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

Table of Contents

    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, corsets, lingerie 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.

    Accouterments

    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 clique refers to a group of very fashion conscious 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 fashion this refers to using colours which are in stark contrast 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 localized.

    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)

    Décolletage

    Area from the neck to the chest. 

    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 men’s clothing – indicating a flamboyant self-absorbent 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

    Eclectic 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 foreign 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 popularity 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 forward

    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 the 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 lying 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, over sized 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. 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

    High Fashion

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

    Hippie style

    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

    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 color used in a fashion design for an impact

    Jewel tones

    Deep colours

    Kawaii

    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.

    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 catalog 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 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.

    Pattern

    A template used as a guide to make a garment.

    Pret-a- porter

    Refers to ready to wear clothes by designers. Read more on Pret-a-porter in detail here.

    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 

    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.

    Power dressing

    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.

    Preppy style

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

    Prespring collection

    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.

    Punk style

    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.

    Retro

    Style imitative of or derived from the trends of the recent past.

    Reversible clothing

    Garments that can be reversed and used from both sides. The seam allowances etc will be hidden with clever construction methods.

    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.

    Seamstress

    A person who sews.

    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 pattern making 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 t-shirt.

    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 Jewelry

    Bold and attention grabbing Jewelry 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.More on Streetwear fashion here

    Stonewashed fabric

    A fabric faded through a specific process

    Stylist (Fashion)

    A person who dresses clients in styles that she /he curates. It could be for editorial purposes, for celebrities, for branding purposes in marketing. 

    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.

    Up cycled 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. 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.

    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.

    Abbreviations used in fashion

    LBD – Little Black Dress

    OOTD – Outfit of the Day

     

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

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