Fashion language decoded – Daily Nation

How many times have you ever used words like “fashionista,” “couture” or “bespoke?” But what do they really mean? In an effort to save you from yourself, consider this Fashion 101.


A service that starts from scratch with the selection of fabric, measurement to pattern cutting. When people say “do you,” and “there is no one like you,” it sounds cliched, yet this is what bespoke is.

The tailor will take into consideration all the deep, individual nuances of your body; arch of your back, curves, dips and angles to create your outfit. You may do one or five fittings. Each fitting is a read. It is the very essence of personalisation. True bespoke will cost you.


Also known as haute couture, French for high fashion and officially the most overused word in local fashion. Couture is very expensive from labour to fabric. Made at the request of the client or in a world where red carpets have pay back. It takes hours, sometimes months of work on a single dress with carefully sourced aspects such as hand painting to stitching jewels.

This part of the fashion industry is overseen by The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. It’s client base is so exclusive even with the inclusion of royals and celebrities that it is said to have no more than some 300 extremely wealthy, very private clientele. A high fashion outfit can cost an average of $15,000 to $40,000 (Sh1.5m to Sh4m). 


A full, wide skirt with a tight waistband. aka Kenya uniform aka Nairobi skirt aka the obsessively clingy nature with which it has been noticed Kenyan women tend to experience trends.


An overused term presumed as flattering to women, and increasingly men, who enjoy fashion or who say they are in fact, fashionistas. Sometimes replaced by stylista. Both terms illustrate the laziness of thought with which Kenyans officially ruined the true definition of the word ‘socialite.’ 


A catchphrase popularised by former model and America’s Next Top Model host Tyra Banks. The word means different things to different people.


A pump or flat with a vamp so high it covers your toe cleavage and equivalent of a nun’s habit.


Maybe because there are already so many words ping ponging the runways for once, the vocabulary was simplified. It basically means anything that is perceived as being on trend and of the moment such as an ‘It’ bag, ‘It’ girl, ‘It’ shoe, ‘It’ sleeve, ‘It’ etc.


Some speak of bespoke when in fact they mean MTM.  Made to measure is when Mum goes shopping for an older sibling who unbeknownst to her, shot up 12 inches last night. You are next in line. It is a new outfit, but it does not exactly fit anyone in the house.

But your mother will be damned. She spent money. Someone will wear this even if it kills her. So she sits at the sewing machine and the outfit formerly known as big magically becomes yours. MTM comes in a standard size or pattern. It is then modified to fit the wearer.

Older brother’s trousers can turn to long shorts for him or by taking in the hem, and removing pockets to fit younger brother. It is understandable why MTM wants it’s moment in the sun. It can inspire creativity.

Ready to wear/Off the rack/Off the peg?Pet-a-Porter:

Refers to anything you buy from a retail store or mitumba stall coming in a regular, standardised size. Also the reason certain pants won’t go up your thighs or come up over your bum.

They are generic, mass produced and made to fit a wide range of people that may or may never include you. You will find them at name brand retail stores, boutiques, shopping outlets to the vendor around the corner. A single piece ranges from a size 6 to a size 18 US/UK/Turkey/China. 


By far the most popular brand of shapewear resulting from their catchy name and gorgeous billionaire founder story.


Wearing a shoe cut so low it showcases the flesh joining your big toe and second toe. It inspires a shoefie, selfie of feet, as well as an overreaction by stuffy male-run corporations who want to tamp down your vamp.


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