We are wondering if fashion websites such as SoSensational, and most fashion pages and magazines, should these days come with a glossary of fashion terms for easy comprehension and a health warning to avoid raised blood-pressure among fashion purists (AKA pedantic souls like Jan).
We know that you savvy and stylish ladies of 50-plus and 60-plus know your fashion terms. No, what we are talking here is about those confusing changes of meaning to fashion terms that have popped up in the past few years.
When we were all a lot younger, fashion terms had very specific meanings – which was very helpful as all knew what we were talking about.
Let us give you some examples…
The Court Shoe. 20 years ago (even 2 or 3 years ago) a court shoe was a plain shoe, usually with a heel, probably the kind you wore for a formal occasion. What you could always rely on about a court shoe was that it did not have straps or bars; straps and bars were for a T-bar or a Mary-Jane, so we all knew where we stood on court shoes (so to speak). Then suddenly, from a court shoe being a very plain, unadorned shoe, “court shoe” became the default description for any shoe with a high heel. As a sort of subsidiary confusion, a flat “court” acquired the American term, “pump”, which in the UK was what we wore for ballet or sport…
The Shift Dress. In our youth, ladies of 50-plus, a ‘Shift dress’ was a simple, straight and definitely unwaisted dress, as worn by Jackie O. The term derived from an under-garment, we think. These days ANY knee-length dress is described as a ‘shift’, which is not terribly helpful. We can’t promise you won’t find a fitted or waisted dress described as a shift on our Shop, but you won’t find a fitted or waisted dress described as a shift on our blogs or Style Advice pages.
The Trench. Again, 50 years ago, 20 years ago (even 3 or 4 years ago), a Trench Coat had a very specific meaning. A Trench Coat was a sturdy weatherproof coat with a “storm” collar and a belt, originally created by Burberry and designed to be worn by officers in the trenches of the First World War, hence Trench-coat. Around the middle of the last century (hey, around the time most of us SoSensational ladies or GLOWS were born) the Trench Coat was reinvented as a raincoat/coat for the smart man (and woman) around town.
The Trench Coat came and went, resurfacing as a piece of on-trend rainwear at least once a decade. Then in the 1990s Burberry, the brand, was sold and had a bit of a makeover. Creative director Christopher Bailey reinvented the trench all over again, making it for several years the most covetable coat in the known universe. And, of course, the fashion industry piled in, making Trench-Coats the must-have rainwear and transitional piece. But, whether it was by Burberry or some less elevated brand, its distinguishing features were always the same: storm collar, belt, buttons and its slightly military demeanour. But now, ladies, any old raincoat calls itself a “trench coat”.
The Maxi. SoSensational has been fighting a rearguard action to distinguish between the informal maxi dress (when we were younger, the maxi was simply an ankle-length day dress) and the long evening dress but the battle is lost: a maxi now refers to all long dresses, whether intended for office or occasion-wear.
As a bit of a pedant and a fashion purist, Jan has a little meltdown when she hears some of these terms being misused, then realises that terminology evolves, whether it relates to physics or fashion!
Some of this misuse must be blamed on sheer ignorance, but some of the change in terminology can be blamed on the requirements of SEO (Search-Engine Optimisation), e.g if someone is searching for a “trench” a fashion brand wants to set before them every raincoat they have, not just trench-coats, so suddenly all raincoats are labelled “trench” so they will be found in a search… The same is probably true of the “court” shoe – a footwear brand will want you to see ALL of its heeled shoes, not just the actual court shoes, so will label them all “courts”. The same applies to The Shift Dress – a brand wants you to see all its dresses.
We think the misuse of Maxi is purely down to misunderstanding because showing us beach maxis when we are searching for a wedding maxi, or vice-versa, is less likely to help us find what we are looking for AND the maxi misuse began about 5 years ago, which is before clicks largely took the place of bricks in our shopping habits.
While we are on this topic, we cannot ignore the new fashion terminology especially where it refers to some of our favourite hybrids – notably coatigan, jeggings and shacket (a cross between a shirt and a jacket that used to be called “a belted jacket”).
Of course, just to add to the sum of human gaiety, Spellchecks have a little meltdown any time the words coatigan, shacket or jeggings are written in any document!
One change which totally meets with our approval at SoSensational is the adoption of “blazer” to mean a woman’s tailored jacket. This is helpful because “jacket” was way too imprecise a term. Previously, if you wanted a jacket, you might want an outdoor padded jacket or a tailored jacket. Well now you know – a blazer is a woman’s tailored jacket, leaving “jacket” available for the outdoor kind, though at SoSensational, you will find both varieties (indoor and outdoor if you search for Jacket)!
During the preparation of this blog, the SoSensational team has seen a “puff-ball skirt” referred to as a “puff skirt” – not that you would find one of those on SoSensational. One kind of skirt you may now find on SoSensational is a “Skater.” Even a few years ago, “skater” indicated a dress or skirt that was very short, very flared (derived, obvs, from a skater’s costume). Skater dresses were really only appropriate for the under-12s – oh, okay, the under 20s.
Now, however the Skater has grown up. “Skater” now refers to any full skirt of any length, so don’t be afraid of the term “skater”, just check the length.
The “Prom Dress” has taken a similar journey, from puffy little frock for a 14-year-old to almost any cocktail or party frock.
Another recent change – and again one of which we approve – is The Wiggle Dress. The Wiggle Dress is the current term for a body-con dress; a dress that fits our body and makes us want to give a little wiggle… (though you will still find the term ‘body-con dress’ being used; not all brands use Wiggle Dress).
So, the lesson is not to pay too much attention to the name, but do pay attention to the description. And, naturally, if it is on SoSensational, we think a woman of 50-plus could wear it.
What do you think about all these new fashion terms an hybrids?
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