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 each day (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. I have a nice little cgi script I use to randomly select each word, so each addition won't be in any particular order. I also welcome new suggestions to add to the list. 

Don't forget the fastest way to find what you are after is to use the search bar at the top!


  • 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

  • Bishop Sleeve

  • Blind Stitch Machine

  • Boat Neckline

  • Body Rise Adjustment

  • 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 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

  • 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 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.



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".


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.

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 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.