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Fashion Terms to Make You Sound Smarter

Fashion Terms to Make You Sound Smarter

Star Zagofsky | Excelle

July 28, 2011

With the huge popularity of shows like Project Runway and What Not to Wear, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to fashion. And knowing your fashion terms is more than just a party trick. If you work in fashion or beauty, you simply must be able to pick a bubble hem out of a lineup or you’re not going to make it. But even if you work in another industry, it’s only to your benefit to know what you’re wearing and sound intelligent about fashion. There’s a reason phrases like “I love your blouse” are such great ice-breakers. Women use fashion as something to bond over, and the more you know about it, the more you’ll be able to keep up and stay a part of the conversation.

To grow your fashion vocabulary, you could buy a years’ worth of Vogue back-issues, but you’re unlikely to learn much. Magazines aren’t primers. Their goal is to point out the trend of the moment, so they might tell you about bright patent colors and military-inspired details but they won’t explain cowl necklines or epaulettes – the shape and construction details that make the garment. But never fear! Excelle’s got you covered with fashion terms to make you sound like a true fashionista.

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Empire Silhouette (pronounced “ahm-pier”)

“Empire silhouette” or “empire waist” may not be a new term for you, but did you pronounce it “em-pie-er” as in “The Empire State Building” or “ahm-pier” like the French would say it? While either pronunciation is technically accurate, most fashionistas prefer the French style, and it certainly gives your water cooler conversation that little je ne sais quoi (intangible attractiveness).

And for those of you who don’t know the term at all, an empire silhouette is created when the waist is just below the bustline. Empire waists are a smart choice for women who have a few extra pounds in their tummy that they want to hide. Of course, you may not want to mention that fact to your boss when you’re complimenting the lovely “ahm-pier” silhouette of her dress.


Lapels are the folded flaps of fabric on either side of a suit jacket, and knowing this word just comes in handy. “You’ve got some crumbs on your lapel,” sounds much better than, “You’ve got some crumbs on your…you know…what are they called? Jacket flaps?” And since you’re a professional, you’ll probably be buying some suits of your own – if you haven’t already – in which case, you’ll soon be choosing between notched (traditional), shawl (rounded), and peaked (formal) lapels for your business attire.


Remember those funny extra flaps on the shoulders of guys’ shirts? A military-inspired look, epaulettes are a common detail in men’s and women’s button-down shirts. That’s not to say that you’ll only see them on shirts – epaulettes can be found on sweaters and dresses, too. However, don’t go thinking that everything that looks like an epaulette is an epaulette. This fashion trend is restricted to shoulders only. If it’s not on your shoulder, it’s not an epaulette.

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