Don’t know your Breton from your black tie? Here’s your essential primer…
A dress or skirt style with a fitted waist and wide hemline causing a A-shape silhouette. The style was first introduced by Christian Dior in the 1950s.
A decorative technique achieved be sewing one piece of fabric on top of another. This usually takes the form of, for example, a delicate lace sewn onto silk to create an intricate visual effect and is common practice in haute couture and more artisanal fashion practices.
A design in which one side of a garment does not match the other. This is commonly in the form of diagonal collars or hemlines, one-shouldered garments or clothing with closures on only one side.
A formal dress code which dictates tuxedos for men and floor length gowns for women.
A high, wide neckline that runs from shoulder to shoulder.
A garment featuring a simple pattern of horizontal stripes, usually blue and white, inspired by the traditional fishing attire worn in Breton, France.
A lightweight, sheer fabric woven from fine silk or manmade fibres with a matte finish. Often used for formal gowns or women’s shirts.
A scoop neckline created with draped and folded fabric, often cut on the bias.
Crepe de Chine
A lightweight, densely woven fabric made from silk with a silk warp and crepe twist. Commonly used for women’s summer attire.
A tailoring technique that sees a V-shape tuck sewn into a garment to allow it to fit closely to rounded parts of the body. Usually seen in the bust of women’s dresses and shirts, as well as the waist and hipline. It is also a common practice in the back shoulder of jackets.
A method of creating clothing by folding muslin around a dress form or mannequin to form a pattern. A common starting point for designers creating new garments.
An all encompassing term for any kind of decoration added to a garment. This can include appliqué, embroidery, beading, trim etc.
A decorative technique which ornaments fabric with a range of hand or machine stitches in contrasting colours. This is a catch-all term for a huge number of disparate embroidery styles which are often associated with a specific cultural tradition, location or era.
The relocation of the waistline to just under the bust to create a garment with a very long, flowing skirt. Its name comes from the reign of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, during which time it was a popular style, and it is often seen on screen in Austen-era period dramas.
The biannual event in which designers showcase their new collections with catwalk shows and presentations. At present, the main fashion weeks are divided into ready-to-wear, couture and menswear with the biggest taking place in Paris, New York, London and Milan.
A form of decorative jewellery that works together fine wires of gold or silver and is often ornamented with beads. This technique has existed since 3000BC and has been used the world over to create delicate, feminine pieces of jewellery.
A ribbon with small grooves often used as trim.
A form of highly regulated clothing production overseen by the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode. To be certified as an haute couture house, a fashion label must have an atelier in Paris, show two collections a year (in January and July) and make all couture garments bespoke and by hand with at least two fittings.
A woven fabric, often made from wool, that features a V-shape pattern. It is so named for its resemblance to the skeleton of a herring fish and is a popular fabric for suits and coats.
A process of weaving which creates a patterned fabric. Traditionally created using a jacquard loom, which copies a pattern from paper by punching a series of cards, this system can be used to create brocade, damask and tapestry fabrics. A jacquard knit can also be created using a knitting machine.
Sharp narrow folds that, unlike those sewn into trousers or skirts, often extend the length of a garment. They became a signature feature of designs by Issey Miyake and are often found on the bib of dress shirts.
Long, wide-legged trousers often with a high waist.
A style of jacket or dress that sees a ruffle or flare attached to the waist (or worn separately as a belt). This extends a small way past the natural waist and create a more extreme feminine silhouette.
The highly skilled craftspeople (usually women) responsible for bringing haute couture creations to life.
A term for the modern style of clothing retail in which items are sold finished and in standardised sizes. The introduction of prêt-à-porter in the early 20th Century revolutionised the fashion system by making seasonal trends available to the masses.
Prince of Wales check
Also known as Glen plaid, this woven fabric feature a series of large and small checks and is usually created in white and black or grey. It takes its name from being a favourite of Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, when he was the Prince of Wales.
A sleeve style which sees one continuous piece of fabric reach to the neckline with no seam at the shoulder. Often seen on bomber jackets and sportswear.
Also known as cruise, holiday or pre-spring, a resort collection is a line released between autumn/winter and spring/summer. The name is taken from its traditional purpose catering to the post-Christmas holidays of the leisure classes.
Literally translated from the French as ‘know how’, savoir faire refers to the special expertise, skills and craftsmanship possessed by a house and its employees.
A period of time for which a collection is specifically designed. Typically divided into spring/summer and autumn/winter categories.
A narrow, tightly woven band on the edge of denim fabric to prevent it from unravelling. Allows a clean edge when cuffed and is more durable than raw denim.
Any semi-transparent fabric. Often used as an overlay for opaque fabrics.
A simple style of dress with straight lines that does not tend to fit close the body. Often short, it grew in popularity during the 1960s and is a relative of the more closely fitting sheath.
The overall outline created by the cut and fit of a garment. Certain silhouettes are strongly associated with specific eras and cultures, for example, the fitted waists and A-line skirts of the 1950s.
Also called a muslin, a toile is a mock-up of a garment used to refine the fit and details before more expensive fabrics are used to create the finished piece.
A technique for decorating clothing with a realistic image that appears to be three dimensional. Bold and colourful, it is a signature aspect of clothing by Mary Katrantzou.
A soft machine-made netting fabric with a hexagonal mesh. Commonly made from silk, cotton or manmade fibres and used in formal clothing.