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Fashion Industry Terminology

Starting out and wishing you had a Fashion Industry Dictionary? Now you do!!

Accessories: Articles such as jewelry, scarves, hats, handbags, and shoes, worn or carried to complete a fashion look.

Acetate: A man-made fiber of cellulose chains.

Acrylic: A man-made fiber made of long-chain synthetic polymer.

Advertising: Any paid message in the media used to increase sales.

Advertising Director: The person in charge of the personal and activities of the advertising department.

Alta Moda: The Italian Couture.

Apparel: Clothing, not necessarily fashionable.

Apparel Industry: The manufacturers, jobbers, and contractors engaged in the manufacture of clothing ( also called the garment business, the needle trades, the rag trade).

Artisans: People who do skilled work with their hands.

Atelier (ah-tel-yay'): The French term for designer workshop. Ateliers are classified as flou (for soft dressmaking) or tailleur (for tailoring suits and coats).

Automatic Replenishment: A store allows a manufacturer to restock basics without a purchase order; continuous open-to-buy.

Balance: Visual weight in design.

Balance of Trade: The difference in value between a country's exports and imports.

Base Goods: The solid fabric used as the basis for a group of sportswear.

Bespoke: The English term for made-to-measure Men's suits.

Block: A base or master pattern used by a company to develop styles. The block is the foundation for style development and incorporates the sizing and styling characteristics of a company and their target demography. A company will have many blocks.

Bodies: Garment Silhouettes.

Book Inventory: The dollar value of inventory, as stated in accounting records.

Boutique (boo-teek'): The French word for a small shop with unusual clothing and atmosphere.

Branch Store: A store owned and operated by a parent store; generally located in a suburban area under the name of a parent store.

Brand Name: A trade name that identifies a certain product made by a particular producer.

Brand Portfolio: A wide range of products under one brand.

Brick and Click: An industry buzz word to describe retail stores that have Web sites.

Bridge Fashion: The style and price range between designer and better. (we now call this Contemporary)

Buttonhole Marker: A marker specifically for buttonhole placement on a garment.

Buyer: A merchandising executive responsible for planning, buying, and selling merchandise.

Buying Office: An independent or store-owned office that is located at a market center and buys for one chain or for many stores.

Buying Plan: A general description of the types and quantities of merchandise that a buyer expects to purchase for delivery within a specific period.

CAD: Computer Aided Design; Somputer software programs that are used in patternmaking and grading. Some examples are Optitex, Lectra, Gerber.

Chain Store Organization: A group of stores that sell essentially the same merchandise and are centrally owned, operated, and merchandised.

Classic: A fashion that is long-lasting. (The Little Black Dress, for example)

Classification: An assortment of related merchandise grouped together within a department of a store.

Collection: A group of garments designed for a specific season. (Fall/Winter, Spring/Summer, Resort, etc.)

Commissionaire (ko-me-see-ohn-air'): A store representative in a foreign city.

Commodity Merchandise: Standard, basic merchandise.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD): An integrated computer system that aids in designing and pattern making; used in both grading, marker making, cutting, and sewing machines.

Computer-Integrated Manufacturing (CIM): A computer connection to integrate computer-aided design and manufacturing systems.

Consumer: Someone who buys merchandise.

Consumer Demand: The effect consumers have on the marketplace.

Consumer Obsolescence: The rejection of merchandise in favor of something newer, even though the 'old' still has utility.

Contemporary Styling: Sophisticated, updated styling; originally designed for the age group that grew out of juniors.

Contractor: An independent producer who does the sewing (sometimes the cutting) for the manufacturers; and outside shop.

Converter: A textile producer that buys greige goods from mills and dyes, prints, and finishes it before selling it to a manufacturer.

Cooperative Advertising: Advertising costs shared by a textile producer, a manufacturer, and/ or a retailer.

Coordinated Sportswear: Sportswear designed to mix and match interchangeably.

Corporate Selling: Selling management to management, without the use of sales representatives.

Cotton: A vegetable fiber from the boll of the cotton plant; the world's major textile fiber.

Couture (koo-tour'): The French word for dressmaking; applied to fashion businesses that make clothes to order.

Croquis: Original Paintings of textile designs.

Custom-Made: Apparel made to a customer's special order; cut and fitted to individual measurements; the opposite of ready-to-wear.

Cutter: The person who cuts material during the manufacturing process.

Cutting Order: A company order to cut and product a specific quantity of garments.

Cute-To-Order: A cutting order based on orders received.

Cut-To-Stock: A cutting order based on projected sales estimates.

Database Marketing: Using information about customers gathered from credit cards and other sources to plan marketing strategies.

Demographics: Statistical studies of population characteristics such as birthrate, age distribution, or income.

Department Store: General merchandise store, including apparel, household goods, and furniture.

Designer: A person employed to create ideas for garments or accessories in the fashion industry.

Design resource: Any resource from which a designer obtains ideas: can be trade newspapers, design reports, fashion magazines, museums, historic costume books, nature, theater, films, fabrics, and so on.

Design services: Reports and ideas available by subscription to manufacturers and retailers; predictives.

Digital Printing: Fabric printing done with fabric dyes on a wide carriage digital printer.

Direction Card: An itemized list of all pattern pieces that belong to a given design. The card is hung with the pattern.

Direct-Mail Advertising: Any printed advertising distributed directly to specific prospects by mail.

Direct to Garment Printing: Printing done on a finished garment - usually sublimation.

Discount Retailing: Low-margin retailing; retailers able to offer inexpensive merchandise by buying in quantity and keeping operating costs low.

Discretionary Income: Income left after basic necessities have been paid for.

Disposable Income: Income minus taxes; a persona's purchasing power.

Divisional Merchandise Manager: A person in the middle management of a retail store; the executive responsible for merchandising activities of a related group of departments; supervises buyers and assistants.

Doors: Fashion industry jargon for the number of retail stores at which a particular product is sold.

Draping: A method of making a pattern by draping fabric on a dress form.

Dye House: Where fabric and/or trims are dyed.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): The exchange of business data between two parties by means of computers.

Electronic Retailing: Shop-by-computer retailing.

Elements of design: Design ingredients: color, fabric, line and shape.

Ergonomics: The development of workplace equipment and standards designed to improve the safety, health, and efficiency of workers.

E-Tailing: And industry buzz word signifying electronic retailing.

Ethnic or Folk Costume: Traditional national or regional dress; often inspiration for fashion design.

Fabrication: The selection of appropriate fabric for a garment.

Factoring: Short-term, non-bank financing of accounts-receivable. In finance factoring, the factor (called the financing factor) advances funds to a producer or a manufacturing firm, on thesecurity of produce or goods that will be produced or manufactured utilizing those funds. (3) In discount factoring (also called service plus finance factoring) the factor advances a percentage (usually between 70 to 85 percent of the value of accounts receivable) to the seller on a non-recourse basis and assumes the full responsibility of collecting the debts. Factoring is a type of 'off balance sheet financing.'

Factory Outlet Stores: Stores that sell manufacturers' overruns directly to consumers.

Fad: A short lived fashion.

Fashion: The prevailing style of any given time: implies change in style.

Fashion Cycle: Fashion change; refers to the introduction, acceptance, and the decline of a fashion.

Fashion Director: The fashion expert of an organization who works with designers or buyers to form the fashion image of the company.

Fashion Editor: The head fashion reporter at a magazine or newspaper who analyzes the fashion scene and interprets it for readers.

Fashion Forecast: A prediction of fashion trends.

Fashion Group International: An international association of professional women in the fashion business; founded in 1931.

Fashion Illustration: used most often in fashion design portfolios – these stylized fashion figure drawings are what most people think of when talking about “fashion design”. They are rarely users by designers in the apparel industry – flats are used instead

Fashion Merchandising: The planning required to have the right fashion merchandise available in the proper quantities and place at the right time and priced to meet consumer demand.

Fashion Press: Reporters of fashion news for magazines and newspapers.

Fashion Retailing: The business of buying fashion merchandise from a variety of resources and reselling it to ultimate consumers at a convenient location or via the Internet, television or catalogs.

Fashion Trends: New directions in fashion styling.

Federation Francaise de la Couture: French couture trade association composed of three main membership classifications (each called a Chambre Syndicale) and associated groups of of manufacturers and artisans.

Fibers: Natural or synthetic strands from which yarns are made.

Filament: A continuous strand of Fiber.

Finishing: The last treatments given to fabrics; the final handwork or final touches done to a garment.

First Pattern: The trial pattern made in the design department for the sample garment.

Fit Model: A person hired to test fit garments and needs to represent the average customer of the company - not a runway model.

Flagship Store: The largest and most representative store in a chain organization.

Flats: a flat sketch – usually black and white – that shows a garment as if it were laid “flat” to display all seams and design details. Today – these are done with Adobe Illustrator

Flax: A natural fiber made from the stem of the flax plant and used to make linen.

Flexible Manufacturing: A combination of Methods used to make manufacturing most effective.

Floor-Ready Standards: A requirement by retailers that manufacturers have merchandise pre-ticketed and on hangers, ready to be put on the selling floor.

Franchising: The selling by a manufacturer of the rights to retail its merchandise.

Full-Fashioned Knits: Knit garments with prices shaped on the knitting machine.

Furnishings: Men's clothing category, including shirts, accessories, and item sportswear.

Garment Dye: Dyeing garments after they are sewn.

Garment Packages: Apparel manufacturing done by textile producers.

Generic Name: The family name given to each type of fiber.

Globalization: The trend for manufacturers and retailers (and all businesses) to expand throughout the world.

Grading: The process of making a sample size pattern larger or smaller to make up a complete size range.

Grader: Someone who grades patterns.

Graded Nest: The graded patterns you get back from the grader, that are laid out on top of each other, to check accuracy before approval to go to production is given.

Greige Goods (Gray Goods): Unbleached, unfinished fabrics bought by converters.

Gross Margin: The Difference in dollars between net sales and the net costs of merchandise during a given period.

Haute Couture: Dressmaking houses in Paris that belong to the Chambre Syndicale of the Federation Francaise de la Couture and meet the criteria to be on its Couture-Creation list.

Imports: Goods made in a foreign country.

Interfacing/Fusible: Stabilizes an area that needs more structural integrity.

Issue Plan: Production Schedule.

Items: Garments sold on an individual basis.

Jacquard loom (jah-kard'): A loom invented by Joseph Jaquard in France in 1801 that weaves an elaborate (such as damask, brocade, tapestry) by controlling each warp thread separately.

Jersey: The basic construction of all weft knits.

Jobber: A middleman who sells overstock fabric from a mill or designer. Usually small minimums and good prices. Must buy all you want up front because you are not able to reorder.

Junior: A size range of female apparel; in odd numbers, 3-15.

Knockoff: A copy of a higher-priced style. (vs counterfeit)

Lab Dip: swatches dyed to a specific color using close but varying shades – one is selected and approved as the production color standard

Lay Ends: The section on either end of the marker spread that is waste material and discarded.

Leased Department: Within a store, a department run by an outside company.

Licensing: A manufacturer is given permission to use a designer's name or designs in return for a fee or a percentage of sales.

Line: An apparel manufacturer's collection of styles; also, visual direction in a design caused by seams, details, or trimming.

Line Buying: Buying lines from reliable manufacturers.

Line Sheet: a “catalog” for wholesale buyers – contains flats, price, style #, colors, etc so that buyers have the info necessary to place their orders

Linen: A vegetable fiber derived from the woody stalk of the flax plant.

Lookbook: a collection of lifestyle photos of your apparel collection – used for marketing purposes, but does not contain detailed information on the styles

Loss Leader: An item sold at less than regular wholesale price for the purpose of attracting retail buyers to other merchandise.

Lyocell: A new type of solvent-spun cellulosic fiber.

Made to Measure: typically refers to clothing that is sewn from a standard-sized base pattern. A tailored suit is a common example of a made-to-measure garment. The fit of a made-to-measure garment is expected to be superior to that of a ready-to-wear garment, because ready-to-wear garments are constructed to fit the manufacturer's definition of an average customer, while made-to-measure garments are constructed to fit each customer individually. However, made-to-measure items are seen by many to involve less workmanship than bespoke or "custom made" garments, as made-to-measure garments always involve some form of standardization in the patterning and manufacturing processes, whereas a bespoke garment is made entirely from scratch based on a customer's specifications.

MAGIC: Men's Apparel Guild of California, the world's largest Men's apparel trade show, held each Februrary and August in Las Vegas.

Man-Made Fibers: Fibers made from cellulose in plants or from chemicals derived from petroleum, gas, and coal.

Markdown: The difference between the original retail price and a reduced price.

Marker: A pattern layout put on top of the fabric for the cutter to follow.

Marker Maker: Someone who makes markers.

Market: A group of potential customers, or the place, area, or time at which buyers and sellers meet to transact business.

Market Driven: Responding to market or consumer needs.

Marketing: The process of planning, promoting, and selling or merchandise.

Marketing Chain: The flow of product development, production, and Distribution from concept to consumer.

Markup: The difference between cost price and selling price.

Mass Production: The production of merchandise in quantity.

Media: Means of communication: newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, direct mail, and the web.

Merchandise Plan: A budget or projection of the sales goals of a merchandise classification, a department, or an entire store for a certain period, including the amount of stock required to achieve those sales.

Merchandise Representatives: Consultants trained by manufacturers to train sales associates in the stores.

Mill: Factory that takes raw material and turns it into fabric.

Mini-Marker: A miniature scale marker given to the manufacturer in order to check that all of the pieces are present before the actual marker is printed and the fabric cut.

Misses: A size range in feminine apparel in even numbers, 6 - 16.

Mixed-Use Shopping Centers: Shopping centers that have retail stores, restaurants, residential units, and perhaps movie theaters and office space.

Moda Pronta: Italian Ready-To-Wear.

Mode or Moda: A synonym for fashion; used mainly in Europe.

Modular Manufacturing: A manufacturing method utilizing a small group of people who work together to produce a finished garment.

Mood Board: contains images, swatches, trims, colors & other findings which provide inspiration and color story of the collection of apparel designs that follow.

MOQ: Minimum Ordering Quantity.

National Brands: Manufacturer's brands that are available nationwide.

Natural Fibers: Fibers that nature provides, including cotton, wool, silk, flax, and ramie.

Niche: a niche market is a focused, targetable portion of a market

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): A trade agreement, implemented in 1994, creating a free market between United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Notch: A rectangular cut out made along the pattern’s edge to show placement of darts, seam lines and other crucial points of allignment within the pattern. Notches are made by notchers (hand held pattern tools).

Nylon: A durable man-made fiber made of long-chain synthetic polymer.

Off-Price: A price lower than the original wholesale price or below the normal wholesale price; usually special purchases, closeouts, or overruns.

Offshore Assembly: Fabric purchase and cut in the United States, but sent to Mexico or the Caribbean countries for sewing.

Open-To-Buy: The amount of money a buyer can spend on merchandise to be delivered within a given period, minus the amount allocated to merchandise on order.

Operations: Steps in production; activities of running a business.

Overheard: The costs of operating a store or company.

Overlock Machine: A machine with needle and loopers that crates an edge finish while sewing a seam.

Patternmaker: Someone who makes First Patterns or Production Patterns, either manually to be digitized later, or in a CAD program.

Performance Fabrics: High-tech durable and flexible fabrics that use interesting fiber blends and finishes.

PFD: Fabric that is prepared for dyeing. This is not the same as white finished goods.

PFP: Fabric that is prepared for printing.

Physical Inventory: A physical count of stock on hand.

Piece Dye: fabric that is dyed in a vat by the roll after it is woven or knitted

Piece Goods: The trade term for fabrics.

Piecework: The rate by which many factory workers are paid.

Plant Capacity: The quantity of garments that can be made in a factory at a certain time.

Ply: A layer of fabric spread for cutting.

PMS (Pantone Matching System): Used in the industry to match colors between mill/dye house or in matching trims or prints to the correct colors. Pantone is the world standard, though other systems do exist.

Polyster: The most widely used man-made fiber, made of long-chain synthetic polymer.

Premiere Vision: French for "first look"; the name of the international fabric trade fair held each March and October in Paris.

Pret-A-Porter: French for ready-to-wear; literally, "ready to carry."

Pre-Ticketing: Ticketing of merchandise by the manufacturer so that the merchandise is ready for prompt distribution at the retail store.

Price Line: A specific price point at which an assortment of merchandise is offered for sale.

Price Point: The price of a type of item. This is also used as a descriptive level (from highest price to lowest price:



Bridge (now called Contemporary)


Mass Market


Price Range: The range between the lowest and highest price lines carried.

Private Label: A store's own brand.

Product Data Management Systems (PDM): Computer software systems used to organize and edit a line.

Production Pattern: The final pattern made to company size standards.

Production Pattern Maker: Someone who takes the first pattern and first sample and finalizes the pattern for production - taking into account fit, balance, lay efficiency and cost.

Progressive-Bundle System: A manufacturing system requiring one operator to repeat one assembly task and grouping operators to follow the order of production; section work.

Promotion: Products offered at special prices.

Promotional Stores: Stores that stress special sales, bargains, and price reductions.

Proportion: The relation of one part of a design to another; an important principle of garment design.

Proto/Prototype: A test sample of actual materials used to test the product for fit, durability and design translation. Provides the most accurate measure of materials and production costs.

Psychographics: The use of psychological, sociological, and anthropological factors to construct market segments.

Publicity: Messages about a company and its policies, personnel, activities, or services used without payment to the media.

Quotas: A means of regulating exports and imports.

Ramie: A natural vegetable fiber derived from the stem of a nettle-like shrub.

Rayon: A man-made fiber made from rejuvenated cellulose.

Ready-To-Wear: Apparel that is mass-produced (opposite of custom-made).

Receiving: The area of the store where packages are opened, checked, and marked.

Repeat: The repetition of a print in fabric design.

Resource: A term used by retailers for a manufacturer, wholesaler, vendor, or distributor; or a source for ideas or information.

Retailing: The business of buying goods at wholesale markets or producing goods and selling them to the ultimate consumer.

Retail Price: The wholesale price plus a markup covering the retailer's operating costs and a profit.

ROT: Rolled on Tube. Wholesale fabric is bought this way, not on a bolt.

Sales Per Square Foot: The amount sold per square foot of store floor space; a measure of productivity.

Sales Rep: Salesperson who is responsible for selling fabric, trim, finished garments, etc. Very often an independent contractor who works for multiple companies.

Sample: The trial garment or prototype.

Sample Cut: A 3- to 10-yard length of fabric used by the design department to make up a trial sample garment.

Sample Yardage: Small amount of fabric used for prototyping.

Savile Row: A street in London famous for its Men's tailors.

Seam Allowances (industry standard): ½” for wovens, ¼” for cuffs, collars, facings, 3/8” for knits

Seamless: Knitted Garment construction on a Santoni knitting machine.

Selected Distribution: Limiting the number of stores that may buy merchandise to maintain exclusively.

Sell-Through: The ability of a line to sell regularly and steadily at full price.

Seventh Avenue: The main street of New York City's garment district; the term is used to represent the whole district.

Sewing Contractors/Sewers/Seamstress: A service provider of sewing services. Sewing contractors range from “full-service” and provide everything from patternmaking to cutting, sewing and finishing to “limited” which may be strictly sewing services.

Showroom: A place where sales representatives or management shoe a line of merchandise to potential buyers; called salon de presentations in France.

Silhouette: The outline of a garment.

Silk: The only natural fiber in filament form; obtained from the cocoons spun by silkworms.

Soft Goods: Fashion and textile merchandise.

Sourcing: The worldwide search for the best available fabrics or garment production at the best price.

Space Dye: Fibers are dyed before being blended into yarns to make fabric or dyeing process where only one of the fibers in the fabric absorbs the dye, creating a marled or striped or heathered effect

Spandex: A man-made fiber of long-chain synthetic polymer comprised of stretchable segmented polyurethane; known best by the DuPont brand name of Lycra.

Special Events: Activities set up to attract customers to a selling place.

Specialty Store: A retail establishment that handles narrow categories of goods, such a Men's apparel, Women's apparel, or shoes.

Specs: specifications – garment measurements and details that are included in spec sheets, tech packs, etc.

Spinning: The process of extruding and hardening man-made fibers; the process of drawing and twisting staple fibers together into yarn or thread.

Spread: Refers to the laying of fabric on the cutting table to fit the size of the marker. Spreads are made up of “lays” or “plys”.

Standard Allowed Hours: The time it takes to complete each assembly operation or garment.

Stock Fabric: Fabrics that a vendor would keep in stock - some colors of a specific fabric may be special order only - not stock colors.

Stock Turnover: The number of times a store's merchandise stock is sold and replaced in a given period.

Strike Off: test sample of printed fabric to verify pattern, color and registration – approved before produciton

Store Image: The character or personality that store presents to the public.

Style: Certain characteristics that distinguish a garment from other garments; a particular look in fashion.

Style Ranges: Categories of styles that appeal to different consumers.

Stylist: A fashion expert; generally selects colors, prints, or styles for presentation or prepares fashion merchandise for photographic presentation in an advertisement or catalog.

Sublimation: A printing process that uses heat to transfer the image from paper to the fabric - must be used with Polyester fabric.

Swatch / Swatch Card: Small cutting of a sample fabric(s). Often will be provided free from a Mill - sometimes incurs a small cost.

Tanning: The process of transforming animal skins into leather.

Target Market: The group of consumers to whom a producer, manufacturer, or retailer aims products, services, and advertising.

Tech Pack: a collection of documents that contain all the necessary information to develop an apparel style from concept through samples through production

Textiles Fabrics: Cloth made from textile fibers by weaving, knitting, felting, crocheting, laminating, or bonding.

Texture: The surface interest in a fabric.

Texturing: The process of crimping or otherwise modifying continuous filament yarn to increase cover, abrasion resistance, warmth, resiliency, and moisture absorption or to provide a different surface texture.

Toile (twahl): The French word for a muslin sample garment.

Trademark: A company's individual registered mark and name for a product.

Trend Buying: When retailers buy from new resources to obtain fashion newness.

Trendsetter: A designer or fashion leader who sets a fashion direction that others follow.

Trunk Show: A show of designer clothes that moves from store to store, often accompanied by a personal appearance by the designer.

Understitching: A sewing technique of stitching all layers of seam allowance to the underside of a seam. This creates a slight roll, which hides the seamline.

Unit Control: Systems for recording the number of units of merchandise bought, sold, in stock, or on order.

UNITE: Union of Needle trades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

Unit Production Systems (UPS): A production system using computer-guided conveyors to move garments automatically from one work station to the next; automatic progressive-bundle system.

Universal Product Codes (UPC): Standard codes that identify style, color, size, price, fabrication, and vendor on price tags and enable this information to be fed through an electronic data interchange system.

Variants: Modifications of basic generic fiber compositions for special applications.

Vendor: A seller, resource, manufacturer, or supplier.

Vendor Analysis: Statistical analysis of the profits made on merchandise from individual vendors.

Vertical Integration: The joining of companies at different levels of production and marketing, such as a fiber producer with a fabric mill.

Virtual Showrooms: Showing a manufacturer's line on the Internet.

Visual Merchandising: Making merchandise visually attractive to customers.

Warp Knitting: Knitting fabric in loops running vertically.

Weaving: The progress of forming fabric by interlacing yarns on looms.

Weft Knitting: Knitting fabric in loops horizontally or in a circle.

Wholesale: Goods sold at a price intended to be marked up for the final consumer, and no taxes are collected (taxes will be collected when selling to the final consumer).

Wholesale Market: A market where commercial consumers for supplies and products.

Women's Wear Daily: Trade Publication of the Women's fashion industry.

Wool: A natural fiber derived from animal fleece.

World Trade Organization (WTO): The governing body for international trade, which replaced GATT.

Yarn: A continuous thread produced by twisting or spinning fibers together.

Yarn Dye: fabric that is woven with yarns that were dyed before weaving or knitting


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