The A to Z of fashion
As fashion constantly changes so does its technology, main players and organisation. To help out Esquire has curated an updated list of fashion vocabulary to help you speak like an industry native.
The Italian is the creative director for Gucci. He is widely credited for reviving the brand and making it a luxury powerhouse again, largely by the means of making ‘excessively opulent’ cool again.
A type of parka, an anorak is worn over the head because it typically has a half-zip front that ends above the waist.
Appliqués are contrasting fabrics or materials that are added to a design. While they can refer to flat creations, the term is more commonly used to describe designs that are raised.
Avant-garde fashion refers to designs that spark conversations and push the boundaries of what is acceptable. Although these days, nothing is ever truly avant-garde.
Brogues are a type of Oxfords. While Oxford shoes are clean and plain, the act of decorating an Oxford with brogueing (adding punch-holes decoratively) would turn one into a pair of brogues. Once you go brogue, there’s no turning back.
An often misused term, bespoke is the highest level of customised design in fashion. Commonly used in reference to tailoring, bespoke offers a truly individual experience. Bespoke tailoring makes use of patterns drafted from scratch based on a customer’s measurements and offers the widest range of offerings with respect to fabrics, details and finishings.
Bohemian style is a mishmash of textures, fabrics and sometimes the mix of luxurious materials with that of more grounded ones. There’s always a juxtaposition between ugly and beautiful in one look. Proponents of this style of dress include brands such as Loewe, Marni and Prada.
Also known as denim-on-denim, a Canadian tuxedo refers to the combination of a denim top (outerwear or shirts included) with a pair of denim jeans. Wearing a Canadian tuxedo is hardly a faux pas, but wearing one like Justin Timberlake circa 2001 is not recommended.
Capsule collections are traditionally a one-off small edit of essential items that transcend seasonality of fashion. They are also supposed to be wearable and easily adapted into a customer’s existing wardrobe.
A cummerbund is a piece of pleated sash that’s worn on the waist and over trousers. There’s only one correct way to wear a cummerbund—pleats should be facing up.
Dégradé refers to a colouring technique in clothes where the colour gradually fades seamlessly from dark to light. This is not the same as ombré, where a colour gradually fades to another hue all together.
Like playing a game of darts, darts in fashion should be precise and purposeful. Darts are stitches used to shape a garment, varying in width and length as needed.
A designer is someone who comes up with the look of clothes. While a designer can also be a creative director, the latter is most often in charge of the overall vision of a collection and dictates the direction and concept.
Part of the streetwear vernacular, a ‘drop’ refers to the launch of a particular product or collection. It’s also a term used by brands hoping to appear cool and in with the millennials.
A general term used to describe any sort of decoration fixed to a material. Embellishments can range from precious materials like diamonds and pearls to more common items like buttons and studs.
Ecru is the colour of unbleached linen. It can also be described as an earth tone resembling a light fawn colour.
Exclusive usually refers to designs or collections that are one-off and cannot be found anywhere else. Unless of course, they’re copied and sold for cheap through the black market.
Designs featuring botanical prints are often referred to as florals. They are also not groundbreaking during the spring/summer season in fashion.
A faille is a woven fabric (typically made of silk) that is soft and flowy yet has a ribbed texture.
Original Fair Isle jumpers are knitted by producers based in Fair Isle, in Scotland’s Shetland Islands. The number of producers of traditional Fair Isle jumpers has dwindled, but the colourfully knitted patterns have been appropriated by so many brands that the origins have been diluted.
A French tuck is a term made popular by Tan France of the Netflix series Queer Eye. Although the technique of tucking in a top into trousers just at the front is a brilliant way of showcasing a belt or neatening up a look, it is not French in origin.
Givenchy (‘zhee-von-shee’) was founded by Hubert de Givenchy in 1952. It is one of the few fashion houses that is still certified and recognised as producing haute couture.
Grail refers to a pair of sneakers that are incredibly desirable but very difficult to get a hold of. A pair of limited-edition kicks on eBay for slight multiples of its original price is probably not a grail piece.
Grunge is a rock music genre, but is translated in fashion through the inherent sense of nonchalance, the use of denim jeans and oversized plaid, and all done in a quite dishevelled manner.
Grosgrain (‘grow-grain’) is a fabric that’s typically seen on ribbons and bows, and is characterised by its ribbed appearance.
Harry Styles is a musician who’s often been called this generation’s Mick Jagger. His penchant for flounce and a gender-blurring aesthetic has been punctuated by his close relationship with Gucci.
Haute couture literally means ‘high dressmaking’ in French and refers to a made-to-order process that requires multiple fittings, done by a group
of full-time workers in an atelier. The term might be used quite loosely these days, but official haute couture fashion houses are certified by France’s
very formal sounding Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
Herringbone is a chevron-like pattern that’s most popular on suiting. The zigzag design resembles that of a herringbone skeleton.
The hip-level is the point where the circumference of the hip is at its fullest. It is also the level where one should not wear trousers at.
Influencers, or sometimes referred to as key opinion leaders, are a group of individuals that have risen among the ranks (mostly through social media) based on the number of followers they have. While the original crop of fashion influencers such as Ahmad Daabas and Mr Moudz do have fashion knowledge, it’s now common to see just about anyone regarded as an ‘influencer’.
An inseam is the length of the inside seam that runs from the crotch to the hem of a pair of trousers.
A Jodhpur is a kind of Chelsea boot that’s initially designed to be used for riding. The Jodhpur boot features a low heel and a characteristic strap and buckle that wraps around the ankle. Interestingly, they were designed to go with Jodhpur trousers.
Jacquard fabrics have raised patterns that are woven into the fabric, instead of patterns that are merely printed on. Depending on the types of yarns used,
a jacquard can vary from minimal-looking variations to more ostentatious designs with the use of metallic yarns.
The late Kaiser was the creative director for two luxury fashion houses—Chanel and Fendi—at the same time. Karl Lagerfeld was known for his iconic look of a white-haired ponytail, black sunglasses and high, crisp white collars.
A knit is a type of fabric that’s created using a technique where yarn is looped around. As compared to woven fabrics, a knit tends to be more malleable and stretches more easily.
Layering is the act of wearing one garment over another, and so on. The most basic form of layering is wearing a suit jacket over a shirt or a T-shirt. It is a sure-fire way to look stylish, but often avoided by people living in heat.
If a fabric has a metallic appearance, it is most likely a lamé. The fabric is shiny due to the metallic yarns used to produce it.
Made-to-measure is the in-between layer of ready-to-wear and bespoke. Unlike bespoke, made-to-measure tailoring uses a set pattern block and then adjusts the pattern according to a customer’s measurements. The choices of fabrics and customisation in a made-to-measure garment are also not as extensive as bespoke.
Mohair is a type of wool that’s derived from Angora goats. The latter is not to be confused with Angora rabbits, which gives us Angora wool. Mohair is sought-after for its high sheen and lustre.
Niche fashion caters to only a specific group in society. Types of niche fashion can include gender-blurring fashion, vegan clothing and even haute couture—all catering to a small segment of the community at large.
Velvety and smooth, nubuck is leather that has been buffed or sanded to create an appearance that’s almost like suede. Unlike leather, nubuck is more resistant to wear and less precious.
Outré (‘oo-tray’) refers to an outrageous and eccentric sense of style. Someone who experiments with the way he dresses and has a penchant for bold colours, prints and unconventional silhouettes can be described as being outré. Beats being called weird, that’s for sure.
Oversized clothes can either be designed to be intently oversized or chosen to be worn oversized by simply purchasing a size that’s bigger than one’s usual size. Oversized garments have been closely linked to streetwear and their tendency to disrupt proportions of clothes.
Plissé is basically a fancier way of referring to pleated or crinkled fabrics. Plissé fabrics have been treated to create permanent pleats. Homme Plissé Issey Miyake is a brand that’s revolutionising the technique by applying it to garments that have been fully constructed as opposed to pleating the fabric first.
A peak lapel is distinguished by its sharp upward-pointing design. Its appearance on a blazer instantly makes it more formal.
Pierpaolo Piccioli is the sole creative director of Valentino after sharing the role with Maria Grazia Chiuri for eight years. His creations for Valentino across menswear, womenswear and haute couture have been very well-received since going at it solo.
The best examples of quilting are the down jackets done by Moncler. Quilting is achieved by sewing two layers of fabric together, which are first filled with light padding, creating geometric patterns.
The mark of true luxury fashion is the quality. This refers to the way that the garment is made from the creation of the fabric to the final finishing of the piece. A quality piece of work is one that could potentially last for a very long time.
Raf Simons is most recently known as the creative director who made American brand Calvin Klein fashion-forward, and in turn,
New York Fashion Week interesting. As the creative force behind his eponymous label, Simons references subcultures and youths to create avant-garde fashion.
The silhouette of a garment or an outfit is its imaginary outline. In menswear, the silhouette has remained relatively the same for centuries, with minor adjustments here and there. However, with a more progressive society, menswear designers have pushed themselves to devise new silhouettes.
Sartorial has come to be loosely used to describe a way of dress that includes any manner of men’s tailoring. Being sartorially dressed means looking
like a gentleman.
A signature look or style is something that’s instantly recognisable. If copied or appropriated, it would invoke the wrath of social media justice warriors.
A buzzword that’s been common since 2016, sustainability in fashion refers to ensuring that negative effects to the environment, society and economy are minimised and can be maintained, throughout the entire production process. Purely sustainable fashion is, quite frankly, quite impossible.
A trench coat is a long outerwear made from heavy-duty cotton drill that was first used by soldiers during World War I. Burberry is commonly regarded as the inventor of the trench coat, and to this day, produces trench coats in a variety of designs.
Trends are key stylistic choices that are popular for a certain period. Trends in fashion are cyclical and always come back. Which means that you should never throw away those bootcut jeans you have lying at the back of your closet. (No actually, do throw them away.)
A fashion tribe is a community that’s characterised by the type of look that is sported. It is said that as fashion began to become too homogenous, fashion tribes have become the de facto way individuals get to express their creativity and feel belonged in a group.
Trompe l’oeil is a technique that depicts the illusion that something is real or three-dimensional when in actual fact, it is not. These can include hyper-realistic prints and carefully manipulated graphics to give the impression that a garment is something more than it is.
Utilitarian fashion takes references from military uniforms. In essence, utilitarian clothes are packed with design details that are functional—big cargo pockets with zipped closures, hem-adjusting tabs and even waterproofing.
If fashion is able to be worn by both men and women, it can be considered unisex. This is different from gender-blurring or androgynous fashion, where the clothes are adapted by both genders. Unisex fashion is specifically designed with both genders in mind; wearing your partner’s dress does not make it unisex.
A garment that is unstructured means that it has no structural design support such as boning and padding. An unstructured garment, when hung, should drop instead of appearing stiff.
Virgil Abloh is the artistic director of menswear for Louis Vuitton. Abloh has made history as the first black designer at the creative helm of the maison.
Fashion items that are at least 20 years old are considered vintage. The act of buying vintage can be seen as the most environmentally friendly way of buying fashion. And if something has been in pristine condition for the past 20 years or so, it would probably last much longer.
Unlike sound, volume in fashion doesn’t necessarily have to be loud. Volume can be achieved through the use of oversized clothing or wearing a heavily padded piece of design.
Woven fabrics are constructed mainly on a loom, using warp and weft threads. The perpendicular interlacing construction makes woven fabrics sturdier than knits, and depending on the tightness of the weave, can be as malleable as knitted ones.
Instead of wearing out a piece of clothing naturally for years, fashion brands have created clothes that appear to be worn. Items are manually distressed and sometimes, destroyed to give the look of it having been lived in, and then price them the same as perfectly constructed items. Because, fashion.
In fashion, X denotes a collaboration between two brands. It is incorrect to refer to the X as ‘by’, since in a collaboration, there shouldn’t be one party that’s more significant than the other.
Yohji Yamamoto is one of the most highly regarded Japanese fashion designers to have made a mark in the international scene. Aside from creating awe-inspiring fashion for his own label, Yamamoto also has a long-standing partnership with Adidas through the Y-3 label.
One of the leading e-commerce groups serving luxury fashion, the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group was formed in 2015 after the merger between Yoox Group and Net-a-Porter Group. Most importantly, Mr Porter is part of the group and stocks some of the best online edits of menswear out there.
Zegna is the abbreviated nameof the Ermenegildo Zegna brand. The Italian luxury fashion house first started out as a fabric producer and still continues to produce fabrics for some of the biggest luxury brands in the market.