I used to work in retail, high-end retail. The kind of high-end retail with fabulous clothes and not always fabulous customers. One day a customer came in and asked for a Pea Coat, so I showed her what we had. After glancing at the coat she turned to me and said (in her most condescending voice) that this ‘was not a pea coat’, and proceeded to explain to me what a pea coat was. Silly shop girl. Silly shop girl with a degree in fashion design, by the way. Oh and I had shown her a coat that the designer had labelled a Pea Coat. But whatever, the customer is always right, right?
Wrong. Slightly incensed by this incident I was determined to prove that sometimes the customer was not right, and I did in fact know what a Pea Coat looked like. So I went home, jumped on the internet and looked it up. Turns out that all three of us were wrong – myself, the customer AND the designer!
It made me start to think about how many fashion terms are used and abused by people in the fashion world. In an industry that is constantly reinventing itself it seems that the true meanings of the words get lost in the creative license so readily exercised by designers, journalists and fashionistas.
My aim for this blog is to rediscover what our most commonly used (and misused) terms actually mean, where they come from, and what the garment baring the name should really look like.
Fashion is a language unto itself, and while I do not claim to be the be-all-and-end-all of fashion knowledge, hopefully the Illustrated Fashion Alphabet will help everyone speak it with a little more accuracy.