Ever mix up Aquazzura and Altuzarra? Feel flustered defining deconstructionism? Fumble pronouncing froufrou? You’re not alone. The language of fashion—a high-low mix of tailoring terms, runway trends, designer names, and street slang—can be confusing. And when you like to get style right—and don’t we all?—slip-ups are stressful.
But not to worry. Help is on the way—with Fashion A-Z. Your at-a-glance guide to all things à la mode, the following sartorial cheat sheet will have you chatting like a front-row pro in no time.
A is for Athletic Wear
What: The world of athletics—and its uniforms, insignias, and performance fabrics—has inspired fashion for almost a century, ever since Chanel cut her first suit from jersey, a lowly knit formerly used only for jockey shorts and rowing shirts.
Wear: Today’s stylish athletic wear often includes luxe fabrics and whimsical touches: Givenchy’s black puffer, a playful meta-commentary on American urban sport, is trimmed with industrial zippers mimicking the rounded seams of a basketball.
B is for Balenciaga
What: Founded in 1919 by Cristobal Balenciaga, the eponymous fashion house is celebrated for its architectural silhouettes, custom fabrics, and moda moto bags.
Wear: From Balenciaga’s “techno couture” Pre-Fall 2014 collection, an update on the mid-century Norsk ski sweater knit with a pixelated woodland scene.
C is for Codes
What: Every enduring fashion house has “codes”—some concrete (signature silhouettes, prints, embellishment), some less tangible (spirit, ethos, values)—that make designs uniquely the maison’s own.
D is for Deconstructionism
What: Ripped seams, recycled fabrics, and reverse linings are key elements of deconstructionism, a cerebral design movement that critiques fashion’s status quo.
E is for Epaulettes
What: Originally a tab worn on shoulders to signal military rank, epaulettes lend officer-and-gentleman jaunt—and a flattering V shape—to your figure.
Wear: For his safari-inspired fall collection, Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing showed a khaki shirt trimmed with been-to-the-veld-and-back frayed epaulettes.
F is for Froufrou
What: A French word imitating the rustling sound of a skirt in motion, froufrou—pronounced “froo-froo”—also describes a highly feminized, ornately flounced aesthetic.
G is for Ghillie
What: Traditional footwear worn by ghillies—Scottish Highland hunting guides—the field-and-stream shoes are cut with open, laced vamps designed to drain water.
Wear: Not for a hike in the hills: Gianvito Rossi’s black suede lace-up sandals take ghillie styling to new stiletto-heeled heights.
H is for Hardware
What: Distinctive hardware—metal studs, nail heads, zippers, and more—often sets real-deal luxury handbags apart from Canal Street copycats.
Wear: Fans of Balenciaga’s iconic motorcycle-inspired handbags may collect multiple versions of the exact same piece, differentiated only by the house’s famous pewter, silver, flat brass, aged brass, or rose gold stud hardware.
I is for Isabel Marant
What: No one channels je m’en fous tomboy-chic better than Isabel Marant. Her tight jeans, sweatshirt-ish tops, and comfortable shoes are default mufti for fashion cognoscenti.
Wear: Much copied but never duplicated, the Parisian designer’s iconic Dicker boots are wardrobe standbys for downtown style setters. Equally chic are her calfhair Bart low-tops, complete with a distinctive metallic red heel tab. Classics in the making.
J is for Jumpsuit
What: The traditional uniform of workmen and flight pilots, the all-in-one garment saw multiple manifestations on this season’s runways.
Wear: 6397’s versatile sleeveless denim version lets you transition from summer to fall with the addition of tees and turtlenecks, making it a favorite “now and later.”
K is for Knits
What: Starting its pre-fashion life as underwear and occupational clothing, knitwear exploded in the early 1900s with the rise of athletic-inspired ready-to-wear.
Wear: Warm, fuzzy, and epically oversize sweater dressing was a huge fall trend, as seen in this creamy cashmere English rib-knit origami-wrap pullover by Derek Lam.
L is for Lamé
What: A textile woven or knit with metallic yarns, lamé has light-refracting glam that makes it a favorite fabric for evening wear.
M is for Mod ’60s Style
What: Carnaby colorblocks, groovy Op Art prints, and swing-y A-line shapes signal the resurgence of ’60s youthquake style.
Wear: You’ll love Lisa Perry’s updated take on the A-line, a body-skimming sleeveless shift styled with coated zigzag lines inspired by Philip Johnson’s Gate of Europe twin towers.
N is for Nina Ricci
What: Founded in 1932 by Maria “Nina” Ricci and her son Robert, the Parisian house today stays true to its feminine flou aesthetic, crafting clothes that balance womanly romance and sizzling sensuality.
Wear: A body-hugging, aqua green sheath with the jolie Madame softness of ruching and dentelle lace.
O is for Oversize
What: Last season’s big, ballooning shapes continue their evolution in body-concealing cocoons, bell silhouettes, elongated sleeves, and long, loose skirts.
P is for Performance Fabrics
What: Borrowed from the pulse-racing world of extreme sports, today’s performance fabrics—Dri-FIT, mesh, microfiber, and more—add off-piste chic to everything from cargo pants to cocktail frocks.
Q is for Quilting
What: Two fabrics sandwiched over batting and topstitched to create padding, insulation, or 3-D embellishment.
Wear: Leather quilting is a signature of Belstaff, the British motor sport clothiers. Note their leather Phoenix jacket’s shoulders, channel-quilted for mobility, point-of-impact protection—and finish-line finesse.
R is for Recycled and Repurposed
What: A growing number of Earth-friendly designers use recycled materials—ranging from luxe 18k gold to lowly CDs—to create statement-making jewelry and sportswear.
Wear: Repurposed from army tents, military uniforms, and vintage sweaters, Greg Lauren’s reconstructed moto jacket is one-of-a-kind wearable art.
S is for Selvedge
What: A tightly woven band that prevents fabric from unraveling, a denim selvedge—short for “self-edges”—points to fabric woven on small-production shuttle looms.
Wear: Naked & Famous’ Skinny Guy Twist Candy Jeans are crafted of Japanese-milled selvedge denim woven with a colored weft thread that gives the fabric its tasty moniker.
T is for Trompe L’oeil
What: A “trick-of-the-eye” art technique creating the illusion of depth—or otherwise playing with your perception.
U is for Unisex
What: Silhouettes cut without gender-specific tailoring to fit the frames of both men and women.
Wear: The folkloric print and ambisexual cut of Baja East’s kaftan tunic bridge the barrier between his and hers.
V is for Vents
What: A slit in a garment, usually cut from the hem upward, designed to create shape and ease of movement.
Wear: The single vent reveals its equestrienne roots—it was originally a slash at jacket back that let the rider move freely—in Helmut Lang’s elegant white wool riding coat-shaped “Erosion” vest.
W is for Worsted Wool
What: Tailors’ favorite suiting, worsted is made by combing and tightly twisting long wool yarns into smooth fabric with a fine hand, light weight, and wrinkle resistance.
X is for XO, Exclusively Ours!
What: Hand-picked styles chosen especially for you and only available at Barneys New York. Exclusively Ours equals exclusively YOURS.
Y is for Yohji Yamamoto
What: Known for his anti-fashion aesthetic, Yohji Yamamoto uses a dark palette, voluminous silhouettes, and sculptural padding to create clothes that are as much armorial art as fashion.
Wear: Surprise is always an element of Yamamoto’s designs, as seen in his Y-3 for adidas® puffer: Hidden in the jacket’s removable padding is a set of mittens.
Z is for Zippers
What: Originally called a “clasp locker” and used to close shoes, the zipper was redesigned and renamed by BF Goodrich Co. as an all-purpose sliding fastener with interlocking teeth.
Wear: In homage to Alexander McQueen and his rebel Scots roots, creative director Sarah Burton sent a model down the runway in this zipper-striped gabardine kilt—accessorized with clodhoppers and crow feathers.