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“Zoots you, sir”: the language of clothes

The world of fashion is definitely one of those areas where words have to be coined, blended, or repurposed to describe ever more interesting and inventive garments.

The current English dictionary in Oxford Dictionaries Online contains over a thousand words and phrases classified as garments or types of clothing – from an aigrette (‘a headdress consisting of a white egret’s feather or other decoration such as a spray of gems’) and a balmacaan (‘a loose-fitting overcoat with a small rounded collar, typically having raglan sleeves’) to a woggle (‘a loop or ring of leather or cord through which the ends of a Scout’s neckerchief are threaded’) and a zoot suit (‘a man’s suit of an exaggerated style, characterized by a long, loose jacket with padded shoulders and high-waisted tapering trousers, popular in the 1940s’).

Leggings, jeggings, and meggings…

In a previous blog post here on the OxfordWords blog we wrote about our favourite fashion words, from body-con and Oxford bags to reefer jackets and winkle-pickers. This week, to celebrate London Fashion Week, let’s look at some dated fashion words that may well make a comeback if we’re not careful:

boiled shirt
a dress shirt with a starched front, as in:
Up above, men wore black clothes and boiled shirts, and women dressed in beautiful gowns

combs or combinations
a single undergarment covering the body and legs, as in:
woollen combinations

dreadnought
a heavy overcoat for stormy weather

kirtle
a woman’s gown or outer petticoat or a man’s tunic or coat, as in:
Men wore hats or caps, a kirtle or knee-length coat, shirt, waistcoat, trousers, woollen stockings, and shoes or high boots

knee breeches
short trousers worn by men and fastened at or just below the knee

loons
close-fitting casual trousers widely flared from the knees downwards, as in:
a pair of mustard hipster loons

purfle
an embroidered edge of a garment

step-in
a pair of women’s briefs
combination all-in-one silk vests and step-ins

union suit
a single undergarment covering the body and legs, worn by men and boys

zone
a belt or girdle worn round a person’s body

The opinions and other information contained in OxfordWords blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.