Clothing terms

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Mon May 24 15:43:15 UTC 2010

On May 23, 2010, at 2:39 PM, Rick Barr wrote:
> I recently came across the poster for the movie The Joneses. Wiki presents
> it here:
> Some of the specific clothing items mentioned there were new to me. When
> I've come to the subject of items of clothing, especially with women, I've
> often felt at a loss with many words that pop up in conversation. It seems
> sartorial innovations, small or big, constantly produce names that are not
> always easy to catch up with. Something like MW's Visual Dictionary
> (available online:
> is of limited use precisely because of that dynamism; note, e.g., that "tank
> top" is shown as an item of children's clothing in that dictionary.

some postings of mine on clothing categories and terms for them:


AZ, 3/27/05: Underwear sociolinguistics:

What IS that garment?
the "swim brief"


> Does anybody on the list know of a reliable dictionary for clothing terms,

> which would be even better if it had images to go with the names?

there is tremendous variability in conceptualization and vocabulary -- changing over time (sometimes rapidly, with changhes in fashion), varying from place to place and from one community of use to another -- a variability that my postings just barely touch on (a situation very similar to that in the world of foodstuff and food names).

> Or are
> store catalogues the most reliable source for that terminology?

not really, though they're useful.  store catalogues show a mixture of ordinary-language vocabulary (with all its complexity) and terms of commerce (the jargon of manufacturers and sellers -- in effect, a technical vocabulary for this community of use, but also showing variability).  there is some back-and-forth traffic between ordinary-language usage and technical vocabulary, of course, which contributes further to variability.


> Thanks,
> -- Rick
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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