Feb. 11 2019
To an outside eye, the international fashion weeks are an alluring and exclusive members-only society with a mile-long waiting list. Or at least that’s how it used to be. Now, a girl sitting in suburban Texas has nearly as much access to information as the girl strutting through SoHo in her new Tibi slingbacks. In this day and age, everyone with internet can instantly mimic the show-going experience, right from the comfort of their computers–through streams and online critics following the shows. However, to those not versed in the precise vocabulary of the fashion-elite, those reviews with words like Trompe L’Oeil and bias-cut can sometimes sail right over our heads. In order to help you decode these modish messages, we have created a pseudo-dictionary on the fashion terms you may stumble upon (or trip over) this fashion month.
Applique: A technique in which one fabric is placed and sewn onto another to form a decorative pattern or picture.
Almond-toe Shoe: This silhouette falls somewhere between a rounded and pointed shape. It gets its name from the tapered shape of an almond. It is what most would consider a rounded toe and is one of the most popular shoe styles.
Bias: This refers to the diagonal weave of a fabric. Therefore, bias-cut means that the fabric is cut on a 45-degree diagonal, allowing for the garment to have more stretch. This style of cut gives the piece a more fluid shape and creates an hourglass silhouette. The uber popular slip-dress is an example of this style.
Cap Sleeves: A style of short sleeve that just caps the shoulder. This sleeve just barely covers the shoulder and shrinks to almost nothing under the arm.
Capsule Collection: Invented to mimic the concept of a capsule wardrobe: the idea of owning a few simple basics that can all be worn interchangeably with one another. Designers will release these collections–typically limited edition–with pieces that transcend seasons and trends. Unlike seasonal collections, these do not merit a fashion show or production.
Epaulet: Originally, these were the fancy decorations seen on the shoulders of old military uniforms–think the gold embellishment you saw on Prince William’s shoulders at the royal wedding. Now, they can range from the simple decorative strap on a military jacket to a sequin embellishments on the shoulders of a blouse.
Eyelets: A small hole in fabric, typically outfitted in metal, used for threading string or a hook through as a fastening. What began as strictly a functional tool is now typically used in garments purely as decoration.
Fluted Hem: This style of dress or skirt is typically fitted along the body and flares out along the hemline. This feminine cut hails from the same family as the mermaid silhouette and typically falls somewhere between the knee and mid-calf.
Haute Couture: Of course we all know this term, as it’s become quite colloquial, but its actual origins involve rather strict qualifications. In order to meet the standards for haute couture, members of this exclusive club must design made-to-order garments for clients in collections that contain a minimum of 50 designs shown in bi-annual productions (in January and July). The label must also maintain an atelier that employees at least 20 workers. Translated literally from French, the terms means “high fashion” and these garments will typically cost you a pretty penny.
Kick Pleats: These are not the typical pleats we imagine on a school-girl skirt. These originate from the hem of the skirt or coat and do not extend all the way up the garment. They give a skirt a less restrictive silhouette or “kick” to allow for greater movement.
Look-Books: Before all the collections were available on Vogue.com practically seconds after they strutted down the catwalk, look-books were used as tools to show buyers or press the full collection after the shows. These portfolios of sorts include photography of each of the looks in a designer’s collection that season.
Mandarin Collar: Inspired by the traditional Mandarin dress of Imperial China, this style is a short collar that is close-fitted and stands up (typically 3-4 cm high) around the neckline. In Western apparel, it is commonly found on many men’s and women’s dress shirts.
Macrame: A type of textile produced by knotting the strings instead of a typical weave to create decorative patterns. You will often see this technique in bags and belts, but recently it has become a popular design for bohemian-inspired cropped tops.
Minaudiere: These are the type of bags that find their home in the hands of celebrities and elite party goers as they waltz down the red carpet. Typically made of metal, these structured mini bags are outfitted with anything from jewels to satin to acrylic and are cut in an array of fascinating shapes–popular designer Judith Leiber makes them in the shape of a cupcake. They can be carried by hand or strung from an elegant chain.
Paper-bag Waistbands: This trendy style looks just like it sounds: like a paper bag gathered and tied off with a belt (typically of the same material), spilling out extra fabric at the waist. This feminine silhouette is extremely flattering as it draws attention to your waist.
Overlay: This typically refers to piece of sheer fabric–imagine lace or organza–layered over a different opaque fabric.
Patch Pockets: This term takes us back to yesteryear when we used to sew colorful squares onto our jean jackets to create pockets in middle school. Now, they simply refer to pockets that are attached rather than set into the design of a garment and typically feature a flap at the top. The pockets on the front of an old western shirt are great examples of these.
Peter Pan Collar: A style of collar that lays flat around the neckline with rounded edges. It was originally made popular by Maude Adams in her 1905 role on Broadway as Peter Pan.
Piping: A trim composed of a narrow tube of cloth attached along the seams of a garment. They are typically used to reinforce the style lines of a piece. Also used in interior design, you probably have a throw pillow or two lying around that displays this style of trim along its edges.
Placket: An opening or a slit of a garment that allows it to be easily taken on or off. They typically feature fastenings such as snaps, hooks or zippers–think the concealed zipper on a skirt or the button section of a blouse.
Quilting: No, we are not referring to the blanket your mom made from your old t-shirts, but the same idea applies. This term references the technique of stitching together two pieces of fabric (typically with padding in between) in parallel lines, forming squares or diamonds. This style was made popular by your favorite classic leather Chanel bags.
Sartorial: This term is defined as relating to a tailor or tailored clothes, but it can encompass anything related to clothing, fashion, or dressing.
Shift: A dress style composed of a straight silhouette that is not fitted to the body. This classic cut rose to popularity in the 1960s.
Trompe L’Oeil: First and foremost, this is an art technique that the fashion industry has borrowed repeatedly. Trompe L’Oeil involves the strategic creation of a visual illusion to make a print or design appear 3-dimensional.
Vent: Similar to a kick-pleat or slit, a vent is an opening typically found along the back seam of a jacket or blazer to minimize the restriction of a garment.
Yoke: A patterned or contrasting piece of fabric, usually fitted at the neckline or waist that forms part of a garment and emphasizes the structure.