Fashion Vocabulary -150+ words related to Fashion

fashion vocabulary terms

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.

In the meantime, you may want to check out some other categories 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.

Fashion Glossary

Accent

Emphasis given to a distinctive characteristic of a garment

Accessories

In fashion accessories refers 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

Acid wash

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

Achromatic colours

This refers to having no colour ; in fashion it means black or white colours.

Androgynous style

Androgyny in fashion refers to dressing in styles that makes it difficult for the viewer to determine the gender of the person.Gender neutral fashion. Also called Unisex fashion 

Anime

Anime is short for animation and refers to a dressing style that follows the fashion on Japanese Anime cartoons. Mostly features punk style clothing.

Anti Fashion

Dressing in styles different from the fashion of the day; showing an indifference to fashion and its varying trends

Antique style

A style of the past

Anti Pill

Treatment done on fabric to increase the wear resistance, preventing uneven and worn look of fabric surface

Army look

A style that resembles an army uniform (military style)

Art deco

Style incorporating geometric patterns in typical colours of yellow green gold silver and black

Art Nouveau

Style that incorporates linear and curvilinear designs

Academic costume

Characteristic clothes worn by those studying or teaching in colleges/ universities

Accent

This is an emphasis given to something like a colour or trimming or accessory

Accent shades

Bright dark colours like fluorescent colours. These are used as an emphasis rather than as the whole colour of a design.

Accessory

Refers to things like shoes, hats, jewellery, neckwear, belts, scarfs, gloves, corstes lingerioe boutonnieres that is added to an outfit to make it more fashionable

Accessorizing

The process of adding accessory to clothing on display

Active sportswear

Clothes worn by the participants in sports events

Adaptation

Garment/design similar to another original design/model but having some characteristic changes

Advanced colours

Warm colours like shades of red

a la mode

French term for fashion

Accoutrements

A popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behavior.

American Style

A sporty easy going casual style of clothing

Androgynous style

A style that is neither strongly feminine or masculine

Apparel

Another word for clothes, clothing and garments

Apparel manufacturing

Involves assembling, cutting, finishing, grading, labeling, marketing of garments in an industrial set up

Asymmetrical

One sided , not balanced

Atelier

Large dressmaking organization

Attire

Clothing

Athletic clothing

Clothing worn for athletic activities. Brands like Puma specialize in athletic clothing

Au naturel

This french origin word is used to indicate something in its natural state. Like a nude body

Avant-Garde

Refers to never seen before innovative designs by designers who are original thinkers bringing change to fashion

Body clothes

Underclothing

Balance / symmetry

Having two opposing sides of same dimension

Bespoke

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

Barfly apparel

Clothing suitable for wearing at cocktail bars

Baroque

Exaggerated style ; over ornate clothing style

Beachwear

Clothing suitable for beach

Beaumonde

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.

Bling

The term used for flashy ostentatious accessories

Body-con clothing

Tight filling clothing eg. Bodycon dress

Boutique

A store or shop ( usually high end expensive store) selling unique items to a specific set of customers

Boyfriend style

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)

Border print

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.

Bulky clothing

Loose fitting clothing

Capsule wardrobe

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

Camouflage clothing

Design with elements of camouflage in it like the print / khaki colour

Care label

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

Casual wear

Informal wear; everyday garments

Catwalk

A platform along which models walk to display clothes in fashion shows.

Channel suit

A prestigious coveted suit for women designed by the Famous french designer Coco Chanel

Chic

Stylish / sophisticated

Chinois

Chinese style

Cine mode

A fashion with origin in the movies

City wear

Street clothes with a sophisticated style

Cocktail dress code

This is a party event – a suit for men and party dress for women

Collection

Usually held twice a year in spring/summer and fall/ winter

Colour coordination

Design incorporating colour theory and colour harmony

Classic

A style which is deemed timeless

Clique

As per Wikipedia clique is a small close-knit group of people who do not readily allow others to join them.In fashion cliue refers to a group of very fashion consious people who share a common sense of style.

Collection

A set of creations of a designer for a particular season. 

Colour blocking

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 

Colour fast

This refers  to a dyed fabric’s ability to resist fading or colour running when it is washed, exposure to sunlight etc.

Colorway

A fashion industry terminology for a product in a specific color.

Cosplay

A pastime of dressing up in costume (Oxford dictionary)

Country look

A rustic look ; wearing tweeds

Cool colours

These are colours in the blue family

Contemporary style

A current look

Continental style

This refers to the European style of clothing

Contrast

In fshion this refers to using colours which are in stark constrast to each other and hence both stand out.

Conservative styles

Traditional dressing style

Cosmetic colours

Colours that relates to makeup/cosmetics used

Cosmopolitan

Dress style that is universal rather than localised

Costume

Garments based a theme or a story

Couturier

This is a french term for male designers. The female designer is a couturiere

Craze

A fashion which becomes extremely popular for a short period

Composite style

A combination of distinct styles; simple and refined; cool and feminine; feminine and flirtatious ; funky and fun.

Costume jewelry

This is jewelry made to complement a particular fashionable garment/collection ;  usually inexpensive than real jewellery

Dated fashion

Style of clothing which is Out of fashion  (no longer fashionable)

Diffusion Line

A  modestly priced line of garments made by an haute couture designer

Distressing

Process in which fabric is artificially aged or worn

Draping

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.

Dandy style

This is a term related to mens clothing – indicating a flamboyant self-absorbant style of dressing

Deadstock

Clothing that has never been worn, often from previous season.

Design elements

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 as Canadian Tuxedo

Earth colors

Colours in the brown family

Ecclectic style of fashion

This is a fashion style composed of elements drawn from various sources;A mix of various styles 

Electric colours

Brilliant colours

Elegant dressing style

A sophisticated graceful style

Ensemble

An outfit ( totally) that is coordinated and harmonious

Eponymous fashion brand

When a designer decides to name a brand his own name ie creator gives his own name to his brand. eg LOUIS VUITTON

Ethnic

Native or traditional

Exotic

Style that is fascinating and evoking the look of a foriegn land

Embellishing

The addition of decorative details or features

Ensemble

A set of clothes that give out a look of unity and coordination

Designer

A person who thinks up ideas for making extremely characteristic garments

Display

A presentation of clothes

Effortless dressing

This refers to a style which is high end but looks effortless.

Fabric swatches

Small pieces of fabric used as a sample

Fabric Finishes

This refers to the application of certain resins/chemicals or making the fabric undergo some processes so that its functional or aethetic appeal is enhanced.

Fad

A short lived fashion ; the popuarity fades pretty fast after a burst.

Fashion 2.0

Fashion in the digital age with social media and websites leading the way for major upheavals in fashion.

Fashion capitals

Refers to high fashion cities like Paris, New york, Los Angels, London, Tokyo, Berlin, Barcelona

Fashion Cycle

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

Fashion Forecast

A prediction as to the fashions / styles/ trends that will be popular in the coming future

Fashion foreward

A person who is ahead and knowledgeable of fashion trends

Fashion icon

Some one who is very popular for his/her fashion style that every one looks up to him/her.

Fashion Line

All of the clothing a fashion designer produces for a specific category

Fashion press

Those reporting the fashion events / shows / displays etc

Fashion show

Displaying Formal collection of fashion styles by designers to merchandisers/ customers

Fashion house

A company involved in fashion design

Fashionista

A devoted follower of fashion

Fashion icon

A term used to refer to someone or something that has become popular for being extremely fashionable

Fashion sense

Knowledge of how to dress fashionably.

Fashion police

An imaginary police force that ensures that people dress according to fashion.

Fashion sketch

An initial drawing made for the purpose of garment design. It will give a basic idea about the garment

Fashion subcultures

Subdivisions of society that influence fashion and have a heavy influence on the fashion elsewhere everywhere. The attitude and beliefs of he subculture is reflected in their clothing. Grunge, punk, goth, alternative, bohemian,rock,  rap,and hip-hop are such subcultures

Fashion tribe

A group of people who share a common sense of dressing style / fad/ fashion

Fashion victim

A person who slavishly follows current fashion.

Fabric Prints

These are many prominent patterns which are very popular like animal prints african prints . check out the post on the 55 popular fabric patterns you will usually find

Face of the fabric

The outer surface of the fabric ( also refers to facing)

Fashion Label

A collection of  expensive clothes belonging to a particular upcoming designer

Fatigues

Military combat apparel.

Flat sketches

Technical sketch of a design as if it were laying flat- the details include stitching techniques etc. Also called flats.You can make this by hand or with software like illustrator.

Florals

Fabric printed with floral patterns

Formal clothing ( evening clothes)

An occasion dressing style ;Long evening gown for females and suits / tuxedos for men

Foundation

Undergarment worn to smooth a figure

Garcon look

Garconne; A boyish fashion worn by women ; also called flapper look

Gradation

Shades of the same colour

Greek Chic

Style associated with the thinking man/woman, technology workers/professionals.Tailored suits, oversized glasses

Grunge

A messy unco-ordinated style of dressy seen in people who follow or like grunge music. Ripped jeans, layered clothing, black boots

Haberdashery

Sewing notions like buttons zippers etc; also refers to a men’s clothing shop

High stepper

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

Haute Couture 

Expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading exclusive fashion houses. It means the finest dress making in French language; simply termed as 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

High Fashion

The designing, making, and marketing of expensive, fashionable exclusive clothes ( as opposed to mass-market clothing); haute couture

Hippie style

An unusul ( to western style) bohemian fashion style characterized by long hair, jeans  bell bottom pants peasant blouses tie and dye fabric, long full skirts etc

Hosiery

Tight fitting knitted garments worn on the leg and feet. It is usually made of highly stretchable fabrics like spandex.

Hourglass figure

A female body shape with narrow waist and proportionately bigger hips ad bust ; considered to be the ideal shape for women eg Hourglass figure of Marilyn Monroe

House

In the fashion world, a fashion house is a name used for a company dealing in fashion.

Hot number

A style which  sells very fast at that time

Imitation

A fake or copy ; usually used for describing fur and jewellery

Iridescent colours

Imitating the colors of the rainbow

Impact colours

A colur used in a fashion design for an impact

Jewel tones

Deep colours

Kawai

Kawai is a cute fashion trend that originated in Japan. It follows the definite meaning of Kawai – Japanese artistic and cultural style that emphasises the quality of cuteness, using bright colours and characters with a childlike appearance.

Kitsch

In fashion refers to low quality style; garish style

Knock Off

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

Line

A collection of styles shown to a producer in a given season

Line sheet

A reference guide used by people connected with fashion detailing garment styles price, colour, fabric details etc related to a line.

Look Book

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 catalogue for marketing to be presented to the buyers.

Long line clothing

Clothing meant for tall people

Loungewear

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

Marine style

A style that looks like the clothing of sailors

Mass produced / Fashion

Styles/ fashion that is widely accepted and hence made in large quantities

Masculine style

This refers to women’s clothing made to look like men’s ( also called mannish)

Melange

A fashion which is mixture, combination of things, elements or trends

Minimalist

A simple understated look; a fashion consisting of simple styles and plain colours.

Monotone clothing

Clothes of a single colour

Mood Board

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. 

Motif

A design used in a pattern/ print / embroidery etc ; usually found recurring

Muslin

This is a trial garment made to test a pattern ; it is originally made in the fabric muslin cotton

Neutral Colours

Neutral means without colour. In fashion Classic colours like black, white, gray, brown and beige and sometimes blue are called neutral colours

Off the rack

Another name for ready to wear mass-produced clothing in standard sizes that is made in a large number and is readily available in retail stores.

Ombre

This refers to the style in which color graduates from light to dark

Over size

Garments which are of a much looser fit.

Passe 

Refers to anything that is No longer fashionable; out of date fashion.(pronounced pasei) This is deemed an insult in fashionable circles

Panache

Style which represents flamboyance or confidence

Pantone colours

Pantone colours refers 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.

Pattern

A template used as a guide to make a garment.

Pret-a- porter

Refers to ready to wear clothes

Peek-a-boo style

Refers to adding cut out details or sheer elements in garments which reveals parts of the body

Peasant style

A style which is reminiscent of the country women folk with embroidered blouses and long skirts

Placement prints

This refers to fabric patterns with 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 

Pst 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.

Power dressing

Refers to a  style of dressing that emphasizes one’s power. The word was coined in the 1970s and it meant a smart tailored dressing meant to impress.Now represents clothes that men and women wear to workplaces and meetings to make them look powerful.

Preppy style

A collegiate look; for boys polo shirts, chinos and navy blazers

Print on print

Colorful and vibrant clothing with lots of different prints mixed in.

Punk style

This is 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 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

Ready to wear or RTW

This is the term for factory made clothing in standardized sizes

Reversible clothing

Garments that can be used on both sides

Rockability fashion

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

Safari style

The kind of clothing that resemble clothes worn during hunting

Sample

A garment made to be shown to the retailers/merchandisers

Silhouette

Outline or shape of a design or garment

Selvedge

The finished edge of the fabric ( on opposite sides of the lengthwise fabric)

Sanforized clothing

A shrink control process  used on fabric

Sleek style

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

Slim fit

Clothing made to fit close to the body.

Sloper

This is a type of basic pattern that is used as the building block for all other patternmaking without any ease or design elements ( craftsy.com)

Slogan

This refers to the wordings printed or worked across the bodice of a garment. Eg slogans on the chest of a tshirt

Sportswear

A casual style of clothing meant for a relaxed look but can be used in a casual business setting too. American style dressing

Statement Jewellery

Bold and Attention grabbing Jewllery meant to grab all eyeballs. Eg Statement necklace.

Street wear

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.

Stonewashed fabric

A fabric faded through a specific process

Surfer look

A carefree dressing style sported by surfers on beaches

Sartorial

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

Separates

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

Supportive clothing

This refers to clothing that gives support ; eg. muscular support for sports, support for bust, support for legs with ailments like a varicose vein

Style

“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is What you choose.” Lauren Hutton

Style Surfing

This refers to shifting from clothing style of one subculture to other; sometimes combining and transforming styles

Sweats

Cotton jersey sports wear

Tailoring

Making of made to measure/custom made garments

Throwback fashion

Fashion belonging to the past

Theme

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. 

Toile

This is a 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.

Trend

A general direction in which something is developing or changing ( oxford dictionary)

Trendy

An adjective used to describe someone who is very fashionable or stylish

Trunk show

Display of a designers collection in a store

Twin prints

Two prints that share the same colour combination in one garment

Unisex style

Clothing suitable for both female and male gender. Also called Androgynous style.

Upcycled clothing

This is creative reuse of old clothes by changing certain design elements.

Utilitarian clothing

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

Vintage

Clothing inspired from a previous era

Wasp waist

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

Warm colours

Red, yellow and orange and in between colours in the colour wheel

WWD

Full name – Women’s Wear Daily a magazine considered to be the bible of fashion

Weft

In the fabric, fibers that run the width of the fabric.

X-ray Fabric

Sheer fabric used to make clothes.

70’s style

Style of clothing characterized by Wide legged trousers, slouchy silhouettes, big prints

Reference : The Magic of Fashion: Ritual, Commodity, Glamour
By Brian Moeran

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