French fashion words ( & their English meanings)

Checkout your knowledge of French fashion & designing terms. English language has adopted many of these french fashion words.

French Fashion Terms

If you have even a fraction of interest in fashion, you cannot escape from many french fashion words. Even the terms I never knew were French seem to be irreplaceable in fashion, like chiffon, tulle, costume, denim, Mannequin, Satin….. There are many more. And french fashion designers like Chanel and Balenciaga undeniably ruled and still rule the fashion world.

So now that I have established the fact that french is the language of fashion, here are the words you should have in your memory to be counted as À la mode ( the French term for fashionable/trendy).

l’Aisance – Ease : the amount of extra room in a garment to allow for comfortable movement.

Amoureux de la mode – Fashion lover.

l’Aplomb – Vertical alignment of a garment when it is worn. This is the quality which makes a garment hang straight and evenly on the body, without pulling or sagging in any particular area.

l’Arête – Ridge or crease that is created when two pieces of fabric are sewn together along their edges. 

Arrondir – This means adjusting a skirt or dress hem. 

Assembler – join together several pieces of fabric with a stitch.

Avant-garde – innovative, experimental

Bottes – boots

Bâtir – The process of basting or temporarily stitching two pieces of fabric together. The basting stitches can be unstitched and removed without difficulty.

le Biais – the Bias grain of the fabric or the bias tape.

Border – finishing work which consists of placing a bias, a braid  on the edge of the mounted work.

la Bride – a loop or strap of fabric that is used to fasten a garment or other sewn item. This is made of a small piece of fabric or thread.

Boudoir – a woman’s private dressing room

Bouffante – puffy, a style of clothing or sleeves that is voluminous and full.

Boutique de mode – Fashion boutique.

Broderie –  Embroidery.

Corsage – bodice, the upper part of a dress that covers the torso.

la Chaînethe – Warp or the lengthwise grain of woven textiles. It is made up of threads parallel to the edges. 

la Coulisse – This is a casing or channel that is sewn into a garment or other sewn item, to allow for the insertion of elastic, a drawstring, or other similar materials. It allows you to tighten a fabric around the waist, neck, wrist, ankles.

Cranter – Notching : making notches to give ease to the rounded seams.

Creuser – This refers to creating a concave or curved shape in a garment or other sewn item. Eg sewing princess seams.

Chic – stylish, elegant

Chapeau – hat

Chemisier – a blouse or shirt

Col roulé – turtleneck

Cravate – tie 

Chic – A term describing a stylish, fashionable and elegant look or attitude.

Couture – The business of designing, creating, and selling high-end fashion and clothing.

Détendre – Carefully lengthen the weft of a fabric with a steam iron.

Décolletage – low-cut neckline.

le Droit – the Straight grain : (it is indicated by an arrow on the pattern pieces) it is parallel to the edges: it follows the direction of the warp threads

Débardeur – tank top

Décolleté – A low-cut neckline on a dress or top.

Eclat – Brilliant, striking, or dazzling.

En vogue – Something that is currently popular or in fashion.

Escarpins – high-heeled shoes

écharpe – scarf

l’Embu – excess width encountered on the inside of a hem or on fitting a rounded seam.

l’Empiècement – Yoke

Ensemble – a coordinated outfit

l’Entoilage – Interfacing : this consists of giving rigidity to a piece by lining it with a stiff fabric or by fixing a piece of fusible fabric on the reverse side, with an iron.

l’Extra-fort – Extra-strong : light ribbon, most often made of synthetic fibre. Used to reinforce the hems of garments and belts.

Froncer – Gather fabric.

Foulard de tête headscarf, a scarf worn on the head to cover the hair.

Faux pas – A fashion term used to describe a social blunder or mistake in fashion.

Fait sur mesure – Made-to-measure.

Gamine – A  boyish, youthful style or look.

Grigner – puckers or wrinkles the surface of the fabric, because of too tight stitches.

Garniture – trimmings, embellishment

Gilet – A waistcoat or vest

Jupe – skirt

Jupon – A  petticoat or underskirt

la Jeannette : small narrow board used for ironing sleeves or trouser legs.

la Laize – Width of a piece of fabric between two selvedges 

la Lisière – Selvedge 

Former un onglet – Fold the excess fabric at a right angle in a corner or on a hem bordering a corner.

la Parementure – the Facing 

Gaine – Sheath dress

Haute couture – high-end, custom-made clothing

Lunettes de soleil – sunglasses

Ligne en A – A line silgouette

Mille-feuille – a layering technique often used in clothing design

Manteau – coat

Maillot – A one-piece swimsuit

Mélange – Mixture of different fabrics or textures in a garment.

Bande Parisienne (Parisian Gang) – This fashion subculture is characterized by an eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary clothing, often featuring bold patterns and bright colors. 

Palette – the range of colors used in a particular collection or design

la Patte de boutonnage –  the Button placket 

la Pattemouille – Pressing cloth / damp fabric piece made of a white 100% cotton fabric. 

la Pince – This is a clothing closure that resembles a claw or a clip. 

Pièce de résistance – the main feature, showstopper

Prêt-à-porter – ready-to-wear clothing

Passementerie – decorative trimmings like tassels, fringes, and braids

Pantalon – pants

le Rabatthe – Flap : strip of fabric that covers the opening of a jacket or trouser pocket (flap pocket) or a pocket. It can be sewn separately or made in one piece.

la couture Raglan – Raglan seam : diagonal seam to connect the sleeve to the armhole.

Régime – Silhouette

Remplier Fill : Fold the fabric back on itself. (This term is often found when working hems)

Renforcer –  Small stitches made along the seam line, as a reinforcing stitch.

le Rentré – folding of the edge on the back of the fabric, preparing a hem or the laying of a lining.

la Réserve – excess material left between the stitching and the edge of the fabric. It can be used for a possible alteration, for a second seam.

Robe – dress

  • Robe de bal – Ball gown
  • Robe droite – Straight dress
  • Robe trapèze – Trapeze dress
  • Robe évasée – Flared dress
  • Robe princesse or robe à la princesse – Princess gown
  • Robe portefeuille – Wrap dress
  • Robe cache-cœur – Cross-over dress
  • Robe bustier – Strapless dress
  • Robe asymétrique – Asymmetrical dress
  • Robe à basque or robe péplum – Peplum
  • Robe empire – Empire-waist dress
  • Robe patineuse – Skater dress
  • Robe de chambre – a dressing gown or robe worn over nightwear or loungewear.
  • Robe évasée or robe trapèze – Fit and flare
  • Robe maxi – Maxi dress.

Rive Gauche – bohemian or artistic fashion.

les Sonnettes – sewn red threads or thin strips of paper glued to the edge of the selvedges: they signal a defect.

sac à main – handbag

sablier – hourglass figure

sur mesure – made to measure, custom-fit

Sous-piquer – Understitch

Soutenir – Tacking Stitches with large stitches on the seam line. 

Soutien-gorge – bra

Sirène – Mermaid dress ; silhouette

Surfiler – Overcast : overcast the edge of the pieces of fabric, by hand or machine, to prevent fraying.

Tailleur – A woman’s suit.

la Trame – the weft: in woven textiles, this refers to the threads perpendicular to the selvedges.

Trousseau – a bride’s collection of clothing and linens.

Toile – a preliminary version of a garment made in inexpensive fabric for fitting purposes

Toile de jouy – a scenic pattern often used for upholstery and bedding

Trench – trench coat

Veste – jacket

Vissé – a woven textile whose weft, deformed during weaving, is no longer really perpendicular to the edges. It is then necessary to straighten the weft by stretching or ironing with a damp cloth, then check the grain using a square.

En vogue – in fashion, trendy.

le Zigzag – Zigzag stitch made with a sewing machine. It is used in particular to overcast the edges of the fabric.

Zazou – a subculture of young people in 1940s France (during period of World war 2) who dressed in flamboyant, zoot suit-inspired clothing and listened to American jazz music.

Related posts : English Fashion words.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

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