To an outsider, fashion words and the industry can quickly become a very strange place. Fashion people have cultivated a bizarre, almost cult-like club. It’s guarded by a cryptic vocabulary of fashion terms, customs and normalcies. You’ve likely come across a few in our fashion week reviews. Similarly, look at this excerpt from a Gucci collection Review on WWD, “Yet these clothes were not about newness or exaggeration of silhouette, or other such elements that can be telegraphed at a distance.” Fashion terminology certainly isn’t casual conversation for the majority of people. Most readers simply skim over these confusing appearances from the fashion lexicon. Casually picking them out like the unwanted seeds of fruit.
Even more confusing is understanding the context in which some fashion terms appear. For example, in journalism, an editorial is defined as an opinion article, whereas, in fashion it can also describe a photographic style. Understanding the language of fashion provides new insight to dialogue you’ve heard countless times. Fashion terms and phrases like “SS” and “AW” that once looked like scientific formulas soon become colloquial chatter. Similarly you realize that a Resort isn’t a fancy hotel and that a glossy is simply another name for a print magazine.
Let’s end a bit more of the confusion as we define 21 fashion terms that fashion people love to use. You can also take our Style IQ quiz to see how you’ve learned. Already know your fashion terminology, you can take the quiz now. Fashion Words Quiz!
Short for photo shoot. Typically refers to fashion photography as seen in sources like fashion magazines and advertisement campaigns and videos.
A category of apparel that has an accessible price point and a more commercial appeal compared to typical high-end fashion collections. While contemporary fashion is modern, the two terms are not directly synonymous.
Resort is a fashion collection category that represents year-round, season-less fashion. Unlike Spring and Fall collections which transition to meet climate conditions, Resort is unchanging. It is also known as “cruise wear”, reinforcing a notion of leisure, luxury, and travel.
An assortment of clothing, footwear, and accessories that a brand presents for a fashion season or unique event. Fashion collections reflect current industry trends as well as the creative vision of the designer and team.
5. SS & FW or AW
One of two main collection seasons, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Each collection targets its corresponding season and climate. The terms are often shortened to SS and FW respectively. Outside of the United States, Fall is more commonly called Autumn. When referring to a specific year and collection, it is written as the Season followed by the Year. For example, Spring Summer 2017 or SS17.
6. Haute Couture
Coming from french origin, Haute couture is an elite, extremely expensive type of fashion apparel under regulation by law in France. In order for clothing to be called couture or haute couture it must be designed by a fashion house with a couture certification. The Fédération Française de la Couture is the law making body which approves and denies members of this exclusive form of fashion.
A favorite term of fashion writers and designers describing the basic outline of a garment. Silhouettes may be defined using adjectives like loose, slouchy and body-conscious. However, it’s not simply referring to the natural shape of a garment. Instead, it critiques how the piece fits on the body.
8. Look Book
A digital or print photo book displaying a collection of images from a particular brand’s fashion collection. Typically, each fashion house creates a new look book for each collection season. Look books can also include several different fashion brands. This is very common in retail where fashion retailer group items from multiple designers into one cohesive collection.
Refers to a conceptual style of photography focusing on storytelling through fashion. While editorial is often a blanket term for many genres of fashionable photography, it can also be split distinctly into editorial fashion and editorial beauty.
The theme of an editorial, collection or other fashion focused medium. It also conveys the purpose and inspiration behind a body of work. Fashion editors also use the terminology to describe exactly how viewing the work makes them feel. In the planning and pre-production process, creative teams gather these thought by creating a pinterest type collage of ideas, referred to as a moodboard.
References the tailoring of clothing and their unique fit and silhouette. It also refers to all clothes in general. Similar to how the term fashion can appear as either a noun or verb.
Short for capsule wardrobe. Popularized in the 1980s by Donna Karan’s “Seven Easy Pieces” collections, the concept of a capsule wardrobe is to create a small mini-collection of timeless style essentials to wear year-round. It is a means to declutter closets and simplify fashion. When talking about a brand’s capsule, it becomes a “capsule collection”.
13. Fashion “line”
A fashion line is a clothing category found within a brand’s larger collection. However, lines may not follow a consistent schedule. Examples of a fashion line are the activewear and evening wear groupings found in the Versace collection. A collection can exist independently, however, a fashion line is always found within a fashion collection.
14. Line Sheet
In fashion, a line sheet is an important business document detailing the pieces available to purchase from a fashion collection. Focusing on wholesale to buyers, a line sheet includes details such as garment sizes, size range, SKU number, and color swatch.
The process of borrowing clothes from a brand for the purposes of reviewing and providing media publicity such as photography. Essentially, it’s like renting clothing, but there is no fee. Brands usually work with PR agencies to determine which magazines, stylists and celebrities can pull clothing.
Another word for fashion magazine. Often used in fashion writing to note the publication being profiled. The term comes from the hi-gloss effect on pages in popular fashion magazines.
17. High fashion
An expensive type of fashion clothing and design. Involves the use of luxury fabrics and techniques. Some brands are known solely as high fashion brands. For instance, Chanel, Gucci, and Prada are all high fashion brands.
Ironically, it’s not what most people wear on the street. Streetwear is a stylish form of fashion apparel originating in California. Taking inspiration from by surf/skate culture, hip hop music, and an urban lifestyle, it reflects youth culture.
Translates from French to mean “off the rack” or “off the peg”. It most commonly appears in its English form of Ready to Wear. The fashion term refers to mass-market apparel made in bulk and sold in finished condition. Ready to wear differs from other forms of distribution such as couture, which is made-to-order.
20. Diffusion lines
Not to be mistaken for a capsule collection, a diffusion line is a secondary fashion line created by an established high fashion brand. The purpose of this collection is to provide shoppers merchandise at more accessible price points. While still carrying the brand’s name, diffusion lines are separate from it parent. Examples of diffussion lines include Marc by Marc Jacobs and Michael Michael Kors.
21. See Now Buy Now
A newer concept allowing shoppers to purchase pieces from fashion collections immediately after their runway launch. Traditionally, fashion collection debut an entire Season before shoppers can purchase them. For example, Spring collections release during Fall and Winter collections in February just as Spring approaches.
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