Sep 11, 2008
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Is it fierce? Or prune? Fashionistas find buzzwords

Sep 11, 2008

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It's not trendy, it's "on trend," and if clothes are really good, they're "fierce" or "dope." Don't like the lingo of fashion? Whatever.

Industry observers say the language of fashion is changing thanks to fashion blogs and reality television, where shows like "Project Runway" have popularized fashion terms. Now, competition is high to attain originality and avoid cliches.

On the sidelines of New York's fashion shows this week, fashionistas gushed their favorite jargon to capture their approval or distaste for the latest looks.

While time-honored classics like "fabulous" and the perennial "chic" are still in abundance, bloggers, young designers and reality TV personalities have been adding their own lingo to the mix.

"'Cool' to me is dated, whereas 'chic' is not," said Tim Gunn, "Project Runway's" fashion consultant, whose phrases -- including "make it work" -- have helped hone his fashion credentials.

"'Sophisticated' is a word that will always be with us," he predicted. "'Polished' is a word that will always be with us."

Gunn said "on trend" was more in vogue now than "trendy" and that he dislikes "modern" to describe a new look. He said the TV show helped make the fashion vernacular accessible to a larger audience who now have "a vocabulary to talk about fashion."

But some slang adjectives were likely flash-in-the-pans, he said, such as 'fierce' -- popularized by a previous winner of the show, Christian Siriano, after being used by former model and television host Tyra Banks.

"When it comes to the more popular culture aspects of it, people saying 'fierce' and whatever, I figure that comes and goes," he said.


At fashion week, popular words included well-worn favorites such as "hot," "lovely," and "amazing."

Designer Ashleigh Verrier said her favorite fashion word was "diaphanous" -- an adjective characterizing fineness of texture. "As in, 'That dress is so diaphanous!'" she said.

"I like 'Glamit'," said fashion designer Marc Bouwer, who uses the term for a fashion line. "It is so gorgeous and glamorous. You don't want to use cliched words."

Designer Thuy Diep said "prune" was popular within her fashion crew to express disapproval.

"We say 'What a prune' when we see a garment that is sewn poorly and looks like a shriveled-up prune because the fabric's all wrinkly and ripply," she said.

Fashion stylist Kelli Browne said her pet phrase was 'dope,' describing any style as excellent. "It is used as in, 'That outfit is 'dope!'" she said.

Browne said she looked to more marginal communities, younger generations and urban streetwear labels to hear the latest in fashion rhetoric.

"It is funny when you see people in the fashion world aged in their forties and fifties using these juvenile words," she said.

Kathryn Finney, author of the fashion blog "The Budget Fashionista," said her staff had grown as the influence of the more traditional commentators in the industry had changed.

"Fashion is undergoing major changes right now, in terms of who the gatekeepers are," she said. "The new 'new media' is having an impact. Granted, (Vogue editor) Anna Wintour is still Anna Wintour, but she's not the be all and end all any more."

Most agreed "chic" was likely to continue its popularity as the famous labels it is closely associated with, such as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, continue to impress.

And while some fashionable buzzwords might come and go, their function remains the same.

"They make people feel like they are an insider in an industry that they may not know very much about," said Gunn.

(Additional reporting by Jan Paschal and Michelle Nichols, Editing by Mark Egan)

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