AP Fashion Writer, New York

Ever wonder the difference between a sheath dress and a shift? An A-line and a trapeze?

The fashion world uses insider lingo like, well, insiders. But fashion is more democratic than that.

We all have to get dressed and should know if we’re wearing a cowl neck or a halter.

Here are some ABCs of the style lexicon…part 2:


Ikat: Printed fabric based on a weaving technique native to Uzbekistan, in which a pattern is created from tie-dyed thread.

Indigo: Blue dye originally derived from plants in the pea family often used to color denim. The fashion world has adopted the word to describe deep blue colors with purple overtones.


Jabot: Ruffled, sometimes-detachable neck collar that hangs down the front of a shirt or blouse. Historically men wore it on dress clothes, but it is now more common to women.

Jewel tones: Deep shades inspired by gems, including ruby red, emerald green and amethyst purple. No pastels here.



Keyhole: Peek-a-boo opening that could be found on the neckline, front of a garment or the back. It’s an oblong shape, as if to fit a key.

Knife pleat: Fold in the fabric that creates almost a fan effect. Knife pleats, versus more complicated accordion, box or inverted pleats, are the basic pleating technique in sewing.


Le Smoking: Menswear-inspired outfit for women created by Yves Saint Laurent. The tuxedo silhouette was long and lean, and proved the beginning of an era of sexy, androgynous clothes.

Ralph Lauren (born 1939): One of the most successful U.S. designers, Lauren ranked 64th this year on Forbes’ list of the richest Americans–the same calendar year he celebrated 40 years in business. The polo pony logo is his signature, but his elegant sportswear look is almost as recognizable.



Ali MacGraw (born 1938): Actress whose career heyday was the late 1960s-early ’70s but has become a longtime–and unlikely–muse of the fashion industry. The preppy-meets-free-spirit style of “Love Story,” her most enduring film, is repeatedly cited by designers as inspiration.

Mule: A backless shoe. This shoe style can be dressy or casual – a pointy-toe high heel or a clog – but the key is the open back.


Nehru jacket: Fitted, single-breasted jacket with standup Mandarin or band collar. It’s named after the late Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

New Look: The 1947 ladies’ silhouette by Christian Dior that ushered in a completely different post-World War II style.


Ombre: Effect created by dip dyeing fabric with various gradations. It’s sometimes called degrade, and the color will appear lighter in some spots and darker in others. It can be done with more than one color, but shading a single color is more common.

Organza: A sheer and delicate–yet stiff–fabric that is a signal for femininity and a certain level of dress.


Portrait collar: An open neckline that is wider than it is deep. It provides both a frame and blank space around the face, drawing the eye upward.

Proenza Schouler: One of the first 21st century fashion labels to make a splash. Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez sold their final project for Parsons School of Design to Barneys New York, and in 2007 they were named the best designers in womenswear by the Council of Fashion Designers of America alongside Oscar de la Renta.

Photos courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.

Cover and header photos courtesy of Nicholas Routzen.