Aigrette: A spray of feathers or gems worn on a hat or in the hair.
Albatross: A lightweight woolen fabric in which the plain weave has been varied to produce a crepe effect. It is usually soft, but has more body than challis.
Alpaca (mohair): A shiny, stiff, wiry cloth made of Angora goat hair and with either cotton, wool or silk filling.
Armscye: The opening in a bodice or dress top for inserting a sleeve.
Balbriggan: Formerly denoted the highest grade of fine knit underwear, but now applied to any kind of underwear made of Egyptian cotton.
Barege: A dress material of gauze weave with a worsted warp and a silk weft. Can also be of wool.
Basque: A woman's blouse made with a tight-fitting waist and with or without a short skirt or peplum attached.
Batiste: A semi-sheer lightweight cotton fabric with a soft silky feel and a silky appearance, distinguished from nainsook by it's finer construction and finish.
Bavolet: The part of a bonnet that covers the neck
Bengaline: A heavy corded silk fabric with a silk warp and a cotton or worsted filling.
Bertha: A wide collar worn around a neckline, often made of lace, sometimes of matching or contrasting material.
Blonde: A continuous bobbin lace from France that is made of silk. It uses the same stitiches as Chantilly lace.
Bobbinet: See NET
Bombazine: A fine twilled fabric of silk and worsted or cotton, often dyed black and used for mourning.
Breeching: The change made in a small boy's clothing when he graduates from kilts(skirts) to pants, usually sometime between four and six years of age.
Bretelle: Suspender-like shaped bands worn over the shoulder and attached in back and front to a waistband; often used to help support a skirt, and sometimes applied as trim.
Brownie Breeks: A type of overalls or play trousers.
Buckram: A stiff, coarse, inexpensive cotton cloth heavily sized, used for the linings and frames of hats.
Cambric: A closely woven, rather stiff cotton fabric with a slightly glossy surfact. It was often used for underwear, corset covers, combinations, drawers and chemises.
Capote: A long flowing coat or cloak with a hood, sometimes worn by soldiers, or a very long mantle worn by women. This word is also used to describe a separate full hood.
Cashmere (cassimere): A soft light-weight, smooth material in a twill weave, made either of wool or with a cotton or silk warp, and usually found in plain colors. It was used for babies' saques and coats and children's fall and winter dresses. The name is derived from the source of the wool--the undercoat of a Kashmiri goat.
Ceinture: A belt or sash for the waist.
Challis (cotton): A medium weight cotton fabric finished to resemble wool challis. It usually has a printed pattern and is used when an inexpensive fabric is desired.
Challis (wool): A lightweight woolen fabric in a plain weave or with a small printed design. It was used for dresses and kimonos.
Chambray: A cotton material, always made with a colored warp and a white filling, which produces a grayed effect. It was often used for children's dresses and rompers, women's dresses and other wear.
Chantilly Lace: A delicate lace of silk or linen, having a six-sided mesh ground and a scrolled or floral design. Called Blonde.
Chatelaine" An ornamental hook, clasp or brooch worn at a woman's waist having a chain (or ribbon or string) attached for keys, trinkets, purse, watch or sewing needs.
Chemisette: A vest or dickey, generally sleeveless, made of fine cotton and lace or net; used primarily to fill in a low neckline.
Chevoit: A strong twilled fabric woven with a colored stripe or check.
China Silk: A thin plain silk with a slight luster. It is used for lining or making baby dresses and ladies' waists.
Cockade: A rosette or similar ornament worn as a badge on a hat.
Combination: A top combined with drawers to for a one-piece undergarment. Sometimes referred to as chemise-drawers.
Coutil: A heavy cotton cloth used for making corsets, with herringbone weave and sleek smooth appearance.
Crash: A term loosely applied to any cotton or linen fabric which is constructed from coarse yarns in a plain loose weave. Better qualities were used for suits, separate skirts and toweling.
Cuir: A French word for leather.
Culotte: Baby drawers
Damasse Silk: A kind of brocaded silk material.
Dimity: A very fine, sheer cotton fabric recognized by small cords or groups of small cords arranged in stripes or crossbars. (Cross-bar dimity is called JACONET.)
Directoire: A style of dress prevalent at the time of the French directory, characterized by a great extravagance of design imitating Greek and Roman costumes.
Drap D'ete: Lightweight cottons suitable for summer wear.
Dropped Fly: A flap on the front of boy's or men's pants popular up to the 1840's when a standard front fly replaced it for general use.
Dust Ruffle: A ruffle, usually pleated in pleats from 1/4in.(.7cm) to 1in. (3cm.) of tarlatan edged with lace. This was place under the hem of children's dresses for stiffening under the skirt, or on floor-length dresses around the hemline to "pick up the dust," hence the word "dust ruffle." This also served to hold the skirt out and to stiffen it.
Duvetyn: A soft, short napped fabric with a twill weave, made of cotton, wool, rayon or silk.
English Net: See NET
Epaulette: A shoulder ornament.
Etamine: A light worsted or cotton fabric with an open mesh.
Faille: A ribbed silk fabric recognized by it's flat cord surfae, the heavy filling cords being not so rounded as those in poplin and grosgrain, and inconspicuous. In effect, faille resembles taffeta, having about the same amount of stiffness.
Fichu: A kind of ornamental three-cornered cape, usually of lace, muslin or silk, worn by women as a covering for the shoulders.
Flocking: Decorative trim on fabrics consisting of tiny dots either woven in or later applied in the manufacturing process.
Foulard: A lightweight silk made with a plain twill or satin weave. It has a rich luster on the right side and usually comes in a printed pattern, although it can be bought in plain colors. It feels light, firm supple and slippery.
Fraise Fashion: A lacy neck ruffle.
Frieze: An embroidered fabric.
Frog: An ornamental braiding used to fasten the front of a garment which consists of a button and a loop through which it passes.
Galloon: A narrow band or braid used as trimming and commonly made of lace, metallic thread embroidery.
Garibaldi: A shirtwaist worn by women, so-called from its resemblance in shape to the red shirt worn by Italian patriot Garibaldi, often full and held in at the waist by a belt.
Garniture: Decorative trim of all kinds.
Georgette: A very thin sheer silk with a crepe finish.
Gimp: An ornamental flat braid or round cord used as trimming.
Godet: A segment of cloth wider at the bottom than at the top and used as an inset to produce fullness or for widening, such as in a skirt. (Also: gore).
Gossamer: A type of very sheer fabric.
Grenadine: A cloth of very open texture constructed in the gauze weave; usually made of silk and worsted. It often has fancy stripes of different weaves.
Gros de Londres: A lightweight silk fabric of about the same texture as tafetta, but having narrow cords alternating with wide ones. The cords are flat and not so apparent as in a poplin or grosgrain. Often the warp and filling are of different colors, giving a changeable effect.
Grosgrain: An all-silk fabric with cords that are uniform in size, especially found in ribbon.
Guimpe: A blouse with either long or short sleeves worn under an open-neck dress.
Guipure: A heavy lace with a large pattern.
Hand: A term used to define the drape of a fabric. As described by Carolann Schmitt at TheSewingAcademy.org forum: "Hand" refers to (literally) how the fabric drapes over the hand. Does it hang in soft folds, close to your hand and wrist? That's a 'soft' hand. Does it fall in folds but stands away slightly from the hand? That's a 'medium' hand. Does it barely fall into folds or barely hangs over the hand without sliding off? That's a 'firm' hand.
Henrietta: A fine woolen cloth.
Jaconet: (See DIMITY)
Jockey: A sleeve style.
Kilt: A small boy's skirted garments sometimes worn over short tight or bloused pants...or without. Usually worn by boys from two to five years of age. The word also designates a girl's pleated skirt.
Knickers: A development from women's straight leg drawers to a type gathered on a band below the knees with a ruffle of embroidered edging. Boys aged five to fourteen also wore "knickers" from around 1910 to the 1930's (no lace, of course.)
Lambrequin: A scarf worn over a hat to protect against rain, wind and sun.
Lawn: A fine sheer cotton or linen fabric of plain weave which is thinner than cambric.
Leghorn: A hat or bonnet made from leghorn straw which is cut green, bleached and plaited. Grown in Tuscany, Italy.
Linsey-Woolsey: A wool and linen fabric with linen threads formthing the warp and cotton or wool forming the woof or filler.
Lisle: A smooth, tightly twisted thread frequently made of long staple cotton.
Lisse: A kind of smooth gauze used for ruching.
Maline: See NET.
Mantilla: A woman's light cloak or cape of silk, velvet or lace or the like, or a kind of veil covering the head and falling down upon the shoulders.
Masalia: A trade name for a very fine underwear material which is heavier and has more body than nainsook.
Mercerizing: An important preparatory process for cotton fabrics or linen. Mercerizing causes the flat twisted ribbon-like cotton fiber to swell into a round shape and to contract in length. The fiber becomes much more lustrous and the strength is increased by 20 percent
Merino: A soft lightweight fabric made orginally of fine wool. ALSO, a type of fine wool and cotton yarn used for knitting underwear and hosery.
Messaline: A soft lightweight silk fabric having a satin weave.
Moire: Usually a corded silk or silk-and-cotton fabric with a watered effect produced by pressing.
Monture: A few flowers bunched together and used for decoration.
Mousquetaire: Various garments emulating the style of French dandies of 17th and 18th centuries, such as gloves with long wide gantlets, sweeping broad-brimmed hats with dashing feathers and fully-trimmed sleeves.
Mousseline de Soie (Silk Muslin): A thin silk-and-cotton fabric with very little body, often having large printed patterns in soft colors.
Mull: One of the sheerest cotton fabrics made, mercerized with no dressing, hence soft; crushes quickly and needs frequent pressing.
Muslin: A term applied to any plain-woven fabric of close construction, ranging from the very finest grades of underwear to the coarsest sheeting.
Nainsook: A thin lightweight cotton with a plain weave and little or no dressing; sometimes mercerized; not so thin and sheer as batiste.
1. Bobbinet: A cotton net, the threads so interwoven that they form octagonal meshes, thus making a thin, transparent but strong fabric.
2. English Net: A finely meshed fabric made of cotton; the background fabric of many types of lace.
3. Maline: A fine silk or cotton hexagonal mesh netting, heavily sized, especially desirable for veilings and scarves.
4. Point D'Esprit: A fine cotton net with small squre spots at close and regular intervals. It is dainty, durable and almost transparent.
5. Tulle: A silk net, very delicate and fragile, used for evening dresses, scarves and trimmings.
Nun's Vailing: A lightweight wool fabric made with a plain weave in plain colors; similar to wool batiste.
Organdy: A sheer, stiff, very lightweight cotton, quite transparent and not durable.
Paletot: A cloak, usually long, with one or more capes.
Pantalette: Fancy laced and ruffled legs sewn on a band or elasticized and worn from knee to ankle under full skirts.
Passementerie: A fancy edging or trimming made of braid, cord, gimp, beading or metallic thread in various combinations.
Peau de Soie: A heavy silk with a fine grainy surface produced by tiny cords, enduring and serviceable.
Pegged To A Line - Hung on a clothes line to dry
Pelerine: A full-length cloak or coat, often fur trimmed or fur lined.
Pelisse: A long cloak for outdoor wear, sometime fur lined.
Percaline: A lightweight cotton fabric, usually of one color, with a glossy surface.
Pina Cloth: A very sheer lustrous cloth with a plain weave made from the fibers of the pineapple. It is strong, durable and attractive, but stiff and unyielding.
Plastron: A trimming like a dicky, worn on the front of a woman's dress, often of a contrasting fabric narrowing from neck to waist.
Plisse: A plain weave crepe or crinkled fabric which has been special treated to maintain the crinkled appearance.
Point D'Esprit: See NET.
Polonaise: Dress top hanging below the waist and often draped in the back.
Pongee: A medium weight silk fabric in plain weave distinquished by its irregular threads. It is made of wild silk, and hence not so regular, fine nor beautiful as fabrics made from cultivated silk.
Poplin: A fine-ribbed material found in silk, wool, cotton, cotton-and-silk and wool-and-cotton. Its warp yarns are so fine and numerous as to cover completely the coarser filling yarns, thus producing fine ribs across the cloth.
Poult de Laine: Silk/wool blend dress fabric.
Ramie: A cloth simialr to linen, made of ramie fiber which is strong, fine, and durable.
Ruche or Ruching: A narrow band of net, lace or fine thin fabric, set in pleats or gathers, applied to trim a dress, particularly at necklines and wrists.
Sateen: A heavy mercerized cotton fabric with a sateen weave, attractive and durable but not so beautiful nor so soft as silk.
Satin: A lustrous silk material in a satin weave. Satin is always made in the satin or a variation of the satin weave, but it may be finished with either a crepe or a plain back.
Scrim: A cotton fabric made of heavy yarns in an open plain weave, strong, durable, semitransparent, easily laundered.
Shantung: Silk similar to pongee; this is more irregular in weave.
Shift: Another name for chemise.
1. Bishop Sleeve: Wide, full sleeve gathered at the wrist.
2. Pagoda Sleeve: Bell-shaped sleeve (about seven-eights length) with a sheer gathered undersleeve.
3. Undersleeve: Sheer partial sleeve, usually quite full, worn under pagoda sleeves...attached on a band to fit over the elbow; gathered at wrist.
Silk Broadcloth: A firm lightweight silk fabric with a dull finish distinguished by its characteristic thnk and heavy feel withouth the slipperiness of many silks.
Solferino: A pink dye that was discovered in 1859, the year a battle was fought at Solferino.
Surah: A soft but stout silk with a twill weave, usually with a dull surface although satin surah has a rather high luster.
Swiss (muslin): A fine thin cotton fabric rather loosely woven and having a great deal of stiffening. It differes from lawn in being more sheer, more loosely woven and stiffer.
Tablier: A apron or apron-like part of a woman's dress.
Taffeta: A plain closely woven, rather stiff sil fabric with a dull luster. Chiffon taffeta is a more soft and pliable fabric. Many taffetas are heavily weighted and do not stand the test of time.
Tarlatan: A very loosely constructed cotton cloth, heavily sized, used most extensively for fancy dress costumes and decorative purposes and for ladies' petticoats and dust ruffles.
Torchon: A type of lace.
Tulle: See NET.
Vandykes: V-shaped points which form a decorative edging.
Velvet: A pile fabric usually cut close. Velvets are usually identified by the kind of backing that is used, thus there are:
1. Velveteen: with cotton backing and cotton pile.
2. Cotton-backed Velvet: a cotton backing with a silk pile.
3. Silk-backed Velvet: with a silk pile and silk backing.
4. Upholstry Velvet: with wool, mohair or linen backing.
5. Lyons Velvet: with a cotton or silk back and with very close and firm backing.
6. Chiffon Velvet: an all-silk velvet so woven that the pile is in very narrow stripes so fine that they are not noticeable unless examined closely.
7. Panne Velvet: a cotton or silk-backed fabric, with pile longer than that of ordinary velvet, pressed to give a smooth, shiny effect.
Vicuna: A fabric made from the fleece of a vicuna ( a llama-like animal of the central Andes in south America.)
Vignone: An all-wool cloth, twilled in neutral colors, originally of Spanish wool.
Voile: Made in cotton, silk, and wool, a fabric made of fine, hard twisted yarns with a plain weave and open mesh.
Warp: Threads on a loom used to form the length of the fabric.
Watered Silk: Silk fabric with a wavy surface pattern. Moire
Watteau: A style of back for a woman's gown in which one or more broad folds are carried from the neck to the floor without being held in at the waist, while the fron and sides of the gown are "shaped to the person" providing a sweeping, flowing line in back.
Woof (also Filling or Weft): Threads on a loom used to for the width of the fabric.
Worsted: While woolens and worsteds are both made of wool, there is a difference in the length of the fiber, weave and finish. Woolen yarns have short fibers, tend to be soft and fuzzy. Worsted yarns are longer, tend to be smooth and strong.
Zephyr: a fine, lightweight woolen fabric, OR light, fine gingham, thin and silky.
Zibeline: A thick lustrous soft fabric of wool and other animal hair such as mohair, having a silky nap.