A Beginner’s Guide: The A to Z of Fashion Terms

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Are you a burgeoning fashionista? Read this list to get your clothing terminology right! Learn your fashion terms from A to Z, and flex your sartorial muscles!

A sincethen-corduroy-mini-a-line-overall-dress

A-Line

[eɪ laɪn]

The A-line cut is used to describe a skirt or dress with a narrow top and a wider hem, forming a silhouette in the shape of the letter “A.” Christian Dior is credited with popularizing this silhouette in the 50s.

B ppgirl-tieback-pintucktrim-mini-babydoll-dress

Babydoll

[beɪ.bi dɑːl]

The babydoll is originally characterized by a loose-fit silhouette with a gathered skirt and knee-length hem. The silhouette was designed in 1942 by American designer Sylvia Pedlar as a cost-effective nightgown during WWII. The term was popularized by the movie Baby Doll in 1956, though Pedlar didn’t actually like this coined term!

C dabagirl-cowlneck-satin-blouse

Cowl Neck

[kaʊl nɛk]

Cut on the bias grain of a fabric, a cowl neck drapes elegantly over the collarbone, creating soft, rounded folds. This style was popularized in the 1930s when it appeared on the back and front of silk gowns.

D rolarola-drawstringwaist-glenplaid-blazer

Drawstring

[ˈdrɔːstrɪŋ]

Also called a drawcord, a drawstring is often used on a waistband. When pulled, it creates a cinched-in effect. The “string” can vary from a tonal tie to tape, and is inserted through a tunnel or loop design.

E sincethen-spaghetti-strap-lace-a-line-dress

Empire Line

[em.paɪr laɪn]

The empire line is also known as the empire silhouette, empire waist or simply empire. The silhouette has a fitted bodice cutting right below the bust for a super high-waist look. This style was particularly popular in Europe during Napoleon’s reign in the early 19th century.

F sincethen-set-strappy-crop-top-highwaist-shorts

Flounce Hem

[flaʊns hɛm] 

A flounce is a separate panel of fabric that adds volume to a design. Usually added to the hem of the garment, the flounce has a smooth, ungathered top and is full and wider at the bottom. Not to be confused with a ruffle, which is gathered on top!

G liphop-band-waist-gingham-boot-cut-pants-black-one-size

Gingham

[ˈɡɪŋəm]

Gingham is a lightweight fabric, usually made of cotton, that’s known for its checked pattern. The material is often used for spring and summer wear. The name is believed to originate from the Malayan word genggang meaning striped. The original fabric emerged from Southeast Asia and can be distinguished by the dyed yarn woven into the fabric.

H sincethen-long-sleeve-cold-shoulder-open-back-maxi-a-line-dress

Halter-Neck

[ˈhɔːltənɛk]

A halter neck is a triangular neckline usually held up with a string or a piece of fabric that goes around the neck or to a separate panel on the back. The term is derived from the German word “halter,” which means “to be held.”

I sezwick-invertedpleat-hline-midi-skirt

Inverted Pleat

[ɪnˈvɜː.tɪd pliːt]

An inverted pleat is a pleat with folded fabric edges that are placed towards each other, creating a space underneath. This design is often used on skirts to create volume and allow for ease of movement.

J rolarola-puff-sleeve-pocket-detail-buckled-jumpsuit-pink-one-size

Jumpsuit

[ˈdʒʌmpsuːt] 

The one-piece garment consists of a top and trousers, usually with a button-up in the center front. The original jumpsuit was a military piece used by parachuters for its easy-to-wear and protective design.

K chuu-a-line-mini-pleat-skirt-black-one-size

Knife Pleat

[nʌɪf pliːt]

Knife pleats are sharply pressed overlapping pleats facing one direction. The design, which can be traced back to the 16th century, was often used in tandem with smocking to create volume. Knife pleats are now commonly seen on mini skirts and dresses.

L rolarola-double-breasted-checked-jacket

Lapel

[ləˈpɛl]

Lapels are folded front edges commonly found on formal outerwear such as jackets and coats. Its origin dates to the 18th century in menswear. Coats back then had high necklines and collars, which were turned down when the wearer felt warm. The type of lapels we often see today became a common fixture by the Victorian era.

M deepny-puffsleeve-ruffled-long-floral-dress

Mutton Sleeves

[ˈmʌt(ə)n sliːv]

Also known as the leg of mutton sleeve, this design has a bulbous shoulder, usually through gathering or pleating, and tapers down to the wrist. Particularly fashionable in the 1820s, mutton sleeves are making a comeback thanks to the cottagecore trend.

N rolarola-sailorcollar-plaid-jacket-with-belt

Norfolk Jacket

[ˈnɔːfək ˈdʒakɪt]

The English county of Norfolk is credited as the origin of this jacket. The classic hunting jacket can be distinguished by its tweed fabric, single-breasted design, tonal waist tie and pleats in the back. Norfolk jackets now are slightly less intricate and have a smoother silhouette.

O liphop-turtleneck-seamdetail-top

Overlock

[əʊvəˈlɒk]

Overlock is a type of stitching seam finish done through an overlocker or serger machine. The seams are pressed with stitching over the raw edge of the fabric, creating a smooth, clean finish.

P rolarola-piped-bonnet-hat

Piping

[ˈpʌɪpɪŋ]

Piping is a separate panel of fabric often used on the hem or edges as a trim to define or reinforce the lines of the garment’s silhouette. It’s usually made with bias binding for a smooth finish, and can also be used with cording for added textural effect.

Q rolarola-multiway-sailorcollar-quilted-jacket

Quilted

[ˈkwɪltɪd]

Quilted fabric is made up of two or more layers of fabric with lightweight batting in between, which are all traditionally sewn together with a diamond or geometric stitch pattern. The layers of fabric and batting are insulating, making this style popular in coats, jackets and all kinds of winter wear.

R rolarola-raglansleeve-letterprinted-cropped-tshirt

Raglan Sleeves

[ˈraɡlən sliːv]

This sleeve style extends all the way to the neckline and creates a diagonal cut from the armpit to the neck. It’s often used on sportswear as it provides ease of movement. The raglan sleeve is named after the 1st Baron Raglan, a 19th century British commander who lost his arm in war; the sleeve was specifically designed for him.

S sincethen-spaghetti-strap-floral-print-a-line-midi-dress

Spaghetti Straps

[spəˈɡɛti straps]

Spaghetti straps are thin, delicate shoulder straps that resemble spaghetti! They’re often used on camisoles as well as summery tops and dresses.

T liphop-pleather-panel-double-breasted-trench-coat-with-belt-beige

Trench Coat

[trɛn(t)ʃ kəʊt] 

The classic trench coat is made from durable cotton drill or other waterproof fabric, and features a tonal belt, storm flaps and epaulets. It was originally made for the British army by Thomas Burberry in the early 20th century.

U liphop-uneck-rolledge-tank-top

U-Neck

[juː nek] 

Also known as a scoop neck, the U-neck is a neckline shaped like the letter “U.” This neckline is often used on T-shirts and jersey garments.

V sincethen-floral-print-corduroy-midi-pencil-skirt

Vent

[vɛnt] 

Like air vents, vents on clothing allow the garments to “breathe” and have ample space for movement. Vents are often designed in the center back of pencil skirts and jackets, so the garment can provide a figure-hugging silhouette without restricting the wearer’s movement.

W nain-singlebreasted-cotton-blazer

Welt Pockets

[wɛlt ˈpɒkɪt] 

Welt pockets are often featured on the chest of tailored jackets. These in-set pockets are bound by fabric to reinforce the opening of the pocket for durability and aesthetic purposes. Welt pockets designed with two bound sides are called double welt pockets or jetted pockets.

X liphop-puffsleeve-pintuckwaist-mini-dress

X-Line

[eks lʌɪn]

The X-line silhouette is also known as the hourglass. Garments with this cut put an emphasis on broad shoulders, slim waist and flared hips.

Y rolarola-frilled-tie-neck-shirred-blouse-cream-one-size

Yoke

[jəʊk] 

A yoke is most commonly seen on shirts as a panel along the shoulder and neckline that stops high above the bust line. It sometimes appears on skirts as a separate panel just above the hips. Traditional yokes provide structure to a garment, especially when the bottom half is made of a lighter material. The design is now often used as a decorative element.

Z newin-unisex-multipocket-zipper-vest-cargo-shorts

Zipper Pull

[ˈzɪpə pʊl] 

The zipper pull is exactly what it sounds like. Made of metal, a fabric loop or a cord, this essential part of the zipper allows you to pull the zipper teeth open and closed.

Now you know your fashion ABCs! 

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