Fashion Glossary: A Complete Guide to Styles, Cuts, & Fit

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From A-Line to wide leg and placket to gusset, fashion is full of overwhelming terminology that can leave a shopper feeling dizzy. Low and behold, a cheat sheet.

fashion-glossary-Natalia-Yeromina Models are walking the runway at the Tommy Hilfiger collection presentation for Spring/Summer 2011 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on September 12, 2010 in New York – Copyright: Natalia Yeromina

Whether you are new to the world of fashion or just looking to brush up on your already extensive vocabulary, we complied a complete list of fashion terms that will turn you into a savvy shopper.

There are terms describing everything, including fit, style, cut, fabric, and care. To keep it organized, we will separate these into different posts based on the type of terms. The first of the series will focus on cut and fit. The other fashion vocab. summaries you can look forward to include a fabric glossary, a lingerie glossary, and a clothing care glossary.

Cut and Fit Glossary: 1 of 4 Fashion Glossaries

A-line: Describing a dress or skirt, this style fits at the waist and flares gradually out from waist down to hem, resembling the letter A.

Ballerina Neckline: Low, scooping neckline usually paired with spaghetti straps

Basque Waist/V-Waist: Starting at or just below the waist, and dipping toward center to create a V-shape

Bell Sleeve: Long or ¾ length sleeve that flares out to hem.

Bias Cut: A cut made diagonally across the grain of fabric. Used to create garments that follow curves of body.

Bolero Jacket: Waist-length jacket that is loose and usually open at front

Boat Neck: Wide neckline that runs horizontally from shoulder to shoulder both in the front and back of a garment.

Bodice: Part of a women’s garment that covers from the neck to the waist.

Boot-Cut: Style of pants that is straight throughout hip and knee and then slightly flares from knee to ankle.

Broomstick: Type of dress or skirt characterized by crinkled material and numerous pleats.

Buti: Small embroidered motif, usually floral, but can be others.

Camisole: Waist-length, snug-fitting garment that is sleeveless.

Cap Sleeve: Short sleeve that covers shoulder but does not extend further down the arm.

Capri Pant: Style of pants that is cropped at mid-shin.

Cardigan: Collarless sweater that is open all the way up the front of the garment. Can be crew neck or v-neck with buttons or zippers or open with no closure mechanism.

Cargo: A style that is characterized by a large pocket that is sewn on outside of garment, usually with a pleat.

Carpenter Pants: 5-pocket pants characterized by a loop of fabric on side used to hold a hammer.

Cigarette Pant: A very skinny, slim-cut style of pants that is form fitting and usually cropped at the ankle.

Cinched Waist: A way to accentuate the waist by bringing in fabric on an otherwise loose-fitting garment. Can be gathered using tie, belt, or sewing technique.

Cowl Neck: An extra piece of fabric that drapes loosely from shoulder to shoulder either on the front or back neckline.

Crew Neck: Neckline with ribbed banding that fits closely to the base of neck.

Dart: V-shape tucking of fabric created to help garment fit rounded parts of body. Most often used at bust line, shoulders, waist, and hips.

Décolleté: Very low-cut, plunging neckline falling into deep V-shape below bust. Often reveals shoulders and back as well.

Dolman Sleeve: Sleeve without a socket for shoulder, creating wide armhole that extends from waist to narrowed sleeve.

Double Breasted: Having half of the front of a garment overlap the other half, usually with two vertical rows of buttons and only one vertical row of button closure openings. Often used with jackets, such as peacoats.

Drape: Describes the way fabric hangs when made into a garment. Draping is a type of design that consists of flowing fabric hanging loosely off garment.

Dropped Waist: Waistline of a garment that sits below the natural waistline.

Duster: Long, open, and lightweight jacket, with or without a button closure.

Empire Waist: A shirt, dress, or jacket that is fitted through area just under bust line and flares out into a subtle bell shape.

Eyelet: Small, decorative holes that create a pattern on a garment.

French Cuff: Shirt cuff made with extra fabric that is turned back and fastened with a cufflink.

Grain: Used to describe direction of wefts/yarn.

Gusset: A diamond-shaped piece of fabric that is sewn into the crotch of pants or underarm of sleeves to add extra durability in snug-fitting areas that are likely to tear due to friction.

Halter Top: Sleeveless shirt or dress that has strap that goes around neck.
Handkerchief Style: Hem of a blouse, skirt, or dress that drops into a flowing point.

Hem: The lower edge of a garment that is sewn in a variety of ways to cover the raw edge. It can be modified to make a garment longer or shorter.

Hip Huggers: Low-cut bottoms worn below natural waistline.

Hook and Eye Closure: A way to fasten a garment using a hook that latches onto a hoop or bar.

Inseam: Seam the lines inside of pant leg. Measured from crotch to lower ankle.

Keyhole Neck: A round, tear-shaped cutout that clasps at front or back of neckline.

Kimono: A Japanese-style, collarless robe that has wide sleeves and is usually worn with a sash, called an obi belt.

Lapel: Folded flap on collar of jacket or blazer.

Maillot: A women’s one-piece bathing suit. Term often used in conjunction with designer swimwear.

Mermaid: Skirt or dress that hugs the body and then dramatically flares out at knee down to hem.

Natural Waist: A seam or waistband that lies at natural curve of the body, or the area between the hip and bottom of ribcage.

Picot: Row of small loops sewn on hem to create decorative accent. Usually done in ribbon or lace.

Pin-Tuck: Narrow, sewn down pleats.

Piping: Decorative trimming given to garment on seams.

Placket: A slit/opening in a garment that allows for extra room to put on and remove a garment. Usually found at wrist, neck, or waist. Often used with zippers, hooks, and closures.

Plissé: French word describing garment with puckered surface.

Pencil Skirt: A typically knee-length skirt that is fitted from waist down through the knee.

Pleat: A fold in fabric used to manipulate fullness. Multiple pleats are usually grouped together. There are many different types of pleats. Some of the most common, according to Women’s Wear Daily, are: “ knife pleats, which are pressed to keep an edge, and face in the same direction; box pleats, the edges of which face in opposite directions; inverted pleats with edges brought to face each other at a center line; sunburst or accordian pleats that are narrower at the top and wider at the bottom, and kick pleats, generally a single pleat placed at the bottom of a narrow skirt.”

Pointelle: Open-hole stitch usually in shape of V, flower, or diamond.

Prêt-a-Porter: French term describing ready-to-wear collection, often associated with lower-priced garments.

Princess Seams: Long, rounded seams at side of garment used to create narrow, tailored fit. Only found in women’s clothing. Usually starts at shoulder or underarm and extends to bottom hemline.

Purl Stitch: Type of stitch used in knits to create ribbed effect.

Rise: Distance between crotch and waistband on bottoms.

Romper: One-piece garment where bottom forms bloomers.

Ruching: Garment with large areas of fullness gathered in to form a rippling effect.

Scallop: Decorative finish used on hems created by a repetition of curves.

Scoop Neck: A low, U-shaped neckline.

Seam: The area where two pieces of fabric are joined. Many different types of seams. Some of the most common, according to WWD, include: “Plain seam, made by placing the right sides of two garment pieces together and sewing the seam on the under side of the fabric. Flat felled seam or a simulated flat felled seam, used in sturdy blue jeans. A very durable seam, it has a double row of stitching that holds the seam down. French seams, used on very sheer and delicate fabrics and require several steps in which a seam is sewn on the right side of the fabric, then the right sides of the fabric are placed together and another row of stitching is made that encloses the original seam.”

Selvedge: Known as “self edge,” this is a type of denim made on vintage looms that has clean edge on out seam. Won’t fray as easily because of clean edge.

Shawl Collar: Type of collar with one piece of fabric folded over to create continuous line around neck.

Sheaths: Form-fitting skirt with a snug-fitting bodice attached. Usually has slit up side or back to allow for easy walking.

Shirred Waist: Decorative gathering made by drawing up material along 2+ parallel lines.

Shrug: A small, waist-length or shorter jacket usually open in the front.

Skort: Shorts with a piece of front-cover fabric that resembles a skirt.

Slim Fit: Type of fit characterized by fabric that is cut closer to the body, creating a snugger fit. Usually used to describe pants and shirts.

Smocking: Tightly-gathered fabric that is often elasticized and stitched decoratively.

Spaghetti Strap: A thin piece of fabric that attaches the front and back of a shirt. Named after its resemblance to a piece of spaghetti.

Split Neck: A round neckline with a small “V” cut into the center.

Sportswear: Casual wear that can be worn anytime of day for a number of different activities. Usually includes separates that can be paired together or worn individually.

Square Neck: Neckline that resembles half a square.

Stance: Where the highest button on a jacket hits the chest.

Straight Leg: Style of pants cut the same width from waist to ankle.

Sweetheart Neck: Neckline resembling the top half of a heart.

Tank Top: Snug-fitting bodice without sleeves.

Tea Length: Skirt or dress hemmed to end at the shin.

Tiers: layers of fabric that overlap each other one above the other.

Topstitching: Stitching sewn on outside of garment at seams.

Trapeze Top: Tank top style that flares out from shoulder to hem, creating a loose fit.

Trumpet Skirt: Straight skirt with a hem that flares away from body.

Tuck: A fold in fabric that is stitched parallel to the fold. Used to manipulate fullness, and like pleats, usually many tucks are used in a group on a garment.

Tunic: Slip-on garment made without without sleeves that is sometimes cinched at waist.

Turtle Neck: Neckline that covers most of neck and usually fold over onto itself.

Unitard: A snug-fitting one-piece bodysuit that covers legs, torso, and sometimes the arms. Different from a bodysuit that only covers the torso and sometimes arms.

V-Neck: Neckline that slopes down into a V-shape.

Whiskers: Fabric creases at hip and upper thigh.

Wide Leg: Style of pants cut extra full from waist to hem.

Wing Collar: Collar with protruding fabric that goes over shoulders seams.

Wrap Top: Shirt created by cross-wrapping fabric and usually typing it on side.

Image Credit: Shutterstock. Copyright Natalia Yeromina

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