Dept. of Word Lists

Clothing Design Words

Designing clothes isn't just a leisurely prance down the catwalk: It's art and industry with its very own, often technical, language. The words themselves may seem familiar to us non-designers, but the meanings are anything but. We called New York fashion designer Mary Ping to help us decipher this particular tongue.

Grain "Refers to the direction of the threads of a fabric. When fabric is woven you have a warp and a weft. The warp are yarns that run parallel to the loom, the weft are yarns that run perpendicular."

Shuttle "A tool on a loom to pass yarn through warp to form the weft."

Bias "The diagonal direction of yarn. You have yarns running vertically, yarns running horizontally -- the warp and the weft -- and the bias is the 45 degree angle between those two. It gives fabric a natural stretch. When people refer to a "bias-cut dress" it means the entire fabric is placed on the biased grain, or direction. So the dress has a tendency to cling to your body more, because it's stretching out more."

Allowance "The extra fabric that you leave around your pattern piece when you cut it, so you have enough fabric with which to sew the pieces together."

Seam "The sewn edge of a garment, how two pieces are joined together."

Dart "A triangle-shaped piece on a pattern that helps to shape the garment."

Hem "The bottom opening of a garment, like on a skirt, or if you're talking about trousers, where your feet stick out."

Serge "It's also called Marrow or Overlock. A verb and a noun, it's a process and a machine to finish the edge of a fabric. The machine uses three to five threads to bind the edge of a fabric."

Bobbin "The smaller spool of thread that sits underneath a sewing machine. You have your "top" thread that goes to the needle and the bottom thread from the bobbin that catches and secures it."

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Comments from our users:

Saturday February 17th 2007, 5:38 PM
Comment by: Clare S.
There are two other definitions for "bobbin" that are textile-related. In handweaving, the bobbin is a spindle that the weft thread is wound onto and then placed into the shuttle. The thread on the bobbin unwinds as the shuttle is thrown across the warp ,thus creating the woven fabric.

The other definition of "bobbin" is also a device that thread is wound onto. It is used in bobbin lacemaking, allowing the lacemaker to manipulate the threads as the lace is woven.
Saturday February 17th 2007, 11:33 PM
Comment by: naidu R.
Wednesday February 21st 2007, 6:03 PM
Comment by: Terry Ellen C.
Here are additional clothing words.

Slip - The VT defines a slip as "a sleeveless woman's undergarment." I think "a woman's sleeveless undergarment" is more accurate. Either way, Ms. Ping needs a slip.

Line - Provide with a covering, according to VT. Ms. Ping could line her dress and avoid the need for a slip.

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