Bespoke Tailoring Glossary of Terms

This is a quick and easy to understand guide to help you understand more about tailoring and the terms that we use. If there is any other term or expression that we can help you with email us at and we will be happy to answer you and add it to our list.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Alteration hand Tailor who specialises in making alterations and adjustments to clothing in the final stages of preparation
Baste Garment loosely assembled for first fitting
Balance Adjustment of front and back lengths of a jacket to harmonise with the posture of a particular figure. This is very difficult to achieve in ready to wear clothing
Beeswax Wax produced by bees. Often used to give added strength to thread when making bespoke clothing
Baste Garment loosely assembled for first fitting
Bemberg Somewhat strong fabric used for lining of outer garments
Bespoke A garment custom – made from scratch to a customers specific measurements and requirements. Its origin dates back to the days when a customer ordering a garment would select and reserve a cloth that was then “bespoken” or “spoken for”
Bespoke Fabrics Fabrics designed by and for the individual to feature any colour or combination of colours, any pattern and almost any weight. J. H. Cutler bespoke fabrics are produced for them by William Halstead in the UK.
Black Tie Dress code for formal gatherings, usually in the evenings
Blazer Casual jacket made from woollen cloth. Can be single or double breasted, originally navy in colour it can now be brightly coloured or striped
Block Heavy, dense block of wood used in pressing to set or seal the steam
Body canvas Pure wool, and sometimes linen, canvas used in the structure inside a gentlemen’s jacket, waistcoat or overcoat to give substance and assist in shaping
Bow Tie A short necktie fashioned into a bowknot close to the throat. Most often but not always worn with a dinner suit
Button down collar A shirt collar, usually narrow, that buttons over the tie. Not suitable for formal occasions
Button gimp Used when making buttonholes for suits
Button twist Yarn used to make buttonholes
Cabbage Term for material left over from astute cutting of a garment that is traditionally retained by the cutter for his own use
Canvases The inner material used in a garment to give it shape. Canvasses include linen, horsehair, hemps, jutes, meltons and many more
Cashmere Luxurious fibre from the undercoat or under layer of the Asiatic Falconeri goat
Cavalry Twill A firm warp faced twill, originally used for heavy weight fabrics but now used for a range of fabrics. Used for items such as raincoats
Chambray A plain weave lightweight cotton fabric primarily used for shirts
Classic collar Most popular style of shirt collar where the wings are cut straight and point downward
Cloth A general term applied to fabrics
Coat maker Tailor who specialises in making jackets
Cuff A turned up hem, as found at the bottom of the leg of trousers or at end of shirtsleeve
Cummerbund A broad waist sash, usually pleated, which is often worn with black tie
Cut-away collar Style of shirt collar that is more cutaway towards the shoulder- the degree varies. Also referred to as Windsor collar
Cutter Person who measures and fits the customer and then makes a pattern from the measurements and observations of the customer’s figure and posture
Cutting System Method of pattern preparation using a particular process of measurement and figure evaluation. Scores have been devised since methods of working out the proportions of the figure were first explored in the late eighteenth century, but one of the finest books on the subject is The Sectional System of Gentlemen’s Garment Cutting by J. P. Thornton published in 1893
Dinner Suit Style of suit worn for formal gatherings, usually in the evenings with a single or double-breasted jacket with jetted pockets, silk facings on the lapels and matching stripes along the trouser seams. Reputed to have been first introduced by Queen Victoria’s son, the future Edward VII, in 1860. Called a tuxedo in the United States
Dolly Fabric covered wooden structure used in tailoring as base for pressing
Double-Breasted A style of coat jacket fastened by lapping one edge of the front of the garment well over the other and usually featuring a double row of buttons
Double cuff See French cuff
Drape The way a fabric hangs in folds
Dye The use of a substance to add colour to fabrics or fibres
Dyeing The process of applying colour to a textile product by soaking it in a coloured solution
Fabric Yarns or fibres coming together in long lengths
Fibres Fine hair like structures, which can be natural or synthetic or regenerated, long (filament) or short (staple)
Flannel Derived from the Welsh name for wool, flannel is made from woollen yarn that is slightly twisted in the spinning and of open texture
Floating Misnomer used by the ready to wear industry to imply a certain canvas quality of make in their jacket construction
Four cord Term commonly used in the tailoring trade to describe four strands of thread that are twisted together and sealed with beeswax for sewing on buttons. Linen thread is sometimes used as a substitute
Foreman Tailor who is in charge of production in a tailoring workshop
Fusing Use of chemicals and heat to weld the interlinings to the outer fabric of a garment, as distinct from the superior methodology of stitching used by bespoke tailors
French cuff Style of cuff on a dress or formal shirt, which is folded back and then closed with cufflinks rather than buttons. Also known as double cuffs
Gabardine Name given to a woven twill fabric, originally made from wool. Usually used for outerwear
Gimp A special thread used to support and raise buttonhole stitching
Gorge The point where the collar is attached to the lapel forming the notch
Haircloth Cloth made from horsehair. Used as an inner material to give shape to the chest of jackets, waistcoats and overcoats
Handle The feel of textiles when handled
Harris Tweed Name given to a type of woven tweed fabric, woven on the Isle of Harris in Scotland . Key characteristics are its subtle colours and hard handle
Hem The fabric turned up at the bottom of a garment, such as the bottom of the trouser leg, or the bottom edge of a jacket
Inlay An extra piece of fabric in a bespoke garment’s seam, to allow for future alteration
Interlinings Jacketing lining made of a variety of fibres depending on usage and weight. Often Bemberg, pure silk, twill, satin, rayon or viscose
Jetted Pockets A pocket that is incorporated into the garment and doesn’t have a flap. Standard for formal wear jackets
Lapel The upper part of the front of the jacket or coat front which folds back on to the forepart. The length of the lapel extends from the gorge seam (collar) to the position of the first button
Linen Natural vegetable-based fibre
Loom Machine used to produce cloth by weaving
Lustre Term used to describe the intensity with which light shines on a piece of fibre
Made to measure Garment made from a standard pattern that is made to fit the customers precise measurements
Master tailor Individual who employs tailors
Melton Felt like cloth used to complete the under collar on a jacket or coat
Mercer A merchant who deals in textiles, especially silks
Merino wool Fine, silky and super soft it is the finest grade of commercial sheep’s wool available
Mohair Luxurious lustrous and durable fibre produced by Angora goats
Morning Suit A very formal man’s suit including a long black or grey coat, striped trousers, and a top hat that is worn at formal ceremonies during the day, especially weddings
Notch Lapel Classic lapel. So called because of the notch where the collar piece meets the lower piece of the lapel
Nylon Synthetic fibre also known as polyamide
Off the rack (peg) Finished clothing item sold in standard sizes
Optima Fabric, usually cotton, used in tailoring for pocketing, banding and inside sleeve cuffs. Also sometimes used in making of chest on jacket together with hair cloth and body canvas
Pashmina Fibre sourced from the pashmina goat raised by nomads on the wind swept, icy high plains of Ladakh in the Himalayas . In order to withstand the intense cold the goat grows a thick and extremely fine fleece, which is trimmed rather than sheared, to avoid damaging the delicate fibres that are eight times thinner than the human hair.
Pattern Template used for the cutting out of pieces of fabric for a garment. A well-cut pattern is essential if the finished garment is to be of top quality (also see Cutter)
Peak Lapel A peak instead of a notch where the collar and the lower piece of the lapel meet. Standard on double breasted suits, and occasionally used on single-breasted suits
Pleat Fold of fabric generally pressed flat to allow extra room in garment
Pocketing Fabric used to make pockets for suits and coats
Puckering Tendency of cloth to gather in runs, often apparent on the lapel and trouser seams and most common in fused apparel (see fusing)
Rayon Textile fibre or fabric made from regenerated cellulose (viscose)
Satin Silk fabric with glossy surface on one side
Savile Row Street in the West End of London that is the home of bespoke tailoring
Scye Armhole of a jacket
Shirting Fabric from which shirts are made. Can include cotton, twill, flannel, voile, silk, chambray and linen
Shoulder Pads Shaped layer of cotton wadding and muslin or felt used to define the shoulders of a jacket
Silk Fabric spun from silk thread, which in turn is sourced from silk worms
Single-Breasted A style of coat or jacket with minimum overlap on the centre front fastening
Single cuff Cuff normally found on business and long sleeve casual shirts
Sleeve Part of a garment that covers the arms
Sleeve pitch Angle at which the sleeve is pitched to the sleeve head. In a bespoke suit the sleeve is pitched to match the angle at which the arm hangs naturally from the shoulder
South Sea Cotton Exceptionally fine long staple type of cotton grown in the West Indies
Spinning Process of making fibres into yarns
Stretch The extendibility of a fibre, yarn or fabric
Suiting Fabric of a suitable quality for making suits, trousers and jackets
Tactile property How a garment fits
Tailor A person whose occupation is making fitted clothes for individual customers
Tailor-made Made by a tailor. Perfectly fitted to a condition, preference, or purpose; made or as if made to order
Taper To become narrower, as in a trouser leg that is narrower at the ankle than the knee
Tint Light wash of colour, usually pale or delicate
Tuxedo American term for a single or double-breasted jacket for formal or semi formal evening occasions
Trimmer Individual who gathers and prepares various fabrics and items that go into the making of a bespoke garment
Trimmings The raw materials that in addition to cloth make up the suit
Trouser maker Specialist tailor who makes trousers
Tweed Rough twilled woollen weaves and cloths used for suits, jackets and overcoats originally produced in Scotland
Twill Strong, woven fabric characterised by a diagonal weave
Vent Slit in the back of a jacket or coat
Vicuna Fibre sourced from the animal of the same name, a member of the camelid family from the Andes Mountains of South America . Vicuna is reputed to be the world’s most expensive fabric and is finer, softer, lighter and warmer than any other wool. Primarily used for jackets and overcoats
Voile Thin semi transparent cotton, woollen or silken material used in the making of shirts
Warp Vertical threads of a woven fabric
Weft Horizontal threads of a woven fabric
Windsor collar Very cut away style of shirt collar, which also known as a cut away collar
Wool Natural fibre coming from sheep, goats, alpacas, vicuna etc
Woollen Cloth woven from both long and short-stapled fibres. Often seen in a flannel cloth
Working Cuffs Cuffs with real buttons that you can unbutton. Standard practise on all J. H. Cutler bespoke suits and jackets. Also called Open Cuffs
Worsted Lightweight cloth made of long staple combed woollen yarn, originally named after the village of Worsted near Norwich in England , a centre for worsted weaving
Yarn count Term used to denote the size/weight of yarn. Yarn is measured in terms of denier or tex
Yarns Length of fibres and/or filaments with or without twist
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z