Fashion Terminology Introduction
In the fashion industry, there is a wealth of terms that you will hear, so you should be prepared with an understanding of some of the most basic terms.
As you advance further into your career, these and others will become like second nature.
At the beginning of the module, we defined fashion design, but what is fashion? When you hear the term fashion, it is referring to a type of clothing, accessory, or shoe that is favoured by a large segment of the population at any given time.
A perfect fashion trend example could include polka dots, combinations of colours and textures, or the 1980s style of dress.
As you get more comfortable in the industry, you will hear this term quite often. Apparel refers to any and all clothing that you will design and create in your career.
Once you have created apparel, such as a dress, coat, sweater, or an evening gown, it is most often referred to as a garment or an item of clothing. You will also hear the term garment components, which refer to the sleeves, collars, and cuffs of the apparel.
This is a term that you will hear most frequently when you are sketching, and it is used to reference the shape of a clothing style. A silhouette forms the line of a dress and is used to flatter different body shapes.
In your career, you will find that silhouettes are constantly changing in fashion. Usually, whichever direction a silhouette takes, whether it is wider, shorter, or narrow, is the direction the fashion trend is following.
Although silhouettes have changed a great deal throughout history, the straight, bell, and bustle silhouettes continue to emerge and re-emerge throughout history.
You may have heard this term already associated with the arts, architecture, or other cultures.
The term avant garde comes from the French term ‘advance guard’, or ‘vanguard’, to represent individuals or works that are unorthodox.
In the world of fashion, avant garde represents the most daring, unconventional and wild designs.
There are several avant garde themed designs that hit Paris Fashion Week every year including hyper construction dresses and foam headwear.
As a fashion designer, you will spend lots of time analysing fashion trends and making predictions. In doing that, it is crucial that you can recognise a fad, which is a passing fashion trend that becomes popular quickly and dies out fast.
Another important piece of clothing in the world of fashion design are the classics. These are the garments that are always acceptable and remain popular, regardless of fashion trends.
If you have a pair of blue jeans, a dark business suit, or a white dress shirt in your closet, then you own a few classic pieces yourself.
When it comes to the world of fashion, things operate on an entirely different calendar, so you need to become familiar with the ‘fashion year’. For starters, the two most important seasons in the fashion year are spring/summer and autumn/winter.
During August-September, fashion designers are very busy with International Fashion Week, which is when designers showcase their collections.
The Fashion Cycle
As you have learned throughout this module, fashion is a constantly changing industry, and a designer must stay current with the ebbs and flows of the different fashions. One thing that remains consistent in the industry is the fashion cycle, which you will need to know and understand in your career.
What is a fashion cycle?
If you have ever seen really bad fashion trends or fads, then you know first-hand that fashions do not always survive from year to year. The ones that do not survive have cycled through the five stages of the fashion cycle. As a designer, if you create a garment, it will pass through the very same process.
A fashion cycle is a term used to describe a process or period of time that fashion goes through. There are five stages in a fashion cycle, and they all act as an uninterrupted flow, which determines what styles and designs will be introduced in the new season.
It helps to think of the cycle of fashion as rolling waves in the sea.
As one wave of fashion gains popularity, another style is forming close behind it. To truly understand the cycle, you must familiarise yourself with the following five stages:
Many people visualise the fashion cycle illustrated in a bell curve, and if you are a visual learner, it might help you as well. On a bell curve, the first point, or the first stage in the cycle of fashion is the introductory phase.
In this first phase, new designs, styles, colours, and textures are introduced at the highest prices and produced in small amounts. These designs are then previewed during Fashion Week by major designers.
The second stage in the fashion cycle is known as the rise stage, which is when manufacturers will copy designer clothing using inexpensive fabrics.
At this time, the bell curve rises slowly as fashion becomes more accepted by people.
The peak stage is at the very top of the bell curve representing the peak of popularity, also known as the acceptance phase.
During this time, the fashion is at its most popular and in such high demand that more manufacturers reproduce the design at varying price levels.
In the fourth stage, we begin to go down the slope as consumer demand begins to decrease. This is called the decline stage, which occurs after so many copies of a design are mass produced.
After a while, people get tired of that look and start looking for something different, so the design trend begins to lose its appeal.
The fifth and final stage finds you at the end of the bell curve, completing the cyclic wave. At this stage of the design, consumers are no longer interested and they are looking for new styles.