the ultimate i-D guide to fashion slang

Don’t know your DSMs from your DVFs, daaaaahling? Follow our tips to becoming fluent in fashion.

by Emily Manning
Jul 20 2016, 2:30pm

Alexander Wang fall/winter 16

Acronyms: NYFW, DSM, BTS, DVF — pretty much any person, place, or thing in this industry has been abbreviated to its simplest form (long before Instant Messaging platforms made extreme shorthand so ubiquitous). Anna Wintour's own daughter even calls her AW for christsakes. These letters stand for New York Fashion Week, Dover Street Market, Behind the Scenes, and Diane Von Furstenberg. We know it can be tricky keeping your F&Fs and FOHs straight, so if all else fails, just try to remember that ALT is not a sandwich.

Archival: Any designer garment that wasn't produced for the current season is considered "archival," or belonging to that brand's archive. Because these seasonal collections are produced in scarce and finite quantities, many archival items fetch big bucks on resale markets because of their rarity (earlier this year, a trio of Raf Simons parkas featuring Peter Saville graphics — archival pieces from the pair's iconic 2003 collaboration — were going for $20,000). So the next time someone calls your jacket "so archival," take it as a compliment! It means cool-old, not gross-old.

Darling (used interchangeably or in conjunction with "Sweetie"): At fashion events these days, it's fairly likely a sprightly "Hey girl/lady" is followed by an invitation to partake in a refreshing boxed water infused with kale or something. It really makes you want to time travel to the 90s industry, when wild editors and PRs like Absolutely Fabulous' Edina and Patsy would snarl a healthy "Sweetie-Daaaahhhhhling" and thrust a bottle of Bolly and a pack of smokes your way.

Frow: In my dreams, the Mean Girls scene in which Janis Ian narrates the cafeteria map she's drawn for Cady Heron is restaged as fashion show seating assignments explained by Cathy Horyn. Some of the tribes wouldn't need to be changed at all (see "cool Asians," "desperate wannabes.") In this scenario, the Plastics lord over the frow, or front row. Earlier this year, Chanel made its fall/winter 16 show frow only, which meant every attendee was able to sit in the most coveted section — the equivalent of baking that cake filled with rainbows and smiles.

Garms: This one's more of a British thing — pretty much code for "cool clothes." It's most often used in a streetwear context, denoting highly coveted items from cult brands like Supreme, Palace, or Polo Ralph Lauren. Where A$AP Rocky and his crew might deem these items "very rare," British streetwear style tribes — chronicled in i-D's Street, Sound, and Style documentary series — say "wavey." Last summer, a Facebook group dedicated to trading and selling these collectors' items opened its own store in London's Peckham neighborhood.

Girl: Though arguably pejorative (and indicative of the industry's youth obsession), "girl" is a term that commonly refers to models. It's often used when speaking about models who are affiliated with a specific brand — for example, Saint Laurent girls. In her 1996 New York Times Magazine profile on then 16-year-old Jaime King, Jennifer Egan analyzed it expertly: "In the fashion world, models always 'girls.' Successful models are 'big girls.' Stars like Moss and Campbell and Evangelista are 'huge girls.' Diminutive though the term may sound for a 30-year-old like Evangelista, who has made millions during her career, 'girl' captures the peculiar role played by a model of any age. Backstage at a show or at a shooting in a loft, 'girl' suggests, as it is meant to, someone more beautiful and less complicated than a woman."

Listed: What do Parisian haute couture salon shows and Lower East Side parking garage after parties (yes, this is a Givenchy shout out) have in common? Lists that you'd better be on. Though the fashion industry is becoming more inclusive — think Instagram-cast campaigns or public access to major shows (yes, this is another Givenchy shout out) — many of its events are still accessible only by your name appearing somewhere on a clipboard. So if a friend hits your group chat with "I'm listed for Wang!" that's your cue to ride with them if you want Hooters catering and epic turn up tunes.

Look: In technical terms, a "look" is a full ensemble presented in a fashion show. It's commonly used among stylists as an organizational reference for each collection's elements; for example, "The shoes from Look 8 work well with the skirt from Look 22." If you're nerds like us, you and your pals will check in about your favorite looks from new collections during fashion weeks; "Those full Carhartt looks at Vetements were major!" "Duh, but I was feeling the Reebok trackie looks more." Outside of a fashion show context, "look" colloquially refers to any person's entire outfit. "She was working a real Miranda Hobbes normcore look at China Chalet last night," is something that was definitely said in 2014.

Nodel: Someone who is not a model by profession but who is engaged in the act of modeling. For its experimental runway shows, Eckhaus Latta casts nodels almost exclusively, recruiting artist friends like India Menuez, Michael Bailey Gates, Juliana Huxtable, Susan Cianciolo, and Bjarne Melgaard in place of pros. Though the rise of popularity in "real people" casting has made nodels more frequent in today's catwalks or campaigns, it wasn't always this way. Miu Miu has tapped actresses to front its advertisements since the mid 90s. In 1996 — still very much in the throes of the supermodel era — actress Chloë Sevigny (a professional nodel if there ever was one) appeared not just in the brand's Juergen Teller campaign, but also on its runway alongside Kate Moss.

Realness: Like many slang terms traded among the contemporary fashion set, this one originates in the NYC vogue scene famously chronicled in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning. The film provided a glossary to the vibrant codes created by queer youth of color, who forged performative communities in the face of social and economic disenfranchisement. Words like "shade," "opulence," "read," "tea," "gag," and "sickening" all have specific meanings within this community, and their appropriation outside of it has been debated. One particularly apt fashion crossover term is "realness." In the ballroom scene, it denotes the degree to which a look mirrors whatever it's referencing — the film depicts specific categories including "executive," "banjee," and "butch queen." In fashion world, it's a bit more general: "Chanel was serving some Supermarket Sweep realness with that grocery store set design."

Situation: This one's a winner because of its versatility. "There is a situation outside of Supreme rn," makes just as much sense as, "Really here for this J.W. Anderson XL sleeve situation."

Smize: Aside from declassifying the noble work of casting directors, the disarray of model apartments, and the neither easy nor breezy making of CoverGirl commercials, America's Next Top Model introduced many a fashion slang item into the popular cultural lexicon. Millennial editors would likely be lying if they denied Tyra Banks credit for their earliest understandings of go-sees, frames per shoot, or a strong ass concept. Of course, Banks' most memorable contribution is the smize — a gauntlet laid down to all mankind that they might smile not with their mouths, but with their eyes.


Text Emily Manning
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans