Forty Essential Design Terms

There are certain terms within the fashion industry that you need to be aware of when shopping or involving yourself in the world of fashion, they’re not incredibly complex but they are integral to understanding the way clothes are made, how they fit and the quality behind them.

Selvedge or Selvege

Selvedge or selvage denim refers to the way that the denim is finished at the edge of the fabric, instead of a raw edge, the fabric is self-finished. Selvedge denim jeans can be spotted by the iconic white and red tape edge at the inner seam, they are crisply finished and will never fray.

Raw Denim

This is denim in its purest form, there is no washing process after manufacture, they are left stiff with starch and full of dye.


The warp is the thread that runs lengthwise that the weft is threaded through to create the final piece of cloth. By cutting on the bias (with the warp diagonally) you can create a flowing feel to the fabric.


The weft is the term for the threads that is drawn across the fabric when weaving to create cloth. If you’re struggling to remember which is which, just think that one them goes from weft to right.


The template for making clothes, usually created from paper. These pieces will be pinned onto fabric, the shape cut out and sewed to create a garment.


The stitched joining of two pieces of fabric, these can be finished in a number of ways from crimping to overlocking.

Pick Stitch

A simple running stitch that barely touches the fabric, it’s a very fine stitch used by tailors. Often hand stitched for precision.


The folded flaps of cloth at the neck of a jacket, blazer or coat. These are most commonly found on more formal garments.

Haute Couture

The most luxurious of all designer clothing, haute couture describes garments that have been exclusively made to fit and constructed by hand. They are one of a kind designs.

Ready To Wear

This terms refers to clothing that is factory manufactured and in standard sizes, it is literally ready to wear from the shelf or rail.


The brogue is a low heeled, formal often leather based shoe with decorate perforations around the uppers to create a pattern. These are designed for both men and women.


More commonly known as trainers to us Brits, this term typically refers to a basketball or sports shoe.


A slip on, traditionally leather shoe. Often found with tassels or an overlay detail on the front of the shoe and gathered leather around the seam.


Commonly found on women’s shoes, a wedge gives added height with comfort. Wedges can now be found hidden in trainers like Ash.

Chelsea Boot

Dating back to Victorian times, a Chelsea boot is a traditionally flat, leather boot with elastic side panels. They were iconic during the 1960’s mod movement.


This term refers to all products that can be sustained, these are often natural like organic cotton, bamboo and organic wool or recycled. They are kinder to the environment.


Eco friendly products are completely kind to the environment, made from sustainable fabrics and produced in an environmentally friendly way.


A traditional coat made popular during the mod movement of the 1960’s, the parka is notable for the hood (often fur or faux fur lined), longline style and showerproof or waterproof fabric.

Trench Coat

A traditional raincoat made from rainproof fabric. Adapted for the war (hence the name) it has wide lapels, a waist belt and is usually around knee length.


The classic Belstaff biker jacket made form waxed cotton. With four pockets and a waist belt, it is the iconic Belstaff design.

Pea Coat

Traditionally worn by sailors, the pea coat is usually navy, made from a heavy melton wool and is traditionally double breasted.

Bomber Jacket

Originally designed for pilots, the bomber jacket is now common place. Worn by everyone from teenage girls to the president of the USA, it’s a fashion staple.


Shearling is the term given to skin from a sheared sheep without having removed the wool. It has been tanned with the wool left on giving it a suede feeling on one side and wool on the other.


Traditionally using sheep, wool is created by spinning the fibres to create long threads. These can be treated in a number of ways and is used to create knitwear.


A natural fibre that can be woven into fabric, the most commonly known fibres coming from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm. Silk is hiny because of the triangular structure of the silk fibre.


Exclusively made from the coats of cashmere goats and other goats. Commonly referred to as wool, but cashmere is actually a hair. Cashmere is fine, strong and light.


Derived from the cotton plant, cotton is a fibre that grows in a protective capsule within the plant. The fibre is spun into strands and woven together to create fabric.


This term refers to one colour, often though to mean black and white, this terms would also be correct to use if wearing head to toe in any one colour.


Referring to a garment that can be worn throughout the seasons, often with a neutral colour palette to blend in with trends and seasons.

Colour Blocking

The opposite of monochromatic, colour blocking refers to wearing multiple colours. This is usually done with several bright colours in one outfit.


The classic pattern for Spring, a floral print can be worn throughout the year. A pastel shade suits Spring florals whereas a darker print is perfect for winter.


Traditionally made from twill cotton cloth, the term chino refers to a smart trouser tapered to the ankle.


The classic jogging bottoms have been given a make-over with the American term sweatpants, thanks to people like Kanye West, these are now viable options for wearing in public.

Crew Neck

This refers to the neckline on a jumper or sweater that is rounded, with no collar. It is often worn with multiple layers.

Cable Knit

A style of knitting often found in winter jumpers where stitches have been layered over each other to create a cable effect, hence the name.


A traditional knitting technique named after a tiny isle in Scotland. This technique has a limited amount of colours (usually around five) and creates a pattern in rows along the jumper.


This term refers to a flared skirt, often short and high waisted. Similar to a circle skirt and is very flattering.


Referring to the edge of a garment that has been cut to have an edge that is reminiscent of a shell shape, repeated around the edge.

Mini Skirt

Invented by Mary Quant in the 1960’s as a rebellion against the long hemlines, the mini skirt has been a firm fixture in fashion ever since. The title is rather self-explanatory, a short skirt.

Pencil Skirt

A slim fitting skirt with a narrow hemline, often high waisted and form fitting. The hem traditionally falls on or just below the knee.

Clare Potts

Clare Potts


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