event – pants and shirts for men, pencil skirts and blouses for women ; not too casual like jeans or too formal like suits.
Loose fitting clothing.
This is a term used for a collection of a few timeless and essential items of clothing . Check out the post on the 18 pieces you should have in your capsule wardrobe
Cut of a garment
Style and shape of a garment and how it hangs on the body.
Design with elements of camouflage in it like the print / khaki colour.
A mandatory label found in all clothes that denotes atleast one method of caring for that garment/fabric in lieu of symbols. They usually have fabric details, its content, washing drying, bleaching and ironing instructions. Learn more about the 40+ fabric care label symbols here.
Informal wear; everyday garments.
A platform along which models walk to display clothes in fashion shows.
A prestigious coveted suit for women designed by the Famous French designer Coco Chanel.
The most dreaded word in fashion world these days – it means you are out of fashion in simple terms or the “opposite of trendy”.
Stylish / sophisticated. Pronounced shēk
A fashion with origin in the movies.
Street clothes with a sophisticated style.
Cocktail dress code
This is a party event – a suit for men and party dress for women.
Usually held twice a year in spring/summer and fall/ winter.
Design incorporating colour theory and colour harmony.
A style which is deemed timeless.
As per Wikipedia clique is a small close-knit group of people who do not readily allow others to join them. In fashion clique refers to a group of very fashion conscious people who share a common sense of style.
A set of creations of a designer for a particular season.
This is a technique in which large blocks of solid coloured fabric are joined (usually sewn) to form the garment; placing blocks of different colours side by side this way provides a visually striking effect. You can learn more about color blocking in this post.
This refers to a dyed fabric’s ability to resist fading or colour running when it is washed, exposure to sunlight etc.
A fashion industry terminology for a product in a specific color.
A pastime of dressing up in costume (Oxford dictionary).
A rustic look ; wearing tweeds.
These are colours in the blue family.
A current look.
This refers to the European style of clothing.
In fashion this refers to using colours which are in stark contrast to each other and hence both stand out.
Traditional dressing style.
Colours that relate to makeup/cosmetics used.
A dress style that is universal rather than localized.
Garments based a theme or a story.
This is a French term for male designers. The female designer is a couturiere.
A fashion which becomes very popular for a short period.
A combination of distinct styles; simple and refined; cool and feminine; feminine and flirtatious ; funky and fun.
This is jewelry made to complement a particular fashionable garment/collection ; usually inexpensive than real jewellery.
Cultural appropriation in fashion
This term is used when some one inappropriately adopts the fashion of a minority and somehow makes a mimicry of it without respecting the particular culture.
Style of clothing which is Out of fashion (no longer fashionable).
Area from the neck to the chest.
A modestly priced line of garments made by an haute couture designer.
The way a fabric falls/hangs on a body.
Drop tail style
This refers to clothing with the back having more length than the front.
This is a term related to men’s clothing – indicating a flamboyant self-absorbent style of dressing.
Clothing that has never been worn, often from a previous season.
In fashion, this refers to Color, Shape, line, texture, balance, harmony, proportion, pattern etc which are very important in designing well-liked clothes.
Double Denim Trend
This is a style of wearing more than one clothing in denim at a time Eg. Denim Jacket with denim jeans. Also referred to as Canadian Tuxedo.
Colours in the brown family.
Eclectic style of fashion
This is a fashion style composed of elements drawn from various sources; A mix of various styles.
Elegant dressing style
A sophisticated graceful style.
An outfit ( totally) that is coordinated and harmonious.
Eponymous fashion brand
When a designer decides to name a brand his own name ie the creator gives his own name to his brand. eg LOUIS VUITTON.
Native or traditional
A style that is fascinating and evokes the look of a foreign land.
The addition of decorative details or features.
A set of clothes that give out a look of unity and coordination.
A person who thinks up ideas for making very characteristic garments.
A presentation of clothes.
This refers to a style which is high end but looks effortless.
Small pieces of fabric used as a sample.
This refers to the application of certain resins/chemicals or making the fabric undergo some processes so that its functional or aesthetic appeal is enhanced.
A short lived fashion ; the popularity fades pretty fast after a burst.
Fashion in the digital age with social media and websites leading the way for major upheavals in fashion.
Refers to high fashion cities like Paris, New York, Los Angels, London, Tokyo, Berlin, Barcelona.
This refers to the rise rule and decline of a style.
Fashion Faux Pas
A misstep made in fashion like a wrong choice of clothing.
A prediction as to the fashions / styles/ trends that will be popular in the coming future.
A person who is ahead and knowledgeable of fashion trends.
Someone who is very popular for his/her fashion style that everyone looks up to him/her. eg Victoria Beckham, Kate Middleton, Priyanka Chopra, Harry Styles
All of the clothing a fashion designer produces for a specific category.
Those reporting the fashion events / shows / displays etc.
Displaying Formal collection of fashion styles by designers to merchandisers/ customers.
A company involved in fashion design.
A devoted follower of fashion.
A term used to refer to someone or something that has become popular for being very fashionable.
Knowledge of how to dress fashionably.
An imaginary police force that ensures that people dress according to fashion.
An initial drawing made for the purpose of garment design. It will give a basic idea about the garment.
Subdivisions of society that influence fashion and have a heavy influence on fashion elsewhere everywhere. The attitude and beliefs of the subculture are reflected in their clothing. Grunge, punk, goth, alternative, bohemian, rock, rap, and hip-hop are such subcultures.
A group of people who share a common sense of dressing style/ fad/ fashion.
These are prominent fabric patterns which are very popular like animal prints, African prints. check out the post on the 55 popular fabric patterns you will usually find on fabric surfaces.
Face of the fabric
The outer surface of the fabric ( also refers to facing)
A collection of expensive clothes belonging to a particular upcoming designer.
Military combat apparel.
Technical sketch of a design as if it were lying flat- the details include stitching techniques etc. Also called flats.You can make this by hand or with software like illustrator.
Fabric printed with floral patterns.
Formal clothing ( evening clothes)
An occasion dressing style; Long evening gown for females and suits/tuxedos for men.
An undergarment worn to smooth a figure.
Garconne; A boyish fashion worn by women ; also called flapper look.
A person whose gender identity cannot be categorized as solely male or female.
Shades of the same colour.
The style associated with the thinking man/woman, technology workers/ professionals. Tailored suits, over sized glasses.
Athleisure clothing in grey colour.
A messy unco-ordinated style of dressing seen in people who follow or like grunge music. Ripped jeans, layered clothing, black boots
Sewing notions like buttons zippers etc; also refers to a men’s clothing shop
A colloquial term for a person who is very aware or conscious of fashion and how he/ she looks.
Hand of a fabric
The feel of the fabric
Expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading exclusive fashion houses. It means the finest dress making in French language; simply termed as ‘couture’ pronounced kü-ˈtu̇r. Learn more about Haute Couture.
Heavy metal fashion
Fashion adopted by fans of heavy metal music (metal heads or headbangers); skinny fit jeans, jackets, clothes with patches and badges
The designing, making, and marketing of expensive, fashionable exclusive clothes ( as opposed to mass-market clothing); haute couture
An unusual ( to western style) bohemian fashion style characterized by long hair, jeans bell bottom pants peasant blouses tie and dye fabric, long full skirts etc
Tight fitting knitted garments that are worn on the leg and feet. It is usually made of highly stretchable fabrics like spandex.
A female body shape with a narrow waist and proportionately bigger hips ad bust; considered to be the ideal shape for women eg Hourglass figure of Marilyn Monroe
In the fashion world, a fashion house is a name used for a company dealing in fashion.
A style which sells very fast at that time
A fake or copy ; usually used for describing fur and jewellery
Imitating the colors of the rainbow
A color used in a fashion design for an impact
Kawaii is a cute fashion trend that originated in Japan. It follows the definite meaning of Kawaii – Japanese artistic and cultural style that emphasizes the quality of cuteness, using bright colours and characters with a childlike appearance.
In fashion refers to low quality style; garish style
A design that is a copy of a more expensive clothing
Lagenlook style ( Layered style)
This is a style in which different garments are layered over each other, in different lengths
Limited edition clothing
Also termed Special edition; This is a special designer collection made in limited numbers.
A collection of styles shown to a producer in a given season.
A reference guide used by people connected with fashion detailing garment styles price, colour, fabric details etc related to a line.
A book with all the photographs of a model, photographer, style, stylist, or images representing the full clothing line of a designer. It is meant as a catalog for marketing to be presented to the buyers.
Long line clothing
Clothing meant for tall people
Garments worn around the house
Made to measure garments
This refers to the use of preexisting template patterns and then making the garments out of them after adjusting to the measurements of the customer
A style that looks like the clothing of sailors
Mass produced / Fashion
Styles/ fashion that is widely accepted and hence made in large quantities
This refers to women’s clothing made to look like men’s ( also called mannish)
A fashion which is a mixture of styles, elements or trends
A simple understated look; a fashion consisting of simple styles and plain colours.
Clothes of a single colour
A physical or digital collage of design ideas used by fashion designers to consolidate their collections or get ideas. Will have details of an idea, drawings or photos, fabric swatches etc.
A design used in a pattern/ print / embroidery etc ; usually found recurring
This is a trial garment made to test a pattern ; it is originally made in the fabric muslin cotton
Neutral means without colour. In fashion Classic colours like black, white, gray, brown and beige and sometimes blue are called neutral colours. Read more on neutral colors here.
Off the rack
Another name for ready to wear mass-produced clothing in standard sizes that are made in a large number and are readily available in retail stores.
This refers to the style in which color graduates from light to dark
Garments which are of a much looser fit.
Refers to anything that is No longer fashionable; out of date fashion.(pronounced pasei) This is deemed an insult in fashionable circles
An Italian term that refers to a lifestyle that is luxurious and is hungry for very expensive designer garments – those who follow this lifestyle will always be perfectly dressed in the latest fashion trends. It is considered today as a symbol of excess and superficiality.
Style which represents flamboyance or confidence
Pantone colours refer to a colour reference system developed by the company Pantone Inc that standardizes the colours in the CMYK process. The pantone colours correspond exactly to the inks and dyes used to colour the fabric by various industries, basically for printing purposes and manufacture of coloured fabric.
A template used as a guide to make a garment.
Refers to ready to wear clothes by designers. Read more on Pret-a-porter in detail here.
Refers to adding cut out details or sheer elements in garments which reveals parts of the body
A style which is reminiscent of the country women folk with embroidered blouses and long skirts
This refers to fabric patterns with a print that consists of a large motif or design which is a stand out design and which is strategically placed on the garment which makes it a highlight
Post modern fashion
In this trend decoration is given more importance than function. Jean Francois Lyotard first explained this phenomenon; Vivienne Westwood, Alexande Mcqueen etc were proponents of this style, which had a lot of theatrical style to it.
This refers to a style of dressing that emphasizes one’s power. The word was coined in the 1970s and it meant a smartly tailored dressing meant to impress. Now represents clothes that men and women wear to workplaces and meetings to make them look powerful.
A collegiate look; for boys polo shirts, chinos and navy blazers
This refers to high-end collections of fashion designers marketed to upscale stores for customers expecting to spend the post-holiday season in warm-weather climates.
Print on print
Colorful and vibrant clothing with lots of different prints mixed in.
This is a style which epitomizes the punk subculture with its roots in music and emerged into prominence in the western world during the mid 1970s. Distressed jeans, metal studs, chains, body piercing and leather jackets all are characteristics of this style.
Resort wear (Cruise wear)
This is a line of clothing meant as holiday or travel collection; it is meant for a relaxed living for the affluent people; clothes meant for the poolside life. Also refer Pre-spring collection
Ready to wear or RTW
This is the term for factory made clothing in standardized sizes.
Style imitative of or derived from the trends of the recent past.
Influence of future as predicted in an earlier era – ie past’s vision of the future.
Garments that can be reversed and used from both sides. The seam allowances etc will be hidden with clever construction methods.
The fashion following the dressing style of music icon Elvis Presley;
characteristics are tight jeans or black pants (drainpipe pants), brothel creeper shoes, motorcycle jackets.
The kind of clothing that resembles clothes worn during hunting.
A garment made to be shown to the retailers/merchandisers.
Outline or shape of a design or garment.
A person who sews.
The finished edge of the fabric ( on opposite sides of the lengthwise fabric)
A shrink control process used on fabric.
The style which gives a slender slim streamlined look.
Slip on clothes
The type of clothes which are worn without any fastenings / just slip on through the head.
Clothing made to fit close to the body.
This is a type of basic pattern that is used as the building block for all other pattern making without any ease or design elements (craftsy.com) Learn more about making a sloper here.
This refers to the wordings printed or worked across the bodice of a garment. Eg slogans on the chest of a t-shirt.
A casual style of clothing meant for a relaxed look but can be used in a casual business setting too. American style dressing.
Bold and attention grabbing Jewelry meant to grab all eyeballs. Eg Statement necklace.
This is basically clothes meant for the streets – skater friendly garments. It is a broad difficult to define fashion and may mean simply urban fashion.More on Streetwear fashion here
A fabric faded through a specific process
A person who dresses clients in styles that she /he curates. It could be for editorial purposes, for celebrities, for branding purposes in marketing.
A carefree dressing style sported by surfers on beaches
Anything related to Tailoring, clothes, fashion or style of dress.;Of or pertaining to tailors and their trade (www.dictionary.com); it is also used in relation to the quality of a dress
Clothes that are bought separately and cover only part of the body but can be mixed and matched to create combinations. Eg: pants and shirts
This refers to clothing that gives support ; eg. muscular support for sports, support for bust, support for legs with ailments like a varicose vein
“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is What you choose.” Lauren Hutton
This refers to shifting from clothing style of one subculture to other; sometimes combining and transforming styles
Cotton jersey sports wear
Making of made to measure/custom made garments
Fashion belonging to the past
This refers to a concept behind a collection of clothes designed by fashion designers – usually they have a message or an attitude
Theme board (mood board)
A board with fashion drawings, sketches, swatches used to create a mood about a product.
This is a piece of clothing made by a fashion designer or a seamstress for testing purposes – it can be made to test a pattern or a design, to see how the garment will look and drape and whether it needs any alterations or additions. It is usually made in a cheap fabric
Tone on Tone
General term for Colour combinations with shades of the same colour.
A general direction in which something is developing or changing ( oxford dictionary)
An adjective used to describe someone who is very fashionable or stylish
Display of a designers collection in a store
Two prints that share the same colour combination in one garment
Clothing suitable for both female and male gender. Also called Androgynous style.
Up cycled clothing
This is the creative reuse of old clothes by changing certain design elements.
Functional clothing rather than decorative ; Clothes that serve a practical purpose. Usually points to work clothes. They are practical and functional rather than decorative. eg: a Raincoat protecting from rain
Clothing inspired from a previous era. Fashion/Things belonging to the time 20 years or older can be considered to be vintage. If you want to study more in depth about vintage fashion you may want to read these reference books on vintage costume designing.
Exaggeratedly narrow waist making the hips and bust look bigger in comparison; usually achieved by using corsets. This was the popular way of dressing in the 19th century England
Red, yellow and orange and in between colours in the colour wheel
In the fabric, fibers that run the width of the fabric.
Sheer fabric used to make clothes.
Style of clothing characterized by Wide legged trousers, slouchy silhouettes, big prints.
Abbreviations used in fashion
LBD – Little Black Dress
OOTD – Outfit of the Day
Reference : The Magic of Fashion: Ritual, Commodity, Glamour
By Brian Moeran