Brains in Fashion


ABC of Fashion

10th October 2018

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There are so many fashion terms to keep up with nowadays. Just when we think we know our crew necks from our turtle necks and our plissés from our pleats, in comes another hundred words to try and get our heads around! 

We hope that our ABC of Fashion will give you a little bit of a head start with all these terms, as well as giving you some insight into where they originated from! We will be adding a new letter everyday, so stay tuned to keep up-to-date!


is for A-Line

A-Line was a term first used by Christian Dior (a French couture designer) in 1955. The term describes a skirt that is fitted at the waist and widens as it reaches the hem... in the shape of an 'A'. This style was very fashionable through the 1960's and 1970's, before going out of fashion in the early 1980's. The style soon returned in the 1990's and is still really popular now (thankfully)! 

These skirts are so versatile and come in so many patterns, colours and designs. Check out this cute tartan take on the A-line skirt by Nobody's Child,  available in Topshop!

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Topshop Tartan A-line Skirt by Nobody's Child




is for Batwing

An item of clothing with a 'batwing' is one with deep arm holes and tight sleeves towards the wrist, creating a wing-like appearance. Clothes with batwings were first created in the Middle Ages, but went out of fashion in WWI and II due to fabric shortages! They became hugely popular again in the 1980s and can still be found in the shops today.

Take a look at our 'Freshly Baked Science' page to see how bats are able to see in the dark!

We love jumpers with a batwing! They feel so oversized and comfortable, without looking like you've stolen your Dad's jumper! We particularly loved this yellow jumper from Miss Selfridge!

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Miss Selfridge Batwing Ocre Jumper




is for Cowl Neck

The word 'Cowl' comes from a Latin word that means 'hood' and in medieval times it was a piece of clothing, made up of a hood and a shoulder cape. Today, a cowl describes the draping effect of the hood hanging down from the neck. So somehow, we have managed to turn a Robin Hood-esque piece of clothing into a highly fashionable, runway-worthy trend!

Cowl necks can be found on all sorts of clothing now, here we have a super cute lilac vest top from New look sporting the cowl look! This would look so good tucked into a high-waisted skirt or jeans!

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New Look Lilac Cowl Neck Vest



is for Dungarees

Is there anything that looks more effortlessly cool than a pair of dungarees?!


But did you know that ‘dungaree’ is actually a type of cloth that is woven from cotton twill, which is mostly dyed blue (take a look at a new, eco-friendly dyeing process here). It’s thought that dungarees were first worn in 1792, as a protective garment for slaves, farmers, mechanics and other manual labourers and were designed by Levi Strauss. Due to the cheap fabric and poor fit, it was actually considered the clothing of low class men! More fashionable versions weren’t made until the 60’s and didn’t really gain mass popularity until 2010, when they were worn by high influence celebrities, like Rhianna and Alexa Chung!

We love these blue dungarees from Topshop! Originally, dungarees were colour coded, with white being for painters, pinstripe for railroad workers and shades of blue for the working class. Thankfully this isn’t still the case and these can be worn by any class…

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Topshop Blue Dungarees




is for Embroidery

Embroidery is an ancient form of needlework, used to embellish many different textiles. When worn on clothing, it used to be a sign of a wearers wealth! It used to be a very time consuming process as the patterns were all done by hand. Nowadays, it’s all computerised, with embroidery software digitalising patterns, to get the work done quickly and accurately. This makes embroidered items much cheaper than they were in the olden days!

The most common embroidery pattern is floral, but they aren’t all like this! Take a look at this beauty from Zara; a cute sweatshirt with two girls embroidered on the front.

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Zara Embroidered Sweatshirt




is for Fluted Hem

A fluted hem gives an extra bit of interest to a figure silhouette and is often seen in pencil skirts, which have flared bottoms. It gives a very fun, mermaid-like feel and is extremely feminine! More recently trousers with fluted hems have become available and are much easier to wear as casual attire!

Check out these dotted flute hem trousers from ASOS! They can be easily dressed up or down depending on the occasion (they’re also crazily comfortable!).

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ASOS Dotty Fluted Hem Trousers




is for Glitter

I don’t think any of us have gone through life without coming into contact with glitter. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t been given a glittery birthday card and found glitter specks in unexpected places for the next decade?! We actually have the likes of cavemen and Cleopatra to thank for this beautiful, sparkly material as they actually used flecks of shiny rocks to create glitter! In 1934, Henry Ruschmann came up with a way of grinding up plastics that catch the light, giving the same effect, which is the type of glitter we use today!

Glittery clothing is the perfect look for the festive season and this ASOS jumper will keep you warm and sparkling like a disco ball (Click here to find out how disco balls sparkle)!

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ASOS Glitter Jumper by YAS




is for Harem Pants

To find out where harem pants came from, we’re going to have to take you back in time to 2000 years ago! They originated from a dress-like tunic, worn by men in the Eastern world, called Dhoti. The design of the pants have evolved considerably since the Dhoti, but they still resemble the general style. They are now a balloon shaped trouser, rather than a dress, with a tight ankle.

If you fancy giving harem pants a go (would fully recommend… they feel like pyjamas that are acceptable to wear out of the house) then head over to ASOS and pick up this basic black pair!

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ASOS Black Slouch Harem Trousers




is for Iridescence

Iridescence is the term used to describe that shiny, rainbow-like appearance on a material. It’s found in nature on things like bubbles, beetles and shells. If you want to find out more about how it works, then check out our article on it HERE. Iridescence found its way into design in 2002 and is now available at nearly every fashion store and we’re loving it!

One of our favourite items, with iridescence, is this coat from Pretty Little Thing. It’s the perfect way to make a statement and show off your rainbow personality.

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Pretty Little Thing Pink Iridescent Rain Coat




is for Jacquard

Jacquard fabric is named after the method of weaving, used to make it. The jacquard loom, used to create the fabric, simplifies the creation of complex patterns. This creates the distinctive features of jacquard, as it has highly complex patterns and colours! It’s so unique because of its raised pattern that is woven into the fabric, rather than being printed on.

To celebrate jacquard being created for complex patterns and colours, we’ve picked out this gorgeously bold coat from ASOS that completely embodies the origin!

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ASOS Slim Fit Jacquard Coat 




is for Keyhole Neckline

There are so many different necklines available in clothing, from boat to sweetheart to scoop, but what exactly is a keyhole neckline? These are most similar to a halter neck, with the diagonal lines meet at the front of the neck, creating a ‘keyhole’. This is essentially a cut out and adds a little bit of interest to an outfit.

Click here to find out how a key works in a keyhole!

Take a look at the way they make use of a keyhole feature with this dress from Topshop by Nobody’s Child. It makes a super cute dress that little bit cuter!

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Topshop Daisy Dress by Nobody's Child 




is for Lab Coat

A lab coat is the stereotypical attire of a scientist, and although this is true some of the time, they aren’t always dressed in these! The lab coat was first worn in the 18th century, but they weren’t the white colour that we know them to be today. They were originally black or beige (very similar to snake-oil salesman, making scientists look untrustworthy), but the white lab coat was introduced in the 19th century. White was chosen as it was easily identifiable and showed up any dirt to keep labs clean and contamination free!

Nowadays, many scientists like to express themselves through their lab coat, and opt for a patterned, fashionable coat, rather than the classic white! Olivia Pavco Giaccia, who features in Super Cool Scientists, runs a company called ‘Lab Candy’. Lab Candy sell beautiful lab coats for girls with a passion for science! Check them out here.

Lab candy.jpg


is for Mary Jane

Mary Jane is a term for a closed, low cut shoe with at least one strap across the opening. Classically, they are made with black leather or patent leather and have one thin strap, attached with a buckle. The shoe style first arrived in the early 1900s for both sexes, but were perceived as girl’s shoes during the 1930s and 40s. More recently, they became fashionable for all ages!

Mary Jane shoes are still around for girls and women… check out this pair from New Look, giving a modern twist on an older style shoe! Do you reckon you could pull these off?

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New Look Black Patent Mary Jane Shoes 




is for Nylon

Nylon is a silky material which was first used for the bristles of toothbrushes. It is now used to make parachutes, ropes, carpets, clothes and more! When it was invented in 1938, it was a great cheap version of silk for women who couldn’t afford it.

Take a look at this cute nylon bag from H&M! The silky finish of the nylon makes it really comfortable against your body and it’ll also hold nearly everything you own!!

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H&M Nylon Shoulder Bag 




is for Ombre

The word ombre comes from the French word, ombrer, which means ‘to shade’ and refers to the fading of one colour into another. It has been used in fashion since the early 1800’s, when they would use a printing block called a ‘rainbowed’ block to create gradient colour designs. You may have also seen the ombre effect used in hairdressing to create a darker hair colour fading into a lighter one towards the ends.

This Forever 21 jacket is the perfect example of ombre on fabric and is such a great look, especially coming into the autumn months!

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Forever 21 Ombre Denim Jacket 




is for Plisse

Plisse used to be a term used to describe a fabric that had been woven into pleats, taking its name from the French word for ‘fold’. Nowadays, it describes a really lightweight fabric with a crinkled pattern, formed into thin ridges or stripes. It can now be seen in so many different clothing items, including trousers, skirts and jumpsuits.

Here we have found a really lovely playsuit, available from Miss Selfridge. It really makes a spectacle of the plisse finish and has a pretty shape to suit so many body types.

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Miss Selfridge Kimono Plisse Playsuit 




is for Quilting

Quilted clothes are undoubtedly one of the most comfortable types of clothes out there. Imagine wrapping yourself up in your duvet all day, but without people giving you judgmental looks (check out our article on why we are compelled to sleep with a duvet)! Despite duvets only being introduced to UK in the 20th century, quilted clothes have been around since the early 16th century. Fashion has definitely evolved since then, and designers have started to play around with quilting, using different fabrics, colours and stitching!

The most popular quilted fashion at the moment is the puffer jacket, and what better time to treat yourself to one than the start of the colder months? This Lily Lulu jacket is a bold option that’ll be sure to keep you warm and cosy for the coming months!

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Lily Lulu Red Puffer Jacket




is for Raglan

A raglan sleeve is a sleeve that runs with a diagonal seam from the collar to the armpit. It was named after Lord Raglan, who was first to be seen wearing this style on a coat, after losing his arm in the Battle of Waterloo. In today’s fashion, raglan sleeves are often a different colour to the main body of the item, creating a very sporty, fun look!

This jumper from New Look really accentuates the diagonal line of the raglan sleeve by adding diagonal stripes into the pattern. This is such a unique look and is definitely a look we will be wearing this Autumn/Winter.

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New Look Raglan Striped Jumper




is for Seersucker

Seersucker is a thin, slightly wrinkled cotton fabric, making it an ideal summer material for keeping cool. It was first worn in Britain’s warm weather colonies, like British India and was commonly made into items like suits, shirts, shorts and dresses. Blue has always been the most popular colour for seersucker clothing items, but you can also find many other colours around!

We love this traditional blue smock summer dress from ASOS! While it might not be weather appropriate at the moment (unless you’re lucky enough to be going somewhere hot!), it is definitely one to add to your wardrobe ready for when the time comes around!

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ASOS Smock Seersucker Midi Dress




is for Turtleneck

The turtleneck style actually started off as protective clothing in medieval times. Knights needed a way to prevent chain-mail chaffing their neck, so they produced the turtleneck to provide a barrier between the chain-mail and skin. They started becoming fashionable in the mid-16th century and continued to drift in and out of fashion, until the 1940’s, when the style we know today started to become fashionable; skin tight and cropped jumpers! It’s now a must have piece in a wardrobe and can be great for layering up during the colder months.

If you want to find out about the evolution of a turtle's neck, then click here!

This grey leopard print top from River Island is the perfect transitional piece for autumn and is very on trend at the moment. The turtleneck on this top is quite subtle and gives you the look, without feeling too claustrophobic!

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River Island Leopard Print Turtle Neck Top




is for Unitard

A unitard is a skin-tight one piece item of clothing, which is usually worn by gymnasts, dancers, athletes, circus performers and superheroes. These activities benefit from wearing these as they can cover up their bodies, without compromising their flexibility. Unitards have recently moved away from the sporting scene and into fashion, with many different colours and lengths being available in the shops and worn down the runway.

This short, ribbed unitard from Pretty Little Thing is a good option if you’re looking to try out this trend without sticking out like a sore thumb! This outfit can easily be made casual with a jacket and a belt.

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Pretty Little Thing Ribbed Unitard




is for V-Neck

V-necks, as the name suggests, are V-shaped necklines and were first invented for T-Shirts, when they were worn as undergarments. The original round neck was joined by the V shaped neck line, so that the t-shirt wasn’t visible when wearing an outer shirt. From there, the V-neck style continued to grow into a fashion, becoming used in different clothing, including jumpers and dresses. Now, it’s almost impossible to walk into a shop without finding something with a V-neck.

We absolutely love this lace dress from New Look. It has a deep V-neck, keeping the dress looking very feminine and pretty. This would be a great choice for a fancy party or event!

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New Look Pale Pink Lace V-Neck Dress




is for Wedge

The wedge shoe was first designed in the 1930’s, using cork and wood due to a rubber and leather shortage. The cork wedge was a much more popular choice as it was lighter and sturdier. They reached their peak popularity during WWII, when being tall was extremely desirable. After the war, the wedge went out of fashion, before coming back into fashion during the 1970’s, when much bolder designs were created. In the 1990s, wedge trainers were created, offering an even comfier alternative to the fashion and was very popular among pop groups!

We can find loads of styles of wedges in shops today, including these from River Island. The neutral colour allows them to be worn with so many different outfits and the wedge heel makes them much easier to walk in than stiletto heels and better for your ankles! Check out why heels can be bad for you here!

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River Island Cross Strap Wedge Sandal




is for X-Line

The X-Line, introduced by Christian Dior in 1947, is based around creating the classic hourglass shape, using clothing. This is done by creating a lot of volume on the shoulders and hips while using an accent, like a skinny belt, on the waist to make it appear smaller. An X-Line is supposed to be very flattering on the female body and can be pulled off by absolutely anyone!

This dress from Topshop is a great example of X-Line clothing. The detailing on the shoulders creates depth and interest and the pleats of the skirts give the illusion of wider hips. The dress is also cinched in at the waist, making it appear smaller!

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Topshop Nisa Dress by Lace




is for Yoke

A yoke is a pattern or frame, fitted at the shoulders or waist, to emphasise the structure of the clothing. They were first seen in the 1880's as separate items, but can now be found stitched into the clothing. Yokes are often made as ruffles or lace, but in more recent fashion can be a completely different patterned material to the rest of the clothing, for example, an American flag pattern stitched into the yoke of a denim shirt.

This shirt from River Island shows the standard shape of a yoke on the shoulders. This particular one has had a fringed accent added to it, which gives it a real Western feel to it!

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River Island Fringed Yoke T-shirt




is for Zips

Zips were created as an alternative fastening to buttons, in 1851. We mostly see clothing zips at the back or sides of dresses and as the flies on trousers. These are very practical uses for a zip, but it has more recently become an accent feature in design, with them appearing on many different items without any purpose other than for appearance.

This jumper from Miss Selfridge has a cute accent zipper with ring detailing. It’s a great option for this time of the year and is very in keeping with current trends!

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Miss Selfridge Funnel Neck Zip Sweater



Thank you for tuning into our ABC of Fashion series!