SmallpicFor all of you who are tired of being confused, Lisha gives us a glossary of sewing and fashion terms translated from British English to American English.

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I'm from the UK and never heard the terms "smart edge" or "run and fell", and I'd define bias as the diagonal to the grain. I wonder if this is a generational thing? I'm glad you covered "fancy dress", this particular one caused great confusion between me and Canadian hubby when I wanted to go to a fancy dress shop!
It could be generational or even regional. Accents vary widely from one end of the UK to the other, so I'm sure sewing terms vary, too! Then too, the internet's influence is blurring the borders between countries. If you read about sewing via international blogs, you'll pick up whatever sewing terms your bloggers happen to use.
Really interesting article! Out of interest, where did the list of UK terms come from? I'm another Brit who hasn't heard a lot of them (only seven from the list) and would be very confused by someone talking about cross grain when meaning bias, etc. Having learned from my mother, who was born in the 1930s, I'm not sure it's a generational thing! I worked in a haberdashery (yes, that one's spot on!) with two women from very different parts of the UK and never encountered them using different terms.

Love the clothing list, though! "Cotton" was an interesting one, too. In the UK, all the thread I bought was either pure cotton or a poly cotton blend. Since moving to Canada I've really had to hunt for cotton content! Maybe that's why the term stayed in the UK?

Thanks for your comments! I gathered the list of UK terms from a variety of sources. Some were sewing websites or blogs, some were wikipedia-type articles, and some were personal sources (i.e.: people I know who are British). The final article was edited for accuracy by YWU's Cathy Hay and Polly Aron, both British.

I find it fascinating that some of the terms are not universally British! I suppose there are always exceptions to the rules.

In the US, we pretty much only have polyester thread. We used to have a cotton/poly blend, but in recent years, it's all but disappeared. You can sometimes find 100% cotton thread, but it's considered a specialty item and is pretty expensive.

Flannel and Mannequins
A couple of other definitions for these terms, to muddy the waters even further!

While "a flannel" may be a washcloth in the UK, "flannel" there is a woolen fabric often used to make trousers (aka "flannel bags"). It has a fuzzy surface similar to the cotton version.

A mannequin in the US is a window display dummy, but in the UK, it's a live person who models clothing - what the US calls a model.


Fascinating! I never knew that British models were called mannequins. Thanks for adding to the list!

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