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You Keep Using That Word ... Let Me Tell You What It Means ....

This is my glossary of fashion terms with a specific focus on manufacturing, but really it's everything I can think of. Terminology is important ... in fact it's critical in the communication chain of manufacturing ... getting it wrong can be a very costly affair. I want to create the largest glossary of terms possible ... a dictionary of fashion.

I'm going to do it differently, though 
... I'm adding only one new definition every few days (starting 20th March 2021) so I can get some interaction going in our Facebook group and open the language up for discussion ... if you want in on that then you'll need to join our group. They won't be in any particular order ... just whatever might be appropriate until we fill in all the blanks. I also welcome new suggestions to add to the list. 

The glossary index below is in alphabetical order, but the actual glossary is not so you need to click on the word in the index and it'll take you to the word's definition.


  • A la mode

  • A Line Skirt

  • Accoutrements

  • Achromatic colours

  • Acid wash

  • Anchor Point

  • Androgynous style

  • Ao Dai

  • Arm Scye

  • Asymmetrical

  • Atelier

  • Avant-Garde

  • Bandeau

  • Bespoke

  • Bikini Clip

  • Binder Attachment

  • Blind Stitch 

  • Boat Neckline

  • Bohemian style (Boho)

  • Boy Leg

  • Button Hole Machine

  • Camouflage

  • Care label

  • Casual wear

  • Catwalk

  • Cheongsam

  • Chic

  • Circular Skirt

  • Clover Leaf

  • Collection

  • Colour blocking

  • Colour coordination

  • Colourway

  • Contemporary style

  • Continental style

  • Contrast

  • Cool colours

  • Cosmopolitan

  • Cosplay

  • Costume

  • Costume jewellery

  • Costumier

  • Couturier

  • Cover Stitch Machine

  • Cowl

  • Distressing

  • Draping

  • Draping

  • Earth colours

  • Eclectic Fashion Style

  • Elastic

  • Embellishing

  • Embroidery Machine

  • Empire Line

  • Ensemble

  • Ethnic

  • Exotic

  • Fabric Finishes

  • Fabric swatches

  • Fad

  • Fashion Label

  • Fashion victim

  • Fatigues

  • Flat Collar

  • Flat sketches

  • Florals

  • Flounce

  • Formal clothing

  • Foundation

  • French Cut Sleeve

  • Fringe

  • Full Bust Adjustment

  • Gender queer

  • Gingham

  • Grommet

  • Grunge

  • Haberdashery

  • Halterneck

  • Hand of a fabric

  • Haute Couture

  • High Fashion

  • Hippie style

  • Hosiery

  • House

  • Invisible Gusset

  • Iridescent colours

  • Kawaii

  • Keyhole

  • Knock Off

  • Look Book

  • Lounge Wear

  • Lycra/Spandex

  • Made to measure

  • Maillot

  • Mandarin Collar

  • Milliner

  • Minimalist

  • Monokini

  • Mood Board

  • Motif

  • Muslin

  • Neutral Colours

  • Notch

  • Nylon (See Polyamide)

  • Off Shoulder Neckline

  • Off the rack

  • Ombre

  • Overlocker / Serger

  • Palette Line

  • Paneling

  • Pantone

  • Pattern

  • Pattern Maker

  • Pelvic Tilt Adjustment

  • Petticoat Line

  • Placement prints

  • Plaid

  • Pleat

  • Polyamide

  • Polyester

  • Pret-a-porter

  • Pretzel Swimsuit

  • Princess Line

  • Queen Anne Neckline

  • Ready to wear

  • Retro

  • Retrofuturism

  • Reversible

  • Ruffle

  • Sailor Collar

  • Sample

  • Sample Maker

  • Sarong

  • Seam Allowance

  • Seamless

  • Seamstress

  • Selvedge

  • Separates

  • Sequin

  • Silhouette

  • Sloper

  • Snap Fastener

  • Spaghetti Strap

  • Sportswear

  • Square Leg

  • Stonewashed fabric

  • Straight Stich Machine

  • Street wear

  • Stretch Percentage

  • Stylist

  • Sublimation Printing

  • Supportive

  • Sway Back Adjustment

  • Sweetheart Neckline

  • Tailor

  • Tailoring

  • Tension Line

  • Theme board

  • Thong / G String

  • Throwback

  • Toille

  • Trend

  • Turtleneck

  • Up cycled clothing

  • Utilitarian clothing

  • Vintage

  • Wasp waist

  • Weft

  • Winged Collar

  • Zig Zag Machine

A La Mode

à la mode literally translates as "to the style/fashion"  and means current fashion or fashionable. Synonyms: au courant, chic, cool [slang], exclusive, fashionable, fresh [slang], happening, hip, in, modish, sharp, smart, snappy, stylish, supercool, swell, swish, trendy, voguish

A La Mode

A Line Skirt

An A-line skirt is a skirt that is fitted from the waist to the hips and then gradually widens towards the hem, giving the impression of the shape of a capital letter A. The term is also used to describe dresses and coats with a similar shape. The term was first used by the French couture designer Christian Dior as the label for his collection of Spring 1955. As the skirt flare increases until the flare angle matches the waist to hip angle it may be referred to as an A line, over that it would be circular and then flared. Typically an A line skirt flares out just enough to incorporate enough ease to pass the upper thigh and continues at that angle rather than dropping vertically on the pattern.

A Line Skirt


Accoutrements are the personal/individual equipment of service people such as soldiers, sailors, police and firemen and employees of some private organizations such as security guards, other than their basic uniform and weapons. Accoutrements can be intended for field, garrison or ceremonial purposes. In modern terminology they may also be all the things you have with you when you travel or when you take part in a particular activity, such as sunglasses, watch, phone, handbag, car keys, water bottle, etc.

synonym: accessories, appurtenance, equipage, fitting, fixture, gear, outfit, paraphernalia, trappings.


Achromatic Colour

Achromatic colors (white, grey and black) have lightness but no hue or saturation. A chromatic color is a color which has even just slightest amount of hue. A monochromatic color scheme, means that designers use varying shades of only one color, be they chromatic or achromatic .... although some will argue that achromatic colours can't be in a monochromatic colour scheme, even though the full achromatic range is indeed a single monochromatic scheme of white (a combination of all colour) ... this is an endless debate but something to be aware of.


Acid Wash

Currently, acid washing refers the use of a chlorine bleach and water solution to remove colour from clothing. It is generally applied using a spray bottle in random areas to create a blotchy look or as a "dye" immersion to create an aged/weathered look.

Spoiler alert: but there isn’t even any acid ...

Chlorine bleach is extremely basic (opposite of acidic), as it has a high pH of 13. This means that a chlorine bleach solution has a H+ concentration of about one-millionth of the H+ concentration in pure water. But how can it be acid washing if chlorine bleach is not even an acid? It's not ... in the industry it's simply referred to as bleaching ... acid or snow wash is just cool marketing terminology that gets people to spend money.

Has anyone ever acid washed lycra blend fabrics or the polyester knits used in swimwear? I don't mean acid dyes used to ADD colour ... I mean chlorine bleach to remove colour? Generally one is advised to avoid concentrated bleach on lycra blends because it can destroy the lycra, just as heat can. Even swimming pool chlorine in normal concentrations can deteriorarte lycra fibers. But what about a spray bottle of bleach on a black nylon knit?


Anchor Point

An anchor point is a fixed position on the body along a tension line. We most often view them as two fixed points at either end of an elastic item, but in stretch wear terms, tension lines are most often circular ... as in they wrap around the body with no start or end ... an anchor point might sit at one or more points along that line and serve to hold the tension in a particular location. Anchor points might be locations such as the shoulders, the crotch, a full armhole, an unbroken waistline or anywhere that might lock the garment onto the body such that tension in the garment is held in place to other areas.

An anchor point might be an object like a ring or a zip or a bikini band clip ... or any fixed object where there is no stretch. One might use multiple anchor points to actively distort a section of fabric for a more contoured fit (think in terms of athletic bras).


Androgynous Style


Androgynous style is rapidly becoming a lost term in that it's been twisted into something so open in definition that it's become almost meaningless. Traditionally, androgynous style refers to a garment that is neither masculine nor feminine, or a combination of both in such a way so as to be neither specifically. Androgynous style was a big thing during the 80's at the height of the feminist movement, and at that time was less about gender and more about being less feminine ... eg; women in shirts, jackets and trousers ... yet at the same time we saw clothing less obviously masculine for men. The failing of the style was that androgynous fashion tended to be clean close fitting lines which did little to hide the underlying body shape (or at least that wasn't entirely the objective at the time), hence gender was still fairly obvious at a time when it was still considered binary ... times changed.

The fashion industry's most iconic androgynous style designer was indisputably Alexander McQueen who never ceased playing with the line between masculine and feminine and his work continues to inspire designers today. McQueen frequently created unexpected design lines to leave people guessing as to which gender they applied ... and then walked the same line on both male and female models.

In modern times Androgynous style is less defined as a fashion trend but more in terms of being of/for an indistinct gender. The point however is that it does not restrict itself to a specific gender. We need to be careful in this definition. So many are saying that androgynous style simply means being able to where whatever you want and that's not at all true ... of course you can wear whatever you want but doing so does not make it specifically androgynous ... for example a male might decide to wear an extremely and obviously feminine Japanese Lolita dress and that doesn't make the dress suddenly androgynous, especially when the entire purpose of Lolita is to exaggerate femininity. If anything can be androgynous then there's no need for the definition ... it simply becomes just "clothing".

Androgynous style classically refers to an outward appearance of indeterminate gender, and does not link in anyway to any internal definition of gender ... these are two separate things which may occur together but don't have to to meet the definition of the style.

Traditionally it did mean neutral colour tones, achromatics, stripes, clean straight lines, jackets and vests, straight line trousers, dress shoes, natural fabrics like cotton, tweed, leather and heavy linens. More recently, frequent commenters claim the style means that anyone can wear brighter colours, pastels, prints and florals ... or what we used to say was dressing outside of your gender binary.

PS: I'm not getting into the debate on gender here and the two do not have to go hand in hand.


Ao Dai

The Ao Dai is a Vietnamese national garment worn by both sexes, but more commonly by women. In the 1950s, Saigon designers tightened the fit to produce the version worn by Vietnamese women today. On Tết and other occasions such as weddings, Vietnamese men may wear an Ao Gam (brocade robe), a version of the Ao Dai made of thicker fabric. It's the required uniform for female teachers (mostly from high school to below) and female students in common high schools in the South.

The most important difference between Vietnamese ao dai and Chinese qipao/cheongsam is that ao dai is always worn with pants, while the qipao is never worn with pants.

Like the Kimono in Japan, the Ao Dai can be worn by Westerners if done so with respect and on the right occasion. The Vietnamese do not consider Westerners wearing the Ao Dai to be cultural appropriation ... indeed at many markets you'll be met by dress makers all too happy to custom make one for you out of whatever fabric your heart desires.


Arm Scye

The arm scye (or scythe) is the garment edge to which a sleeve is sewn. The length of the armscye is the total length of this edge; the width is the distance across the hole at the widest point and the height is the vertical distance from the top to the bottom.

An arm hole is not necessarily a scye if a sleeve is not attached!

There are several methods on drafting the arm scye and each has it's merits depending on the type of garment you're trying to draft. There is no more a perfect arm scye method than there is the perfect body shape. Every person has a different shape so to create a perfect arm scye takes time and testing and it will only be perfect for them. You will however find many books have tables for the various arm scye measuerments based on whichever arbitrary system the author is using, most likely based on the data they have collected and averaged ... this is normal for ready to wear but should never be expected to be perfect for all body shapes.


Asymmetrical means anything that lacks symmetry. Symmetry means something that has a line down the middle from which either side is a mirror image of the other … in fashion this means the right side has a different outline, size or design to the left side (in fashion it can’t be front to back, or top to bottom like it might be for objects). An important exception to this is fabric choice … if a garment is a perfect mirror with the exception of just the colour, print or fabric type then it’s not said to be asymmetrical.

Some things that are frequently referred to as asymmetrical are garments with a single shoulder strap or a skirt with an uneven hem line (one side higher than the other).


Atelier (ah-tell-ee-ay)

I'm going to start with this definition I found on Google:

"An atelier is basically a studio, but it sounds way cooler. It's a French word, so say it with an accent. An atelier is a room where artists make their work."

Simply it's the private workshop or studio of a professional artist or designer (not just fashion) where a principal master and a number of assistants, students, and apprentices can work together producing fine art or visual art released under the master's name or supervision. It's the absolute upper end of fine arts.

Wiki: Ateliers were the standard vocational practice for European artists from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, and common elsewhere in the world. In medieval Europe this way of working and teaching was often enforced by local guild regulations, such as those of the painters' Guild of Saint Luke, and of other craft guilds. Apprentices usually began working on simple tasks when young, and after some years with increasing knowledge and expertise became journeymen, before possibly becoming masters themselves. This master-apprentice system was gradually replaced as the once powerful guilds declined, and the academy became a favored method of training. However, many professional artists continued using students and assistants as they had been in ateliers; sometimes the artist paid the student-assistants, while sometimes they paid the artist fees to learn 

In fashion, couture houses are often referred to as ateliers after the name of the designer (alive or not). As of January 2020, couture members include Adeline André, Alexandre Vauthier, Alexis Mabille, Chanel, Christian Dior, Franck Sorbier, Giambattista Valli, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Julien Fournié, Maison Margiela, Maison Rabih Kayrouz, Maurizio Galante, Schiaparelli, and Stéphane Rolland.

In France, the term haute couture is protected by law and is defined by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris based in Paris. The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture is defined as "the regulating commission that determines which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses".



Loosely speaking, a bandeau is a top garment which resembles a band or narrow strip and covers the breasts.

Typically it is a simple strip the encircles the bust line, but it may also be split at the front or back for a tie feature. 

A bandeau can be quite flattening and offers little in the way of support without straps. Really, it should be gathered or darted to allow for cup shaping to avoid the flattening effect of a simple flat band. If you gather or dart to the side seam you will typically need to stabilise the side seam with boning to prevent it collapsing and developing horizontal ripples.

Undarted bandeaus also tend to slip down and otherwise be more unstable than darted bandeaus ... the answer is not to simply tighten them more as that'll flatten the bust even more before it creates any tension at the top and bottom lines (lack of tension on the outside is where the instability is coming from). Stability comes when the tension at the top and bottom lines is greater than across the center (bust line) ... or if the tension at the top and bottom has to increase significantly in order to slip up or down. If the bandeau is shaped to allow for cup size with an even tension from top to bottom it will have the least amount of rippling. 

Preformed/shaped foam cups do tend to help considerably with stability in bandeaus.

Technically it's not a bandeau if it has straps anywhere but if it's still the right shape then I think most wouldn't have a problem with using the term.


Bikini Clip

A bikini clip (latch, hook, clasp, closure) or is a two part device designed to create a closure between two straps. They come in many different styles and colours and can be made from metals or plastics. You do get them made from natural materials such as wood or shell, but these generally have a lower longevity. I recommend avoiding metals as they can discolour the garment and skin over time. Metals also heat up and can burn (why underwires were banned for use in swimwear in many countries for a while). A clip may or may not have an adjuster built in, or be supplied with a sliding adjuster, but usually not.

A bikini clip will generally have a loop/slot on either side for inserting the strap. The biggest mistake I see made with using clips is that people do not acount for the distance between each slot ... a clip might be 3cm beteen left and right slots, so you need to take 1.5cm of the end of each strap before adding seam allowance or your straps will be too long. 

Alternatively, clips can be good for adjusting strap length after construction by sliding the strap through to the desired length before stitching it in place ... this is really only of use if the strap has parallel edges.

Lastly the finished width of your strap should be just marginally wider (1-2mm) than the width of the slot so that it doesn't slide around or twist.

Amusing anecdote: Back in the mid 90's I over heard two models referring to waxing their bikini line as "a bikini clip" ... context is everything.


Binder Attachment

A binder attachment is a device that you attach to your sewing machine or sewing machine foot in order to automatically fold an edge binding strip and apply it to the garment. There are three main types. 

  • The first is a simple centre fold binding: this simply folds a precut strip in half, leaving a raw edge on either side. This is typical of binding on non-fashion items like furniture, carpeting and on commercial applications in with the binding strip doesn't fray.

  • The second is a double fold top, single fold bottom: this is similar to the first binder except that the top half of the strip is folded twice such that a raw edge doesn't show on the outside of the garment. These are fairly uncommon now. 

  • The third is a double fold top and bottom: essentially the strip is folded on the outside both top and bottom first, and then in the center such that the raw edges are both inside the binding strip. This is the standard for stretchwear and most bound edges in fashion. These binders also frequently come with an elastic tensioner built in to swimwear and lingerie. This is the fastest and most accurate way to finish edges in stretch garments.


Blind Stitch

A blind stitch in sewing is a method of joining two pieces of fabric so that the stitch thread is invisible, or nearly invisible. Blind stitching hides the stitching line under folded edges. Blind hem stitches are completely hidden on the front of the garment and almost completely hidden on the inside of the garment. The machinist catches only a few threads of the fabric each time the needle is pulled through the fabric, which means that the majority of the stitching is hidden inside the hem.


Boy Leg


Boy Leg refers to a garment (for women) with a square cut leg line at, or just slightly below, the base of the crotch. The essential  component is the square leg line ... womens breifs with square front legs, but curved up over the butt are not boy leg ... side seams ending higher than the crotch are not boy leg ... scooped side seams are not boy leg. Boy leg must be square ... we use the term to communicate a specific design line.

The top of the garment is irrelevant ... it could be a low or high waisted set of undies, it could be a leotard or body suit. The leg line could be cut by any number of seams. It's the design line that's specific here. So the question is ... is the last image with the laced up sides a boy leg?



The best description of camouflage is in our Facebook group. Here's the first few paragraphs ...

While looking for the best camouflage print for our post apocalypse utility fashion collection, I remembered an art school lecture on the topic that I though might make an interesting summary.

The most common of camouflage tactics is background matching ... camouflage is all about blending into the background using colour and shape.

In regards to colour, if you're in the jungle that's going to be a darker green. If you're in a sandy desert/grassland that's going to be a sand colour with black flecks. If you're on the ocean then it's blues ... those are the natural environments. There's also unnatural urban environments ... urban camo would be various shades of black and gray ... concrete and steel.

Circular Skirt

A circular skirt is a simply skirt cut with an inner circle for the waist line and an outer circle for the hem. It's often cut on a double fold for ease of pattern making. It requires a zip or other opening to be able to pull it over the hips.

The skirt is very full and hangs smoothly from the waist without darts or side seams. Variations include more than one full circle, seamed panels to enable better control of the grain line of the fabric, asymmetric hem lines, uneven or contoured hemlines, and even multiple layered circles or tiers.

It can be of any length, from hip height to the floor. It's very popular among many dance styles due to it's full flowy nature, that doesn't restrict movement.


Clover Leaf 

A clover leaf is a two or more lobed cut out pattern (typically three) feature that resembles the petals of a flower or a clover leaf. 

It originated as a small repeating lace trim feature in blouses in the late 1800's France, and is also seen in leatherwork in the same period. In recent times it's become a highly popular back feature in dance and active wear.

It is also referred to as a clover cut out or knot cut out. 


Colour Blocking 

Colour blocking is the deliberate use of contrasting coloured panels to enhance, modify or disguise shape. It's done by creating a contrast line that's visually stronger than the natural lines of the body.

It's easily illustrated in an exaggerated princess line ... The princess line goes closer to the side seam around the bust and comes in further at the waist and back out again to create an hour glass effect. With a strong contrast this is very effective .... you choose a colour for the inside that tires the eye faster such that you can't see the outer edge of the outside colour. 

White naturally disappears faster than other colours (with exception when it's on dark skin). When you feature white with another colour people will see the outline of the colour and not the white. When white is featured with black and another colour, the colour tends to stand out and the lines where they join become very defined.

Colour blocking is not just using lots of colours for the sake of using colours. It isn't, for example simply having a series of red, white and blue panels to match a flag or corporate colours. It refers to the specific process of using blocks of colour to create illusion. If it's primary purpose is not illusion, then it's not colour blocking, just lots of colour (which is all good too).


Full Bust Adjustment

A full bust adjustment is an adjustment done to the front panel of a body block to allow for a larger bust than intended by the designer, whilst maintaining no change in back dimension, armhole, shoulder, side seam or waist. Technically, only the center front can change length besides the final increase in bust measurement (which therefore comes only from the front panel). It is done by cutting various lines to the existing bust point (depending on the method used) and opening the pattern to allow for extra room at the center of the bust, then redrafting the new, larger dart(s) and any change in bust point position.

The majority of methods unfortunately create a corresponding increase in waist size (which might suit the design they want, and may even fit the waist better too in the end), but adjusting the waist should be something that's done separately or at least the amount of increase recorded so it can be taken into account later.

The reverse of an FBA is called a small bust adjustment, which as it infers, means removing surface area at the bust point and flattening the pattern by removing darting angle.


Gingham Gingham is a medium-weight, untextured woven fabric with striped, check or plaid patterns in white and one or more other, bright colors. It is typically made from cotton or cotton-blend yarns. Gingham specifically refers to cotton yarns which are dyed into their constituent colours before the fabric is woven ... refered to as "dyed in the yarn". "Gingham" comes from the Malayan word genggang, or "striped." Stretch or other fabrics with printed stripes or checks are not gingham. It must be a woven and it must be coloured before weaving.


Lounge wear 

Lounge wear is a particular fashion category defined as casual clothes that are suitable for relaxing and laying around at home. They are something between sleep wear and athletic wear, although there seems to be a lot of overlap these days. The underlying tone though is comfort and relaxation. So no that naughty outfit you might wear to bed on occasion is not lounge wear …. nor are regular underwear and a t-shirt considered lounge wear, even if that’s what most singles claim to wearing while watching TV. Lounge wear is a combination of pieces, not typically a single item.

Typical examples are sweat pants, and t-shirt type tops … yoga pants could be called lounge wear if you’re not using them for yoga and exercise. Not surprisingly lounge wear became the fastest growing section of the fashion industry with the advent of Covid-19. There are so many easy fit PDF loungewear patterns available now. Lounge wear can be loose fit, close fit or stretch … as long as it’s soft and comfy. It doesn’t have to be long legged/short sleeved … a crop top and stretchy shorts could be lounge wear.

Can it be worn outside? Well yes, lounge wear has become the thing for grocery shopping, dropping off and picking up kids from school and it’s now acceptable for zoom business meetings (apparently) ... but like grocery shopping it’s definitely not an outside night time thing. Some people like wearing their pajamas to run down to the 711 for ice cream at 10pm … this is not lounge wear or sleep wear … I don’t want to say what this is.



A polyamide is a polymer with repeating units linked by amide bonds. Polyamides occur both naturally and artificially. Examples of naturally occurring polyamides are proteins, such as wool and silk. 

Artificial or synthetic polyamides are simply called polyamide or PA, but are also more commonly known commercially as Nylon ... the first synthetic fiber developed and dates all the way back to 1930.

Synthetic Polyamide fibres are very durable and abrasion-resistant and are designeed to absorb but not retain moisture and thus are good for moisture transport to move moisture away from the body. Synthetic polyamide is also specifically very chemical resistant making it a good choice for swimwear fabrics.

Queen Anne

Queen Anne Neck Line


Trying to define the Queen Anne neckline will incur the wrath of costumers everywhere, because different people have a very very clear but different interpretation of what it might mean.


English costumers will tell you that it's a high back collar neckline with two stage (two distinct angles) deep plunging neckline. American costumers will generally tell you it's a sweet heart neckline with a separate section that covers the shoulders giving you the impression of a two stage neckline (though not always plunging).


I'm a traditionalist ... to me the Queen Anne requires at least the high back neck, even if it isn't rolled up into a collar, which becomes at least the first angled stage of the front neckline ... whether the second stage angle is part of the first isn't so important as the definition is regarding the line and not the construction. No matter how much people debate what it is or isn't from a costuming point of view, it's still fairly recognizable as a generic concept in fashion terms.


Seam Allowance

Seam allowance is a margin of fabric that extends beyond the stitching line so that two or more pieces of fabric can be joined together. You can't stitch right on the egde of a piece of fabric ... stitching has to extend into the fabric in order to hold on to it. So without a seam allowance being added we would actually be making the garment smaller than intended when we sew it.

Seam allowance should be written on the pattern or in the instructions so that you know how far in from the raw edge the designer intended you to sew. In optimum circumstances the seam allowance should be marked on the pattern so you can change if easily if required. Some designers think this confuses the person cutting out the pattern, suggesting they might cut along the wrong line. I believe that if something is properly marked it won't be confusing ... not knowing if seam allowance is there or not or how much is way more confusing. Mark it clearly if you can.

How much seam allowance you add depends on what you are doing and how you intend to sew the seam. A simple straight stitched seam on woven fabric is generally 10mm or 3/8", but if you're creating a garment that is to be adjusted frequently then you would add much more.

Seams that are overlocked (serged) are commonly reduced to the width of the left most needle to blade, or about 6mm for domestic machines. Industrial overlocker machine makers recommend making your seam wider than the cut off so that the seam is a consistent presentable width that doesn't lose tension or run dry (no fabric under the foot) when going through tight corners .... the blade is there for a reason and it's not just for the occasional thread or high spot ... the machines are designed to have a wider seam allowance (usually 10mm or 3/8").

A hem is also a seam allowance. An elasticated leg line has a seam allowance that's a fraction over the width of the elastic. A seam concealed between two layers of fabric so that it is hidden is still a seam even though so many refer to this method of stitching as seamless (meaning no stitching). A zip requires a seam allowance. A bikini clip fold over is a seam allowance. 

Now when you go around a curve, the stitching line won't be the same length as the raw edge. On a convex line it'll be longer, on a concave line it'll be shorter, so when you se it may pul or ripple, but it won't sew flat. You need to snip almost up to the sewing line such that it can curve freely (see attached images) ... in the case of a convexed seam you will need to snip out some of the seam allowance (notching) so that the allowance flaps dont over lap and create little ladder lines when you press!



Warp and weft refer to the directionality of the threads that make up a loomed or woven fabric. ... ​Weft threads are the threads that run from selvage to selvage ... side-to-side, horizontally.

There are several types of weaving, with plain, twill, and satin weaving being the three basic types, dependent on the manner in which they are interlaced by raising or lowering individual warp threads at specific intervals in relation to the weft pass. All the others are variants of these basic weaves or their mixture.

Invis Gusset

Invisible Gusset

What's an invisible gusset? Well it's a gusset that's built into one of the panels between which the separate gusset would otherwise have sat. For example, if you have a gusset panel set in to the underarm area between bodice and sleeve, you could manipulate that gusset panel into the sleeve itself so that it looks just like a set in sleeve, without all the extra seams, but with a little extra room in the armpit ... hence, invisible gusset.

The easiest and most practical one is the underarm gusset, which is created by simply rotating the the underarm section of the sleeve head about the pivot point (see first illustration) to a point about 1cm higher than the gusset you want. Then you create a little square (blue) that same 1cm from the end as a guide for creating your new sleeve head curve (next illustration) .... this way you don't get a point .... always remember to true your patterns.

And now when you insert the sleeve you'll have a gusset that people cant see ... hence "invisible gusset"


Empire Line

The empire line refers to a design line just under the bust. The style became popular in dresses when worn by Napoleon Bonaparte's first wife, Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, during the first French Empire (around 1780), hence it's name.

Empire line dresses are supposed to be flattering on women with larger waists, since the dress doesn't rely on a thin waist to give it its shape. Conversely some argue, that it creates the appearance of early stage pregnancy and interestingly Napoleon Bonaparte himself is documented as having remarked this on many occasions as the reason for his affection for the style.

The silhouette does appear in many ancient Greek images!

The empire line is a particularly valuable design tool in stretch wear as it can be used to provide under bust support!


Eclectic Fashion Style

Eclectic fashion style means a mix of many different fashion styles, textures, colours, accessories and even cultures that normally wouldn't be seen together. While it's hard to achieve a balanced eclectic look, there are tricks to getting it more grounded, like finding a common underlying theme or colour tone. 


A few neutral colours are good for tying things together. You might use techy accessories to tie things together (seen a lot in cyberpunk). Match your seasons though ... different weather choices kill eclectic very quickly ... a big no no is mixing winter and summer, although mixing autumn and spring generally isn't noticed. There should be an underlying theme, like girly, or techy, or rebellious, playful or serious. The fluffy mesh skirt tends to be a staple! 

We often hear about eclectic fashion designers like Henrik Vibskov who often borders on wearable art but a single item of fashion doesn't necessarily mean eclectic even though there are many textures, colours and blended styles within that single item ... the item may be of eclectic design, but eclectic style refers to the coordination of the entire outfit, right down to the shoes (or lack of them). Dior Spring 2005 Paris Fashion week is probably the most obvious example of eclectic high fashion!

I used to have a rule ... an eclectic fashion set needs at least four carefully chosen components! 


Halter Neck

A halter neck is a type of garment in which the front is held in place by means of a strap that extends from the front to behind the neck. It is derived from German, meaning "to hold". It's typically used to allow a low, bare back ... and in the case of swimwear, no back tan lines!

Now I'm going to go out on a limb here and quote my pattern making teacher from the 80s and say that a collar or neck band, does not a halter make ... a high front garment with a neck band is not a halter neck, it's collared. A halter may have a collar, but the collar itself does not form the halter ... this is an important definitive difference.

Halters are good for enhancing bust shape and for helping the girls stay centred! The most common complaint about halters is that they cause headaches ... this occurs when the strap is worn too high on the back of the neck because (counterintuitively) the straps are too short for the wearers body length ... you'll see those complaining of headaches saying the straps are too tight. A longer strap can be worn lower on the back neck and be less likely to cause headaches!

From a pattern making perspective there are two important things to remember:

1. The halter strap should be straight and not curved! It will curve around the neck by itself just fine.

2. When using a low back that cuts through the bust line you need to reduce the horizontal negative ease between the neck and to wherever you cut it for the low back to prevent gaping ... the lower the back, the more you'll need to reduce it generally, but it depends on the style.

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