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Fashion terms you must know

Rebecca Jacob

What is a bias cut?

How do I wear a kaftan?

What does a designer mean when he says, "Look for a good finish"?

What are corsets, jodhpurs, empire lines?

These terms are commonly used by top designers to describe their clothes. The same words can be intimidating to the average person who wants to dress well and look trendy.

With two back-to-back fashion weeks -- the Fashion Week in Mumbai and the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in Delhi -- designers will be spewing jargon galore.

So we bring you the A to Z of fashion terms.

This list will help you decipher the fashion mantras of the top Indian designers who will be showcasing their new collections in the next few weeks.

A line: A dress/ skirt shape that is narrower at the top and gently flaring out to the bottom, following the shape of the letter A. Flattering for bottom heavy figures.

Accent: A distinctive feature that accentuates the look and style of a garment. Can be a touch of colour, embroidery, etc, that makes a designer's work look unique.

Androgynous: A gender-bending look, neither male nor female but a combination of both. Rohit Bal is famous for dressing up his male models in skirts, wearing sindoor as they strut down the runway.

Badla: A flat metallic wire inserted into fabric and beaten down. Used as embroidery. Also known as mukeish work. It is often used in conjunction with other forms of embroidery like chikankari or zardozi to add to the richness of the look.

Bias: When a garment is cut at an angle to the warp (horizontal yarns) and weft (vertical yarns) of a fabric. This is used to create garments that closely follow the curves of the body. Wendell Rodricks is well known for his flowing elegant drapes usually cut on the bias.

Bootleg: A pant style that tapers to the knee and then flares out gently so as to accommodate the bulk of the boot.

Bubble skirt: A voluminous skirt, somewhat resembling a balloon.

Buti: A small embroidery motif, usually floral, but can be paisley/ mango shaped or others shapes as well.

Camisole: A short sleeveless garment for women that feels like lingerie.

Cap Sleeves: A small short sleeve that sits exactly on the shoulder or falling just on to the arm.

Capris: Knee to calf length straight cut pants.

Chandelier earrings: Long shoulder-dusting earrings incorporating crystals and beads lending them the look of chandeliers.   

Chikankari: A traditional Lucknowi handicraft, chikan is the white thread embroidery done on fine white muslin. A look perfect for summer chikankari is often seen in collections by Meera and Muzzaffar Ali and Anita Dongre.

Circular Skirts: A skirt cut so that the hem of the skirt forms a circle without any gathers at the waist. Depending on the amount of flare required, the hem can either be semi-circular or even a quarter circle. The circular skirt is a Manish Arora trademark look and is expected to be seen all over the catwalk this year.

Corset: A slim fitting top, usually strapless with stiff boning inside as support and either laced up or with hooks as closures. Corsets are a staple on the Indian runway, often as substitute for a blouse. Here, for example, is a Manish Arora creation that uses a corset.

Cowl neck: A neckline with material falling loosely from shoulder to shoulder forming soft graceful folds. This can hang either in the front or back of the garment, adding a sensuous, glamourous feel to any outfit. 

Day to evening: A look that can take you from a day in the office straight to a rocking party the same night with just a change of accessories. 

Deconstruction: Is a term used to describe clothing that has been taken apart and put back together in a new unexpected way, or looks unfinished, raw and as though it may be deteriorating.

Drainpipe: Narrow pants, tapering towards the ankles. Also called cigarette pants.

Draping: The art of creating a dress simply by arranging fabric around a body using the natural fall of the fabric and techniques like pleating, gathering. The most famous drape would be the sari. One of the masters in the art of draping is Tarun Tahiliani.

Empire line: A silhouette where the waistline is pulled up just below the bust. This style makes the most of a small bust line.

Finish: The level of perfection with which a garment is completed. In the best garments, the inside will look as complete as the outside.

Fishtail skirt: Tightly fitted around the hip and flaring out from the knee to the ground. It can also be called a mermaid skirt. It is called a fishtail skirt because it resembles the shape of a fish's tail.

Form fitting: This style closely skims the body and emphasises the natural curves without being tight.

Ghagra: A traditional Indian skirt widely flared, often made up of several triangular panels stitched together to add even more flare.

Gore/ Godet: A triangular panel set into a skirt or sleeve to add extra flare. The Indian term is the kali, for example, as used in the kalidar kurta.

Gota: A traditional form of embroidery using a narrow gold or silver ribbon folded to form designs and patterns. A form of embroidery utilised by fashion prodigies like Sabyasachi Mukerjee and grande dame Ritu Kumar in LIFW 2004.

Grain: A term used to describe the direction of the weft (vertical yarns). Clothes are traditionally cut on the grain, i.e. along the length of a fabric. On the cross grain refers to cutting fabric in the direction of the warp (horizontal yarns)

Halter: A sleeveless top, whose cut leaves the shoulders bare and is quite often backless. Another fashion staple seen every season on the ramp, it ups the glamour quotient instantly. Nina Manuel sports a halter in this Tarun Tahiliani ensemble.

Handkerchief hem: Very big last season, the handkerchief hem falls in several graceful points. Widely popular as it is flattering to most figures. Seen here on Noyonika Chatterjee for Wendell Rodericks last year.

Haute couture: High fashion, hand made, staggeringly expensive one of a kind pieces that often require three fittings. To qualify as an haute couture piece a garment must follow several strict guidelines. For a label or business to qualify as a couture house it must belong to the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture in Paris.  

Hipsters: Low cut pants, whose waist rests on or below the hip. An international look that swept the world. Rina Dhaka does a subtle version.

Ikat: A handicraft where the yarns are carefully tie-dyed in a particular design before they are woven together.

Jacket: A garment designed as outerwear usually falling somewhere between the waist and the hip, closing with either buttons or a zip. Jackets can be single breasted or double breasted, or have a Chinese collar, all according to the season and current trends.

Jodhpurs: Riding pants, with loose fabric at the hip and fitting tightly from knee to ankle.

Kaftan: A full length garment with elbow or full length sleeves. Often highly embellished with embroidery, kaftans now come in all lengths. Originally from the Middle East.

Kimono: A Japanese garment. The kimono sleeve is a wide sleeve cut in one piece with the main body of the garment.

Kitsch: A style incorporating elements from popular culture. Manish Arora is known internationally for his mastery of kitsch. Shahzad Kalim pulled off a very kitschy fun look last year.

Kitten heels: A short heel about 1 ˝ - 2 inches high with a distinctive curve. Considered very feminine and pretty.

Kundan: A traditional form of mounting uncut or engraved stones in lac. Since the lac is visible, gold foil is inserted behind the stones to cover the lac giving the jewelry a mellow, rich look.

Kurtas, kurtis: A tunic style traditional India garment of varying length, with side slits. The kurti refers to a short kurta of hip length.

Lapel: An extension of the collar in a jacket that folds out. The width and length of the lapel varies widely from season to season and is often a defining aspect of menswear trends.

LBD or the Little Black Dress: A black cocktail dress that has become a fashion staple after being first introduced by Coco Chanel. Reinvented every season.

Lining: The inner layer used to cover the inside of garment. Usually of a soft, smooth fabric the right lining can add give an outfit a more flattering fall.

Mandarin Collars: Also known as the Chinese collar. A short band stand up collar adapted from the traditional Chinese collar.

Mary Janes: A shoe styled after school children's shoes. Traditionally with a rounded toe and a flat heel, the chief characteristic of a Mary Jane is the strap over the top of the foot. Today Mary Janes can be of any heel height.

Minimalism: A trend in design where clothes are stripped down to their most basic elements. A look characterised by simple forms and basic colour schemes. Payal Jain, for example, says she espouses a minimalist look.

Minis, maxis: A mini is a very short skirt or dress falling mid-thigh or higher. The maxi refers to a full length skirt/dress, ankle length or longer.

Mules: A shoe without any back strap.

Necklines: The most popular necklines are the V-neck, square neck, round neck, boat neck, scooped neck, halter and keyhole.

Odhani: A piece of fabric like a dupatta, worn tucked in at the waist, over the head and back with the loose end over one shoulder.

Phulkari: A traditional Punjabi technique of embroidery using satin stitch in silk floss on coarse cotton.

Pintucks: A pleat, that has been stitched down along the length, of a very narrow width (no more that a few millimetres). This is a very popular technique to create texture. Raghavendra Rathore often exploits this technique for a clean yet textured look.

Platform heels: These are shoes with thick soles made of wood, cork or plastic. They create the illusion of height without the discomfort of regular heels.

Pleats: A technique to create volume in a garment by folding fabric and stitching it down at the top of the fold. Types of pleats include knife pleats (all folds facing one direction), box pleats (two flat folds in opposite directions with edges of the fabric meeting underneath), inverted pleats (similar to a box pleat but with the fullness on the outer side) etc..

Pręt-a-porter: A French term for ready to wear. A lower and more popular price point for garments from most designer houses. For instance, Suneet Varma's line is called Le Spice and J J Valaya's pręt line is Studio Valaya.

Ruching: Creating gathers in cloth by pulling it between two or more lines of stitching. Also known as shirring. 

Sharara: A traditional Indian loose, divided skirt.

Shrug: A woman's short jacket waist length or shorter. Some styles may look like they only consist of a back and sleeves. It is similar in feeling to a bolero jacket.

Silhouette: Key shapes a designer uses in his show. Popular silhouettes are A-line, H-line, Bell shaped, Empire line, etc.

Skort: Shorts that have a flap in the front so as to resemble a skirt.

Spaghetti strap: A thin circular strap that resembles a strand of spaghetti, generally used in blouses/ tops/ footwear.

Straight legged: Pants that have been cut straight from the hip to the floor, ie of equal width throughout. When pants are cut extra wide, they are popularly known as palazzo pants.

Tank top: Any short sleeveless top with a loose armhole.

Tube top: Any short top that does not have shoulders or sleeves.

Tulle: A stiffened silk net. The term can also include synthetic nets.

Tunic: A straight cut dress without darts.

Tussar: A heavy textured silk fabric.

Tweed: A rough, nubby, woollen fabric with subdued and interesting colour effects. Popular in international collections have featured tweed in the past season.

Vintage: A trend in fashion now that references designs and other details from bygone eras from the 1920's upto the 70's. Gauri and Nainika, Sabyasachi Mukerjee both channeled Vintage influences in their respective collections last year.

Welt pockets: The breast pocket in formal men's suits. In women's wear, it can be used anywhere.

Wrap: Both wraparound tops and wraparound skirts involve overlapping fabric around the waist, either in the front or the back to create a fitted waistline.

Zardozi: Traditional Mughal embroidery, done with metallic thread and uncut stones on heavy fabrics such as velvet and silk. A favourite with bridal collections. Often used by Ritu Kumar and designers like Rohit Bal and Manish Malhotra.

Rebecca Jacob is a graduate from NIFT, Mumbai. She has worked with designers Anita Dongre and Joe Ikareth.

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