A-Z Fashion Glossary

Let me tell you a short story. An embarrassing to admit story, but a story to share nonetheless. A couple years ago, I was working in a high-end boutique located on the cobblestone streets of Old Port, Montreal. Working as a retail stylist on contract for the summer, I was busy spacing hangers that I knew would be elbowed to the side in five minutes anyway when a client came in. I could tell this client came from money, they were dressed head-to-toe in designer labels and was dripping in vogue. Like a hawk, they swooped in and asked me a bold question about the current Gucci collection: I guess I was the prey. French speaking, they asked me; “What do you have here ‘avant-garde’ to show me” . Naive and clueless, I told them: “Unfortunately, I don’t think we have that here”. Looking back, that was one of the most cringeworthy things I’ve ever executed in my career. Now, having worked retail for six years, I’ve come to pick up on some key terms and fashion lingo that you need to know, especially in luxury fashion, where customers often know more than you do. Where creating look-books and staying up to trend on the current gossip in the industry, like which designers are head of a label, is the difference from successful sale to outright ridicule. To help prevent another ‘no-avant-garde-here’ moment, let me share with you a glossary of need-to-know words that’ll keep you afloat in the ever-critical, yet wildly intoxicating industry that is fashion.


Alta Moda — Term meaning; Italian couture.

Appliqué — The technique of cutting shapes from textile fabrics and attaching them to another fabric or garment in order to decorate the base material.

dolce-gabbana-spring-summer-2017-ss17-rtw-21-floral-applique-mini-box-clutchDolce & Gabbana Spring/Summer 2017

A-line  First used by the French designer Christian Dior, a-line describes the style line where the garment fits and gradually flares out to a wider hemline, causing the silouette to resemble the letter A.

Atelier (ah-tel-yay’) — The French term for designer workshop or studio.

Androgynous —A look that is of indeterminate gender.

Asymmetric  The design of a garment in which one side is long than the other (or otherwise inidentical), common in necklines, collars and hems.

alexander-mcqueen-fw-17-fall-winter-2017-18-collection-33-asymmetric-printed-top.jpgAlexander MCQueen Autumn/Winter 2017
Avant-garde —New and unusual or experimental ideas, especially in the arts, or the people introducing them.


Basque — An extension below the waistline of a close-fitted bodice or jacket.

Bellows Pocket —A large gusseted pocket featured on the outside of a garment.

c75f8c60b34475d446c331e31e9966e6.jpgMalaikaraiss Spring 2017

Bespoke —A ‘made-to-order’ garment (commonly a suit or wedding dress) tailored specifically to the customer’s measurements and specifications.

Brick-and-Mortar —The term for a physical location of a store/retail space.


Cap Sleeve — A style of short sleeve whereby cut to cap the shoulder and tapers nothing to the arm.


Dart — A V-shaped tuck that is sewn into a garment to help shape the fabric to fit the body.

Dégradé —Where a fabric’s colour, or the fabric itself, fades like a sunset, from the densest pigment or thread to the finest.

cddf0c91812be52f01985b679cd8819a.jpgFendi Spring/Summer 2014

Dolman sleeve (Batwing) —Sleeves that fit closely at the wrist or cuff and widen to be very full under the arm.


Epaulettes —An ornamental shoulder piece on an item of clothing, typically on the coat or jacket of a military uniform.

Balmain, Fashion Show, Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2018 in ParisBalmain Spring/Summer 2018

Empire Waist — Term that identifies the location of the waistline to be just under the bust-line, popular during the reign of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1804-1814).

Eyelets —Eyelets are a small hole or perforation that is used as a fastening, with a cord or hook, set with a metal/cord/fabric ring.

Loathe.BurberryProrsum.FW13-2.jpgBurberry Fall 2013


Filigree —Often seen in haute couture, filigree is the ornamental work of fine gold,silver, or copper wire is formed into delicate tracery.

Fluted —A long sleeve flared at the wrist.

Flagship — The largest and most well stocked store for an apparel manufacturer.


Godet—A triangular piece of material inserted in a dress, shirt, or glove to make it flared or for ornamentation.


Hounds-tooth —A duo-tone textile pattern of checks and four-pointed shapes.

55a7a0775975ccecf4b8bbe74f7c7e20--uk-fashion-womens-fashion.jpgSalvatore Ferragamo Autumn/Winter 2011

Herringbone — Also called broken twill weave describes a distinctive V-shaped weaving pattern usually found in twill fabric.

Haute Couture French for “high sewing”/”high dressmaking”/”high fashion, haute couture is exclusive, custom-fitted fashions that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high-quality, expensive and often rare fabric with extreme attention to detail.


Iridescent —The property of a fabric that appears to change colour as it catches the light, bearing similar effects of the seashell.

box=615x0.jpegChristopher Kane Fall 2017


Jabot —Ornamental frill or ruffle on the front of a shirt or blouse, typically made of lace.


Knife Pleat —A sharp, narrow pleat made in one direction and typically overlapping another (common in skirts).

328549ded3a0bbcfd588a017a2e1b6c9--spring--summer-.jpgProenza Schouler Spring 2014


Lettuce Hem — A wavy hem often edging jersey or fabrics that have stretch


Mockneck —A stand-up collar that resembles a turtleneck but does not fold over itself like a turtleneck. Usually a mockneck is found on sweaters and jackets.


Neats — Small socks with evenly-spaced designs, popular on the catwalks of labels like Miu Miu and Prada.


Organza—A stiff, sheer fabric often with a metallic sheen; fine wiry feel and crisp drape; holds shape well; can be used as an overlay or to create volume in a design; formal and romantic look.


Paisley —A teardrop shaped floral pattern that originated in India and Persia; evokes a bohemian feel.

Yegor-Zaitsev-Spring-Summer-2015-Runway-7.jpgYegor Zaitsev Spring/Summer 2018

Peplum —A ruffle or flared section in the construction of a jacket or blouse that extends a short distance below the waistline.

Placket —A slit or opening in a garment that allows room for the garment to be put on.


Quarter —The section of a shoe that covers the heel.


Raglan — The style of a sleeve, where a continuous piece of fabric continues to the neck with no shoulder seam.

Raw Edge — This describes the un-sewn edge of a piece of fabric.

6958bb607df04cb482ff8d7358570b4620170226123240.jpegXu Zhi Fall 2017

Ready-to-wear — Clothes made for the general market and sold through stores; off the rack.


Seersucker — Seersucker is recognizable by the alternating stripes of puckered and smooth fabric

Richard-Chai-SS14-mens-4 (1).jpgRichard Chai Spring/Summer 2017


Trompe L’oeil —An art technique that has been borrowed by fashion, where a designer creates an optical illusion, through a change in perspective, dimension, or placement.

tumblr_nv62497uxU1rwldnro3_1280.jpgGucci Spring/Summer 2016


Utilitarian clothes—  Introduced by the British government, utility clothes were produced for economic aid during war years. Pioneered by a multiple of luxury brands like Balmain,Philip Lim and Off-white, the utilitarian style today describes garments of minimal design and luxury with functionality as the primary vision.

KIM_0211.jpgKenzo Spring 2017


Vent— A split in a garment to allow for movement.

Vogue —The current fashion trend.


Waffle weave — A fabric pattern characterized by having recessed squares on the surface that resemble a waffle.

Welt Pockets —A pocket set into the garment with a slit entrance, as opposed to a patch or flap pocket.


X-ray Fabrics —Sheer fabrics with a translucent effect.

VAL_0245.1366x2048.jpgGiambattista Valli Spring/Summer 2014


Yoke —The part of the garment around the neckline on the front and the back.


Zori—A traditional Japanese style of sandal, much like a flip-flop, originally made with a straw sole.

f6be36dd52cfacd5c67376d3383debc1--milano-fashion-week-miuccia-prada.jpgPrada Spring/Summer 2013


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s