Out of Style: 8 of Fashion’s Most Overstated and Misused Words

  In the world of fashion, options are endless when it comes to coining a choice phrase or two to describe an article of clothing. While many words avail themselves in the English language for description, many of the same terms continuously emerge -- making articles, interviews, and conversations très monotonous when it comes to fashion talk, and most often, cliché.  

  As we dove a little deeper into the issue and casually discussed the matter with local experts, 8 terms and phrases repeatedly escaped the tips of their tongues. So welcome to DFW Style Daily 101 – where we dive in heels first (of course) into 8 of the most commonly misused and overstated words in fashion. From labeling the mundane as “couture” to designating trendsetters as a “fashionista”, shall we suggest to go against the trend the next time you chat fashion? If you have a paper and pen handy, prep your brain and those well-manicured hands, because class is now in session.   1. Couture – As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, this term is described as: “the business of designing, making, and selling highly fashionable custom-made women’s clothing.” While “custom-made” is normally the operative word defining couture, the delicate term is thrown around carelessly, often baiting customers into purchasing pieces that are neither high fashion or custom-created. And like clockwork, this overused description was the number one thorn in many of our dear designers’ side as we casually brought up this topic for discussion.   2. Haute Couture – Not to be confused with just couture, haute couture is even more limiting as haute by its very definition indicates “elegance” or being “high.” This word strategically interjected with the term couture, gives an even bolder meaning to apparel indicative of the utmost in high fashion. By virtue of its French roots, haute couture houses are guided by strict regulations, with only a few designer labels such as Chanel, Christian Dior, and Pierre Cardin, actually fitting the mold.  

Chanel hails as one of the few haute couture houses in the world.

  3. Chic – Whether très chic or just chic, what was once considered a classier term of art has now lost its meaning. Currently, the use of the word describes most apparel, style, or décor items that generally strike appeal, regardless of the level of sophistication.   4. Fashionista – Often used to describe one exuding great style or taste, this description is one of the most overused words in fashion -- plastering itself all throughout fashion magazines and editorials, and now in our minds. We are anxiously awaiting for this term’s successor to arrive on the scene, so that we can finally put this label to rest.   5. Classic – While this word, in error, has been interchangeable to define sophisticated designs, the term in its true meaning should illustrate those timeless and eternal forms of fashion that evade fads and trends. Think Coco Chanel and the Little Black Dress versus when rapper Iggy Azalea described her futuristic atelier Versace gown as “classic” at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards last year – gasp.  

Coco Chanel donning the iconic Little Black Dress.

  6. Bespoke – Often incorrectly used in substitution for couture, bespoke denotes “custom-made” clothing or “anything commissioned to a particular specification.” While bespoke suits and bespoke tailoring is becoming more increasingly popular in mainstream, its distinctive definition is one to take note.   7. Fierce – Overly popularized by Beyoncé in 2008, this term refuses to die. Gaining rapid momentum as each year passes, the word itself ignites spark to whatever or whoever it describes. As one local designer notes, “Saying something is fierce is more like experiencing a ‘wow’ moment of a completed look. Some things look good together but it’s not fierce because the outfit is incomplete.”   8. Avant Garde – By its very meaning, the artistically definitive French phrase is rich and historical in meaning. Webster defines the expression as “an intelligentsia that develops new or experimental concepts, especially in the arts.” While this specifically designates a distinctive grouping, the phrase is no longer a term of art (no pun intended). In its misappropriated state, it is now used to label things that are out-of-the-box, but not necessarily coined as artistic. As the same local designer notes, “This term is dangerously misused. It’s just a blouse with a bow. There’s nothing avant or garde about it. It’s just a top with a bow folks. Avant garde is something totally different.”    

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