Fashion world, we need to talk about your language. Not the foul language — Vetements "you fuck'n asshole" tops, et al. — but the lazy language. Or should I say effortless? There is a batch of words permeating runway recaps, trend stories, celeb style posts, Instagram captions and product descriptions with such frequency, they're effectively meaningless. I'm talking about off-duty, statement, sleek, minimal, refined and the like.
To be entirely transparent, I'm not a linguistics specialist or anything; I just read a lot of Net-a-Porter. I've been on the words side of fashion since 2012, writing (and reading) loads of Internet #content about clothes and people wearing clothes. Before that, I spent four years at fashion school and in countless internships, most of high school on Style.com (RIP as I first knew you, pretty baby), and my formative years nose deep in Delia*s catalogs. I'm not an expert, but I am a sponge.
What I've absorbed in recent years is that T-shirts made from cashmere are trumpeted as modern luxury essentials, a phrase also applied to Good Jeans, loafers made in Italy — most likely D2C crafted by artisans — and the contemporary brand Vince (technically everyday luxury essentials, in its own words). Neiman Marcus has an in-house brand literally called Luxury Essentials. Modern luxury, sans essentials, is applied to anything expensive but with clean lines: Balenciaga trouser shorts, Tibi midi skirts, Roksanda column dresses. Anything The Row is modern luxury, too, but it’s also refined minimalism. Calvin Klein is sleek, refined minimalism, while the logo undies are off-duty essentials. Blue jeans and motorcycle jackets have been gender-neutral for my whole life (and I think my parents', too), but magazines always push them as borrowed from the boys. To be fair, denim and leather also get called cool girl, which can be an adjective or a noun: “Kristen Stewart Nails Cool Girl Glam,” “Body Chains, the Cool Girl Way” (I didn't make these up). Cool girl is roughly as effortless as French girl, I think, but different. I can't identify how. I know neither of them wax their eyebrows.
Like sartorial and curated before them, these honorary fashion words are trends in the vernacular the same way culottes and off-the-shoulder tops are in your wardrobe. I propose we bench the following words and phrases, not because they are bad or inaccurate (mostly), but because they’re overworked.
Words to temporarily remove from fashion vocabulary, 2016 Q3
- Borrowed from the boys
- Cool girl
- Edit as a noun
- French girl, French style
- Luxury basics, luxury essentials (“extravagant necessities” is contradictory, y’all)
- Modern (on the grounds of it is inherent)
- Pair (as in pair with, not a pair of shoes)
- Team, teamed up
To illustrate the crutch these words provide, here are some real, published examples with offenders redacted:
A description of The Row:
From mastering [redacted] [redacted], the 28-year-old twin sisters have navigated a course of [redacted], considered and authoritative [redacted] for the upper end.
Clothes designed for and marketed to men which may also be nice for ladies, too:
Forget [redacted] — We're Straight Up Stealing These [redacted] Menswear Finds
Introducing Nili Loten, a designer to know:
[redacted] [redacted] is key when it comes to this Israeli-born designer's simple pieces. The label takes a [redacted] approach with louche trousers, classic knits and oversized outerwear.
Shopping for basics aka essentials aka "wardrobe building blocks":
[redacted], [redacted] and [redacted] — [redacted] a [redacted] capsule wardrobe of [redacted] pieces with our essentials [redacted].
Describing accessories brand Building Block:
Its focus moves freely in between [redacted] and industrial design where [redacted] materials and processes translate into [redacted] forms. With the intent of magnifying [redacted] and [redacted] excess, Building Block finds continual inspiration in returning to square one.
A trend story on pants:
From [redacted], [redacted] basics to office-ready classics, your [redacted] trousers are here.
A rigid American listicle for laid back Frenchness:
7 Rules to Follow to Master [redacted] [redacted] (Including Quitting the Gym)
I can always tell if someone is [redacted] or not, because the [redacted] have this [redacted], natural [redacted] and [redacted] and collected demeanor.
What to wear to a fancy party:
[redacted] style via [redacted] event dresses, feminine silhouettes and [redacted] LBDs.
A pair of slide sandals:
[redacted], [redacted], and simple, our slides add [redacted] polish to everything from shorts to sundresses.
First person on the versatility of culottes:
Culottes are a wardrobe [redacted] and for good reason. They look tailored enough for the office, and can also be quickly [redacted] with sneakers. I can't wait to [redacted] mine with a lantern-sleeve top.
Copywriters, editors, bloggers, social media managers, designers, retailers: Let us bask in the benevolence of thesaurus.com, finding synonyms and unique phrasing to explain what the hell we're actually talking about. Cool doesn't mean anything without context, essential can't be a stand-in for everything familiar, and fashion is trending gender-neutral so borrowed from the boys is straight dated. Give the words a rest, and I promise they'll feel vibrant and fresh in another chapter of our collective future — just like chokers.