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A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion: Historic and Modern

A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion: Historic and Modern

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by Mary Brooks Picken

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While most of us would have little difficulty in recognizing a buckle, hem, or seam, we might be considerably more challenged if asked to identify a godet, a trilby, or a vamp. With this handy book at your fingertips, however, you can quickly find the definition of over 10,000 words associated with wearing apparel and fashion.
From bateau necklines, bobs, and


While most of us would have little difficulty in recognizing a buckle, hem, or seam, we might be considerably more challenged if asked to identify a godet, a trilby, or a vamp. With this handy book at your fingertips, however, you can quickly find the definition of over 10,000 words associated with wearing apparel and fashion.
From bateau necklines, bobs, and bustles to plackets, havelocks, and bavolets, terms are assembled alphabetically or in groups according to dress parts, fabrics, elements of design, and other style categories. In addition, over 950 clearly detailed illustrations depict stitches, weaves, laces, garments, collars, shoes, jewelry, hair styles, and other sartorial features.
This is the perfect reference for increasing fashion vocabularies, injecting a stimulating term or phrase in conversations about wearing apparel, or making articles written about clothing more understandable. Fashion writers, costume designers, manufacturers, buyers, sales people — anyone interested in the history of fashion — will welcome this thorough and comprehensive guidebook. "Unique in its field and containing material not easily accessible elsewhere, it definitely has a place in the general reference library for quick identification purposes and for anyone concerned with the fashion field." — Booklist

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Fashion and Costumes Series
Product dimensions:
6.11(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.89(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion Historic and Modern

With over 950 Illustrations


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1985 Joann J. Greener & Elizabeth M. Houck
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14160-2



aal (ahl). Dye, red in color, obtained from root of East Indian shrub.

aba or abba (ah ba). 1. Square Arab mantle. See WRAPS. 2. Cloth woven from hair of camels, goats, etc. Used for making aba mantle.

abaca (ah ba kah). Fiber from leaf stalk of banana, commonly used in Philippines for making cordage, coarse fabrics, straw hats. Native name for Manila hemp.

abaissé (F. a bess say). Lowered, as hem or waistline.

abalone (ab a lo ne). Shellfish, iridescent shell of which is used for inlay, buttons, beads, ornaments. Commonly called ear shell.

abb. 1. Warp yarn. Term used by weavers. 2. Inferior part of fleece around edge.

abbé cape (F. a bay). Tiered shoulder-cape. See CAPES.

abbot cloth. Rough, canvas-like drapery material in basket weave. Usually of cotton. Similar to MONK'S CLOTH.

abbreviate or abbreviated. Shortened or relatively short.

abnet (ab net). Long scarf or sash, usually of linen or linen mixture. Worn by Jewish priests.

abolla (a bahl a). Ancient Roman cloak. See WRAPS.

abraded yarn. Rayon filament yarns roughened on surface. See YARNS.

abrasion. The wearing down by friction of parts of the surface of a textile to form a design.

abrasion resistance. Degree to which a fabric can withstand wear by friction.

absinthe (ab sinth or F. ab sant). Light yellowish-green shade, color of the liqueur.

absorbent cotton. Cotton batting without natural oils. Used chiefly for medical purposes. See COTTON.

academic costume. Characteristic dress worn by faculty, students, and graduates of colleges and universities, and by those on whom honorary degrees have been conferred. Costume varies with rank. Consists of long gown, generally black, with long, full sleeves; sometimes a hood draped across shoulders; and a cap or MORTARBOARD. Color of hood denotes academic degree held by wearer. Costume also worn on official occasions by lawyers, clergy, etc.

acajou (F. a ka zhoo). French word for mahogany color.

acca. Medieval fabric made of silk mixed with gold threads. Probably made in Syria and named for Acre, Syrian seaport.

accent. Emphasis or prominence given to line or decorative color in costume.

accessory. Article of apparel that completes the costume, such as shoes, gloves, hats, bags, jewelry, neckwear, belts, boutonnières, scarfs; in trade usage, also negligees, corsets, lingerie, etc.

accollé (ak a lay). Entwined around or encircling the neck; collared; also, joined, touching, or overlapping, especially at the neck. Use of designs on coats-of-arms, shields, etc.

accordion pleats (pleets). Straight, narrow pleats. See PLEATS.

accordion-stitch. Machine-knitting stitch providing great elasticity. See STITCHES.

accroche-coeur (F. a krosh cur). French term meaning little flat curl of hair worn at temple; kiss-curl.

Acele. Trade name for a brand of rayon. See RAYON.

aceta. Cellulose acetate rayon which contains fibroin or casein.

acetate rayon. One of the three types of rayon now manufactured commercially in the U.S.A. See RAYON.

acid dye. A type of dye used on wool and other animal fibers. Seldom used on cotton or linen fibers, since then a mordant, or substance to act as a binder for the dye, is required.

acid resistance. Degree to which a fabric can withstand the chemical action of acids.

acock. Turned up; at an angle; cocked.

Acrilon. Trade name for a fabric made from acrylic fiber.

acrobatic shoe. Lightweight shoe with buckskin sole. See SHOES.

acrylic fiber. A liquid derivative of natural gas and air. When processed it has durability, strength, and good draping quality.

active sports clothes. Clothes suitable for active participants in sports events. For types, see SPORTS CLOTHES.

acton. Jacket worn as part of armor. See JACKETS.

Ada canvas. Square-meshed canvas for needle work. Also called Aida canvas, Java canvas. See CANVAS.

adamas (add a mass). Very hard precious stone, often a diamond. Used in gem cutting.

adaptation. Garment similar to an original model, yet having definite changes.

Admiralty cloth. Melton cloth; so called in British naval slang. See MELTON.

Adonis wig. Fashionable in first quarter of 18th Century, a wig of fine snow-white hair.

adonize (add o nize). To dress up, beautify, dandify.

adorn. To ornament, decorate; to add to the effect.

adoucir (F. a do sear). To soften, to appear soft.

aegis (ee jis). Ancient Greek garment made from animal skins. Head of animal hung down from neckline on breast.

aerated yarn. A type of rayon yarn that has a hollow center which contains inert gas or air. See YARNS.

afghan (af gan). Soft, wool blanket, usually knitted or crocheted. Used as coverlet or worn as wrap.

afghan-stitch. Simple crochet stitch which produces plain pattern. Same as TRICOT-STITCH. See STITCHES.

afternoon dress. Costume for daytime social functions. See DRESS.

after-ski socks. Socks with soft attached sole, worn as slippers after skiing. See HOSE.

afterwelt. In women's hosiery, the intermediate part of a stocking top between the leg and the welt.

agabanee (ag a bah nee). Silk-embroidered cotton fabric, made especially in Syria.

agal (ahg ahl). Decorative fillet usually made of two thick woolen cords wound with gold and silver threads. Worn by Arabs over the KAFFIYEH, to hold it on the head.

agamid (ah gah meed ) or aga (ah gah). Strong inner bark of a Philippine plant. Used for making coarse cloth and rope.

agate (ag et). Striped or cloudy variety of chalcedony, or quartz. Used as ornament on accessories.

aggrape (a grap ). Obsolete type of clasp, buckle, hook and eye. See AGRAFFE.

aglet (ag let) or aiglet (aig let). Metal sheath or tag at end of a shoe-lace or ribbon tie, to facilitate threading. Much used in 16th and 17th century costume. Later, any ornamental pendant; sometimes a small image. Also written aiguillet. From French word aiguille, meaning needle.

agnelin (F. an ya lanh). French word for lambskin having wool left on in dressing.

Agra gauze. Open-meshed silk gauze, stiffened in finishing.

agraffe or agrafe (a graf). Metal fastening device, consisting of a lever and an eyelet. Used on early armor and costumes. From early Norman word aggrape, meaning clasp, buckle, or hook and eye, as used on medieval armor. Still in use in 18th century.

agrandir (F. a granh dear). To enlarge.

agréments (F. a gray monh). French word for trimmings, ornaments.

Aida canvas. Square-meshed canvas for needle work. Also called Ada canvas, Java canvas. See CANVAS.

aigrette or aigret (ai gret). 1. Upright tuft of feathers or plumes of egret, or heron. See FEATHERS. 2. Something resembling feather aigrette, as a cluster of jewels.

aiguille (ai gweel or F. ai gwee). French word meaning needle.

aiguille à reprises (F. ah re preez). French word for darning needle.

aiguille à tricoter (F. ah tree ko tay). French word for knitting needle.

aiguilette (ai gwi let or F. ai-gwee-yet). Aglet or ornamental tag; also, trimming of looped cords, as on military and naval uniforms.

aile (F. ale). French word meaning wing.

ailes de pigeon (F. ale de pee zhonh). Powdered side curls, as formerly worn by men. French term meaning pigeon's wings.

ailette (F. ai let). Protective shoulder plate of forged iron or steel. Worn as part of medieval armor. Original form of the epaulet, the wide, ornamented shoulder. Originally tabs standing on either shoulder made of leather or parchment and decorated armorially. Appeared in second half of the 13th century.

air-conditioned. Term applied to a chemical process that seals the short fuzzy fibers into the yarn and thereby increases porosity.

airbrushing. Method of applying color, as to fabrics, by air pressure to produce print effect.

Airfast. Trade-marked name for a process to prevent atmospheric fading of fabrics containing acetate.

airplane cloth . Firm-textured cloth in plain weave, originally made of unbleached linen for airplane wings. Since World War I, made of cotton in varying weights and colors. Used for dresses, sports and work shirts, and other fashion items.

airplane luggage cloth. Lightweight fabric coated with pyroxylin, used in making suitcases, trunks, etc.

à jour or ajour (F. ah zhoor). Drawn work or other open work. French term meaning pierced or showing light through.

à la (ah lah). French term meaning after, or according to, the; as, à la mode, according to the fashion; à l'anglaise: English fashion; à l'enfant: baby fashion; à l'italienne: Italian fashion; etc.

alabaster. 1. Fine-grained, translucent mineral substance, used for small statues, lamps, etc. May be white or various delicate tints. 2. Having texture or nearly-white color of alabaster.

alacha (ah lah chah). Lightweight Oriental fabric of silk or cotton.

alamode (al a mode). Thin, light-weight, glossy silk fabric. Formerly used for making scarfs, hoods, etc.

à la mode (F. ah lah mode). French phrase meaning in fashion or according to the fashion.

alaska. 1. Overshoe. See BOOTS. 2. Yarn made of cotton and wool. See YARNS.

Alaska sable. Incorrect term for skunk fur. No longer legal in advertising. See FURS.

Alaska sealskin. Fur of Alaska seals. Usually dyed brown or black. See FURS.

alb or alba. Long white vestment with long close sleeves, and girdle. Worn by clergy, usually over cassock and amice. Name derived from Latin tunica alba, meaning white tunic, secular garment worn before 9th century.

albatross. 1. Soft, light-weight, woolen material with slightly creped surface, similar to bunting. In plain or fancy weave, usually in light colors. Named for the bird because fabric resembles its downy breast. Used for negligees, dresses, warm nightgowns, infants' wear. 2. Cotton fabric similar to woolen albatross, having slight nap on face.

Albert crepe. Silk and cotton crepe. See CREPES.

Alençon lace (F. a lonh sonh). Needle-point lace with solid design on net ground. See LACES.

alépine (F. a lay peen). French word for BOMBAZINE.

alesan (al a san). Light, creamy brown color, or CAFÉ AU LAIT.

Algerian stripe. Cream-colored fabric with alternate stripes of rough knotted cotton and of silk, woven in imitation of Moorish cloth.

algil (al jill). A fiber made into batting form from a chemical filament that does not absorb moisture. Used as a filtering medium and as a substitute for kapok.

algin (al jin). A product obtained from marine algae, spun into commercial filaments. Used as dressing material, in printing pastes, etc.

Alice blue. Medium light blue, having very slight greenish cast. Favorite color of Alice Roosevelt (Longworth), worn by her when in the White House.

alizarin (a liz a rin). A vegetable dye originally made from madder root, now usually obtained synthetically. Used most successfully on wool, sometimes on cotton. Turkey red is an example of the latter.

alliance (F. al lee ahnce). French word for wedding ring.

allier (F. a lyay). To match.

alligator. Skin of the water reptile. See LEATHERS.

alligator-grained leather. Leather embossed with alligator scale design. See LEATHERS.

all-in-one. Foundation garment or corselet consisting of girdle and brassière, made with or without a pantie.

allongé (F. a lonh zhay). French word meaning lengthened, elongated, outstretched.

allonger (F. a lonh zhay). To lengthen, to make longer.

all-over. Covering entire surface; also, fabric completely covered with a design, such as lace. See LACES.

alma. Silk dress fabric in diagonal twill weave. Usually made in black for mourning purposes.

almuce (al muce). Medieval hood like a cowl. See HOODS.

alnage (al nij). Formerly, English measurement of cloth by the ell, or 45 inches.

aloe fiber. Soft hemp-like fiber of fleshy-leaved century or similar plant. Used for cloth, lace, embroidery, etc. Also called bowstring hemp.

aloe lace. Fragile lace of aloe fibers. See LACES.

aloe thread embroidery. Embroidery of aloe fibers. See EMBROIDERIES.

alpaca (al pack a). 1. Hair of the Peruvian alpaca. See WOOL. 2. Smooth, thin, wiry fabric having cotton warp and alpaca or other worsted filling. Similar to and sometimes called mohair and brilliantine. Used for linings, men's and women's summer suits. 3. Fabric, usually of cotton and rayon, so called because of wiriness. 4. A rayon crepe, so called because of wiry texture, but not correctly termed alpaca. See CREPE. 5. Knit goods, sweaters, etc. made with yarn containing some alpaca wool.

alpaca-pile fabric. Coating fabric with cotton back and high alpaca pile, used for men's greatcoats and women's "teddybear" coats, and as lining for men's topcoats, raincoats, and jackets.

alpargata (Sp. ahl par gah ta). Coarse, low-priced Spanish shoe. See SHOES.

alpine hat. Soft felt hat. See HATS.

Alsatian bow. Loosely knotted, broad, flat bow worn as headdress or as hat trimming. Originally worn by Alsatian peasant women in their headdresses.

amaranth (am a ranth). Purple tinged with red, so called because like one shade of flower of same name.

Amazon. Dress fabric with worsted warp and woolen filling, finished to obscure the weave.

Amazon plume. Ostrich feather curled inwards to conceal the shaft. See FEATHERS.

amazone or habit d'amazone (F. a bee dam a zone). French term meaning riding-habit; often shortened to amazone.

amber. 1. Hard, translucent substance, found in the soil. Cloudy amber is yellowish in color; clear amber is a sparkling brown. Used for beads, ornaments, accessories, etc. 2. Yellowish, or brown color of amber.

ambergris (am ber greece or gris). Waxy substance of white, grayish, yellow, black, or variegated color, found floating in the ocean in certain tropical regions, or obtained from its source, the sperm whale. Used in the manufacture of perfume and formerly also in cooking.

amener des modes (F. am nay day mode). French expression meaning to bring in fashions.

American badger. Coarse, long-haired, creamy white fur with black band just below tip. Used for trimmings. See FURS.

American Broadtail. Trade name for processed baby lamb. See FURS.

American cloth. In British usage, sturdy enameled cloth—oilcloth, for example. Used in the household; also, for traveling cases, toilet accessories, etc.

American cotton. Upland cotton of the U.S.A. See COTTON.

American mink. Brown, durable fur of American wild or ranch-bred mink. See FURS.

American opossum. Long-haired, fairly durable, gray fur of American opossum. See FURS.

American sable. Baum marten. Silky, brown, fairly durable fur. See FURS.

amethyst. 1. Clear purple or bluish-violet stone used in jewelry. 2. Violet shade, having more red than blue.

amice (am iss). 1. Rectangular piece of linen worn by clergy as Mass vestment, originally over the head, now about the shoulders. 2. Furred hood. See ALMUCE under HOODS.

amictus (a mick tus). Toga or any cloak-like outer garment. Worn by ancient Romans.

amincir (F. a mahn seer). To make thin, look slender.

Amish costume (ah mish). Plain habit worn by the Amish women of the Mennonites. Consists of plain gathered skirt, basque, and bonnet, usually in dull black and without ornament. All Amish garments are tied on, no modern fasteners of any kind being used.

amortir (F. a more teer). To fade (col.)

Amphore line. Silhouette (resembling Greek vase) of skirt rounding over hips, narrowing at hem. Presented by Carven in 1950.

ampyx. A diadem worn by ancient Greek ladies.

amulet (am you let). Object, usually small piece of stone, bone, metal, etc., worn by the superstitious as protection against evil or bad luck. Common in earlier days; still worn as ornament in some parts of U. S.

anadem (an a dem). Garland; chaplet; wreath; fillet. Worn on the head as ornament.

anaglyph (an a glif). Ornament in low relief, as a cameo. Opposite of INTAGLIO.

analabos (a nal a bos). A cloak decorated with crosses which is worn by monks of the angelic habit in Eastern Church.


Excerpted from A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion Historic and Modern by MARY BROOKS PICKEN. Copyright © 1985 Joann J. Greener & Elizabeth M. Houck. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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