Shop Talk Part 1: The Jargon of Fashion

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By Roxy Rowton

Today’s consumer culture thrives on choices. Even the most elementary understanding of fashion shop talk can illuminate the how-to’s of building a fashionable, but economical wardrobe. Keep these key terms in mind as you build yours.

Adaptability: The ability of a garment to mix and match with a variety of wardrobe fundamentals, classic staples and fashion trends. The curation of carefully selected fabrics, silhouettes, details and garments adjusts the wardrobe mix so that you are attractively dressed for varied occasions and
multiple seasons.

Budget: An individual can dress fashionably and shop economically. Most individuals don’t have unlimited funds for purchasing seasonal wardrobe additions and updates, so it is imperative to establish a definite budget and a seasonal wardrobe plan. Establish an estimation of how much to spend monthly or seasonally.

Capsule: A clothing system maintained by constructing and selecting a wardrobe into a manageable, but interchangeable, collection of garments and accessories, it is a group of individual garments and accessories that mix and combine together to offer maximum wear with minimum investment. Think fewer, but better items—doing more with less.

Chic: The term describes an approach to fashion that is a little less considered than fashionable and a little more intellectual. Chic is not about the clothes. If it were the clothes, then a pair of jeans, the little black dress, and the white buttondown would look the same on whomever was wearing these garments. It’s about reinterpreting garments to express individual sartorial aesthetics and sense of fashion.

Color: The colors of the wardrobe, and the manner in which an individual mixes and combines the colors, are a defining element of personal style. A coordinated color palette is an essential component. Having a complementary color scheme ensures the garments of the seasonal wardrobe are harmonious as a collection. An individual should exercise personal color preferences in a rather limited process: neutral colors, main colors and accent colors.

Comfort: Fashion hasn’t escaped the consumer demand for garments not to have the slightest restriction or constraint of physical ease and movement. The increasing sales of athletic wear are a testament to the impact and influence that comfort has.

Cost per Wear: The actual cost of a garment is seldom identifiable at the time of purchase. The actual cost is not always the price. To determine how much a garment actually costs, the price needs to be divided by the number of times the garment is worn and then add a generous concession for the amount of pleasure, confidence, and ease it may have given.

Essentials: Foundational garments that are indispensable to the seasonal wardrobe, essentials are a core set of garments that form the foundation of the seasonal wardrobe. These need not be generic basics, but garments with modern cuts and details that can combine effortlessly with the trendy, classic
and statement items in the closet. Essentials should reflect an individual’s sartorial aesthetics in color, fit, texture and cut, and your lifestyle.

Fabrication: This is extremely important in a garment. Fabrication can determine its comfort, cut, character, craftsmanship, cost and quality. Fabric will often reveal the personality of a garment, the hours of the day it is to be worn, in which season to wear it, or the activity the wearer is engaged while being dressed in the garment.

Fashion: Few domains are more irresistible than fashion. Four to six times out of a year apparel designers create an idealized vision of fashion through clothes, accessories, hair and cosmetics. Fashion offers consumers (fashionistas and pragmatics) the possibility to express themselves and be different each time they get dressed.

Form and Function: There has long been a design school of thought or philosophy that form follows function. For every article of clothing, there was an original purpose for its design. Fashion enunciates through function and utility. Style manifests through form and aesthetics.

Line: This component of a garment attracts the human eye to follow wherever it leads: vertically, horizontally, diagonally or curved. The eye is drawn to the line that attracts the most attention because it is longer, wider, brighter or repeated more frequently. The lines in garments and outfits are created by color, details, shape, silhouette, accessories and design. Although the inclination may be to focus on garments and outfits with dominant vertical lines, the best style formula is not to eschew the other lines—horizontal, diagonal or curved.

Luxury: In the field of economics, luxury is a consumer good for which demand increases more proportionally as income rises. Luxury fashion products are considered to be goods at the highest level of the market in terms of quality and price. But luxury is also subjective and personal. Each individual has his or her own concept of luxury. Perhaps the perception of luxury in fashion emanates from a comparison of minimum sartorial standards from one societal class to another.

Next month we’ll review another set of terms to keep in mind as you build your wardrobe.

Wardrobe and style consultant Roxy L. Rowton ( spends much of her workweek in the closet or the fitting room helping women look and feel their very best. She has two-plus decades in the fashion, apparel and beauty industries.


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