Fashion terms and what they mean – by Bruce Boyer
Today on Permanent Style, we offer this little palette cleanser of a piece by Bruce Boyer.
As ever there is truth in the humour, the sarcastic points highlighting the ever-pressing need of the industry to offer something new and exciting – and dress it up as artistic creativity.
"It seems that sports writers and fashion editors are continually finding new ways of saying things, particularly old things which must be made to seem new.
This is not necessarily misplaced enthusiasm, it’s merely done, one must suppose, in order to prevent boredom on the part of the writer and to try to inject some fresh and imaginative interest in the subject.
In fashion, the rule would seem to be that most concepts should revolve around the democratic idea of self-expression, the notion that there is something unique in all of us that should be hauled to the surface through the medium of apparel.
It’s not polite to ask why, if fashion is about self-expression, we have trends. In fact, it’s not polite to ask anything of fashion, as long as it makes us feel better. The terms fashion writers and editors use are merely to create a world of images in our minds without intellectual distractions of reality.
Let’s leave that there, perhaps. My purpose here is simply, for the purposes of general enlightenment as my Aunt Gladys used to say, to list of few of these current fashion terms and what they actually mean to the folks who invent these concepts.
Quickly thumbing through a few recent editions of the leading fashion mags I’ve picked out the following terms for examination, and will try to explicate them. These definitions will only apply for the next year, i.e. in fashion terms three seasons.
It should also be noted that these terms historically were applied mainly to women’s fashion, but have crept into men’s wear as well. They are, in a fashion word, unisexual.
[Note to Editor: I’ve not put these entries into alphabetical order. Does it matter?]
HOMAGE [pronounced OH maj]: Theft; unblushing larceny; the ransacking of the past for profit by those who see History as a commodity. As in “It’s an homage to the golden years of the Depression.”
DIRECTIONAL: Bizarre, but thought perhaps to be The Next Big Thing. Not to be confused with edgy which is The Next Big Thing. As in “Several in the crowd milling around before the D&G show were wearing tippets, tres directional.
INVESTMENT DRESSING: A now rather ancient term still found somewhat useful as it continues to strike the right aspirational chord. Generally referring to clothing so expensive it needs rationalisation.
ON TREND: Only for the slavish followers on The Cool Hunt, i.e., those who know the difference between edgy [the old term] and directional [the current term].
MEGA (also SWAG): Celebrities are seen wearing it. Acceptable for general usage after having applied the general rule, i.e., that you’ve never seen anything remotely like it in the stores you frequent. Aspirational and designed to give a sense of inferiority to the reader.
FRUIT SALAD: An eye-boggling mix of patterns and colors, only applied to this past Spring season, afterwards obsolete.
LUST HAVE: You’ll totally die without it. As in “Those aubergine patent leather chukka boots are a lust have.” Designed for short shelf-life consumption.
INTENSE: An almost technical term, used preferably as an interjection of speech while on The Cool Hunt. Best translated as They’ll die because you bought it before they did. Super-aspirational.
FAST FASHION: A pejorative term usually uttered with the nose raised, and which neatly condenses the thought that a particular style was over three months before you ever saw it and four months before you bought it.
NARRATIVE: Trying to infuse garments with A.D. (“Added Value”) by associating them with some ludicrous story, usually historical to entrench a sense of yearning nostalgia, to accompany the product. As in “This cloth was invented by the British in the mid-nineteenth century to hold musket balls in the Crimea.” Or as in “It’s a red reminiscent of what Garibaldi wore on his march across Southern Italy.” Or simply, “It’s Garibaldi red.”
AESTHETIC: An academic term taken from philosophy, originally meant to denote the study of beauty, but now evolved to mean its opposite, a costly trend totally devoid of any real beauty or worth."
If you want to hear Bruce, it's worth listening to the podcast Unbuttoned - G.Bruce Boyer's Life in Clothes, which he recorded with Canadian journalist Pedro Mendes. You can find it anywhere you listen to podcasts, or on Pedro's website here
The photos here are from that series, taken by Rose Callahan