Women’s Fashion Glossary

Style Glossary Intro

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Acrylic: Acrylic is a synthetic fiber that is lightweight, soft and wrinkle-resistant. Often used in women’s sweaters as an alternative to wool, acrylic is less expensive than but usually not as warm as wool.

A-line: An A-line silhouette mimics the letter “A” and has a narrow top and a flare. You can find the A-line shape on dresses, skirts and women’s coats.

Applique: Any needlework design or pattern applied to the surface of clothing is an applique.

Asymmetric: Designs in which each side of an item of apparel is different in structure than the other side. In a symmetrical design, both sides are the same. Asymmetry may be seen in areas such as collars, necklines, closings or hemlines.

Aviator: A style of sunglasses identified by their thin metal frame, double bridge, and teardrop-shaped lenses that are usually reflective or smoked.


Babydoll: A babydoll is a dress or blouse that is modeled on the popular nightgown qstyle with the same name. The babydoll is short and often sleeveless; it is fitted at the bust and falls in a full style to the hip.

Balloon or bubble hem: A skirt or dress with a balloon or bubble hem has a full, rounded, puffed look that gathers in at the bottom.

Banded sleeve: A banded sleeve has a finished edge that makes the edge of the sleeve fit a bit closer.

Bandeau: From the French word for “band,” a bandeau features a snug band of fabric around the chest. A bandeau top can have various straps: It can be strapless, have one diagonal strap, a halter-style strap or spaghetti straps.

Barrel-line cut: Like its namesake, a barrel-line cut gives an elongated, rounded shape to dresses or skirts.

Basque: The extension below the waistline of a fitted bodice or jacket. Unlike a peplum, which flares out below the waist and is relatively short, basques may be of any length, may be fitted or full, and may be placed in a limited area, such as the back or front, or all around. They are an integral part of the construction of the garment top.

Bateau or boat neckline: This wide neckline mimics the shape of a canoe. It’s also known as a slash-neck. (Bateau is French for “boat.”)

Batwing/dolman sleeve: A dolman sleeve is wide at the shoulder and narrow at the wrist; these sleeves are most often found on women’s blouses.

Bell sleeve: A bell sleeve is a long sleeve that is fitted at the shoulder and flared at the wrist. Some bell sleeves have a banded edge.

Bias cut: Bias-cut clothes have been cut out of fabric diagonally to the fabric’s weave. A bias cut gives clothing a flowing feeling.

Bishop sleeve: A basic sleeve style cut with minimal fullness where it is set into the armhole then widens gradually to the wrist where it is gathered into a tightly fitting cuff. Some versions have the fullness at the wrist concentrated in such a way that much of it hangs down under the wrist.

Bodice: The bodice is the section of a dress or shirt that fits over the bust and the torso.

Brocade: From the Italian word for “embossed cloth,” brocade is a fabric with designs woven into it.

Bustier: A garment similar to a corset that is like a combination waist cinch and brassiere. It ends at the waist or extends to the hips. Formerly an undergarment that was sometimes called a merry widow, it is now worn as a woman’s top, is usually strapless, and may be made from highly ornamental fabric.


Cap sleeve: A cap sleeve is a very short sleeve that just covers the shoulder and the top of the upper arm.

Cat-eye: A sunglass style made famous by Hollywood stars in the ‘50s. They are categorized by the upswept angle of their frames.

Chambray: A lightweight woven cotton fabric with a colored yarn in the warp and a white yarn in the weft. It is often referred to as a lightweight denim.

Charmeuse: A smooth, lightweight fabric that can be woven from silk or synthetic fibers, charmeuse is like satin but has a lighter weight.

Chiffon: A woven fabric with a crepe texture, chiffon is sheer and airy and is usually woven from silk or synthetic fibers.

Clubmaster: Sunglasses with a frame that is thick on the top part of the frame while the bottom half of the frame is ultra-thin. Also known as browline due to the portion over your brow being thicker.

Color blocking: Color blocking is a technique where blocks of various fabrics are sewn together to create clothing with a few different solid colors.

Contrast piping or contrast stitching: These are names for edging or stitching on an item of clothing that is a different color than the fabric, usually white or black against a brighter color. Women’s jeans often feature contrast stitching around the back pockets.

Cotton: This well-known natural fiber can be woven into a wide variety of fabrics. Some of the many fabrics woven from cotton are broadcloth, oxford, chino cloth, denim, corduroy, chambray, terrycloth and seersucker.

Crepe: A lightweight woven fabric with a crimped texture, crepe is often made of silk or rayon. Thin crepe is known as crepe de Chine.


Dart: V-shaped tuck that is sewn into a garment in order to shape the fabric so that the garment fits the rounded parts of the body. Darts are most often found at the bustline, the back shoulder, the waistline, and the hipline.

Decollete: A low neckline that exposes cleavage is known as a decollete.

D’orsay: Refers to any shoe that has a closed heel and toe but which is cut down to the sole at the sides. It can be made with a heel of any type and any style of vamp (front).

Duchesse satin: A heavyweight satin, duchesse satin is usually used for formal dresses or lingerie and can be made of silk or synthetic fibers.


Empire waist: An empire silhouette features a high waist, usually just under the bust, and a flowing, loose bodice. You may see an empire waist on dresses or women’s shirts.

Espadrille: Shoe with a canvas upper and rope sole.

Epaulette: Inspired by military uniforms, epaulettes are ornamental shoulder pieces. Epaulettes can be showy, with fringe or other details, or they can be subtle, like the shoulder strap found on trench coats.


Faux: From the French word for “fake,” faux is used to describe synthetic items, like faux fur, or it indicates that something only appears a certain way, such as a faux wrap dress.

Fit and Flare: A fit and flare dress closely hugs the body through the bodice and right past the hip, where the skirt then flares away from the body. You can also find this style on skirts.

Flannel: A woven fabric that is napped (brushed to give a soft feel) on one or both sides, flannel can be very casual, like with plaid flannel shirts, or more formal, like with flannel suits.

Flatform: A type of shoe that has a very thick, but fairly flat sole. This type of shoes is typically associated with 90’s fashion.

Flounce: A flounce is a wide ruffle.

Flutter sleeve: A flutter sleeve is a short sleeve that falls loosely over the upper arm.

French cuff: Usually only found on button-down shirts, a French cuff is a double cuff that folds over and is fastened with cuff links or silk knots.

Frog: A decorative closure for a garment that is made from cord or braid. On one side of the area to be closed, a loop is made and on the other, a large, ornamental knot. The knot passes through the loop.


Gabardine: A tightly woven, tough fabric, gabardine can be made from wool, cotton or synthetics.

Georgette: A sheer, lightweight crepe fabric with a crinkled finish. Bridal gowns, evening dresses, and other formal wear are sometimes made with georgette fabric.

Godet: A godet is a panel of fabric inserted into a skirt or dress to create a flare.

Gore: A triangular shaped fabric piece that is intended to add gradual fullness to a garment. Skirts often consist of two or more gores. They allow a closer fit over the hips and then gradually flare out at the lower part of the garment.

Gusset: A gusset is a piece of fabric that is inserted into a seam to give more room and/or to reduce stress on the seam.


Habotai: Habotai is a soft silk, also known as “China silk.”

Halter: A halter neckline features a strap that goes around the neck, usually leaving the upper back exposed. A halter neck can be found on dresses, tank tops and women’s swimwear.

Hemline: A hemline is the lower edge of any clothing item.


Inseam: An inseam is the inner seam on the legs of a pair of pants.


Jersey: Jersey is a type of knitted fabric that can be made from wool, cotton or silk.

Juliet sleeve: Inspired by Renaissance styles, a Juliet sleeve is fitted over the forearm and puffed at the top.


Keyhole: Found on dresses, shirts and women’s swimwear, a keyhole is a teardrop-shaped cutout.

Kimono sleeve: Cut as part of the bodice of women’s blouses, a kimono sleeve has a wide, sloping shape.

Knit: Knits include any fabric that is formed with a path of loops; this pattern is very visible in sweaters but not as much in T-shirts, which are also knits. Knits have a bit of stretch and vary greatly in thickness.


Linen: Made from the fibers of the flax plant, linen is a fabric that is a favorite for summer clothing because of its light weight.

Loafer: Moccasin-style classic slip on shoe that has a slotted strap at the front. The strap is stitched to the front (vamp) of the shoe. If the strap has a coin inserted in the slot, the shoe is called a penny loafer. If it has a tassel at the front, it is a tassel-top loafer. Sometimes a metal chain is fasten to the strap, and the shoe is called a chain loafer.


Messenger bag: Designed to be similar to the bags carried by messengers, these handbags usually have a zippered large central compartment. A flap folds down over the front and closes with a buckle or snap. Small versions of these bags may be called courier bags.

Microfiber: Microfiber is made of a blend of synthetic fibers to make a very soft fabric.

Minaudiere: A handbag for evening that is made of metal pieces that are often highly ornamented with jewels, worked metal, or other decorative techniques. These bags vary in shape, often being square, oval, or oblong and often having a short chain by which to carry them.

Mule: Shoe or slipper, usually made with high heel, that has a vamp (fitted front) but nothing at the back. The front part of the shoe can be made in any one of many different styles. The heel can vary in height.


Nylon: Nylon is a synthetic fiber.


Ombre: From a French term for “shaded,” ombre is a color effect where the color gradually changes from light to dark over the item of clothing.

One-size-fits-all: When an item of clothing is described as “one size fits all,” it is usually about a size medium and designed with a stretchy fabric to accommodate many different sizes.

One size: A term used to describe unsized garments and can vary in the size that they fit.

Oxford: A basic shoe style that either laces shut or is closed with some other fastening. Details of styling and cut will vary.


Pencil skirt: A pencil skirt is knee-length and fitted from the waist to the hemline. Pencil skirts usually have a slit in the back or front to allow movement.

Peplum: A peplum is a band of fabric at the hem of dresses, blouses or jackets; the bottom part can be ruffled or pleated to create a flare.

Picot: Picot is a series of loops that creates an ornamental trim, usually seen on lingerie.

Placket: A slit or opening in a garment that allows room for the garment to be put on. Plackets are most commonly found at the neck, the wrist, the top of a skirt, or the front of trousers.

Pleats: Pleats are decorative folds in fabric, often used to add fullness to skirts.

Polyester: Polyester is a synthetic fabric that can be used in woven or knitted fabrics and can be lightweight or heavy.

Poplin: A strong, finely ribbed fabric made from silk, wool, cotton or synthetics.


Raglan sleeve: A raglan sleeve extends from the neckline and has an angled seam from the neck to the underarm.

Rise: The rise is the measurement from the crotch to the waistband of a pair of women’s pants.

Ruching: Ruching is a strip of pleated or gathered fabric that trims an item of clothing.


Satin: Satin is a woven fabric with a glossy finish and a lustrous texture that can be made of silk or synthetics.

Scallops: Scallops are decorative borders of semi-circular shapes.

Seam: In sewing, the place where two pieces of fabric are joined.

Seersucker: Seersucker is a lightweight cotton, linen or rayon fabric with puckers and, usually, stripes.

Self-belt or tie: A self-belt or tie is made of the same fabric as the rest of the shirt or dress.

Shantung: Shantung is a woven fabric with a slightly nubby, uneven texture made from cotton, silk or synthetics. Often used for dressier clothing, shantung requires dry cleaning but is fairly stain-resistant.

Sheath: A sheath dress is a short, slim-fitting dress that is cut to cinch in at the waist without a belt or waistband.

Shift dress: A shift dress has a loose fit and lacks a defined waistline. It is often a short dress.

Shirring: Shirring is a decorative detail featuring rows of gathered fabric.

Shirt dress: A dress with a collar and buttons in the style of a shirt, typically cut without a seam at the waist.

Silk: A luxurious natural fiber obtained from the cocoons of certain types of worms, silk can be found in a wide variety of clothes. Silk is often blended with linen, wool or synthetics for easier care and lower cost.

Slides: A typically flat shoe or sandal that has a strap across the foot without a back.

Slip dress: Often resembling the undergarment, a slip dress fits close to the body, is usually made of smooth fabrics and has lace trim.

Skater: A skater dress resembles the dresses the figure skaters wear; a fitted bodice with a short skirt that flares out from at waist. You can also find this style on skirts.

Smocked: Smocking is a technique where fabric has been gathered over an area to make it stretchy. Smocked clothing items (usually dresses or blouses) use smocking as a decorative detail.

Spaghetti strap: Found on dresses and tank tops, a spaghetti strap is a narrow strip of fabric that serves as a shoulder strap.

Spandex: A name for elastic fabrics made of polyurethane, spandex is often used in fabric blends to provide a stretchy, forgiving fit such as in fitness clothing. Lycra is a copyrighted trade name for spandex manufactured by the Invista Company, formerly Dupont.

Surplice: A surplice neckline has two pieces of fabric that cross over each other diagonally, creating a V-neck.


Taffeta: A smooth woven fabric, taffeta is usually made from silk or synthetic fibers. Taffeta is used most often for special occasion dresses due to its luster and crisp feel.

Trapeze: A trapeze dress has a round neckline and a fabric that falls in an A-line shape to a wide flare. This styles is usually short and hits about mid-thigh. You can also find this style in tops.

Trumpet skirt: A trumpet skirt has a slim fit through the hips and flares at the hem.

Tulip skirt: Like an inverted tulip, a tulip skirt has more fabric around the waistline and a close-fitting hemline.

Tunic: Although “tunic” has been used to describe many items of clothing throughout history, the term currently refers to a shirt that is longer than average, usually about hip-length or a little longer.

Twill: Twill is a type of fabric weave which features small diagonal parallel ribs, such as the denim used to make women’s jeans.


Vent: A vent is the split in the lower back of women’s jackets and blazers.


Wayfarer: A style of sunglasses known by their thick plastic frames and boxy square shape.

Wool: These natural fibers come from a variety of animals including alpacas, Angora rabbits (angora), camels, Kashmir sheep (cashmere), Tibetan goats (pashmina) and Angora goats (mohair). Wool is often blended with other fibers, especially when used for women’s coats and sweaters.

Woven: Any fabrics formed by weaving, woven fabrics only have a little bit of stretch in one direction.

Wrap dress: A wrap dress fits by wrapping around the body and crossing in front to close. The wrap dress is often secured with ties and features a deep V-neck.

Wrap shirt: Like a wrap dress, a wrap shirt fits by wrapping around the body and crossing in front to close.


Yoke: The yoke is the fabric across the back shoulders of a shirt or dress that connects the collar, sleeves, front pieces and back pieces together. There may also be a yoke on a skirt, where it would cross just below the waist.

6 thoughts on “Women’s Fashion Glossary

  1. Very useful glossary. I think more neckline styles are needed.

    Perhaps the glossary could be written twice…with the second glossary categorized by subject, such as: fabrics, sleeves, shoes, etc. When using current glossary, if someone doesn’t know a term, they have to read the entire glossary to find what they want. Imagine this…I’m looking at the sleeve on an item I want to sell; I can see how the sleeve looks, but I don’t know the name. Group “sleeves” and I can find the answer quickly.

    Visual images would be very helpful…in either glossary.

  2. Very informative, thank u, at times, I often spent hours researching info to help have the most accurate description possible.

  3. Wicked cool to know!! I’m now informed! I think it needs a little more though. Like grunge style, goth style, etc on styles. I have a few other suggestions.

  4. Great information! I will definitely refer to this list when I post my clothing. You can also add swiss dot, lantern sleeves, and tulle.

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