Grab a "swacket" and check your fashion terminology

LONDON Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:14pm EDT

A model presents a creation from the Kinder Aggugini 2012 Spring/Summer collection during London Fashion Week September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

A model presents a creation from the Kinder Aggugini 2012 Spring/Summer collection during London Fashion Week September 20, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - The fashion industry has been dressing up more than just catwalk models in New York, London and Milan this month, as its flamboyant use of language is flummoxing ordinary British shoppers, a major British retailer said.

Even personal shoppers need fashion dictionaries to understand words such as "spants" (harem pants) and "swacket" (a sweater/jacket) -- lexicon that is used on a regular basis by fashionistas, according to British department store Debenhams.

"It's now easier to understand complex calculus than some of the words commonly used by commentators within the fashion industry to describe garments," spokesman for Debenhams, Ed Watson, said in a statement.

"We believe that these words are only properly understood by approximately five per cent of the population - yet they are commonly used throughout the fashion industry," he said.

The words "jorts," which refers to a pair of denim hotpants; "whorts," winter shorts to be donned with woolen tights; and "mube," a maxi tube dress, amount to a "secret language," according to Watson.

Linguistic purists have criticized the confusing fashion vocabulary and claim the words are simply recycling existing terminology.

"The world of fashion is reliant on these changing trends, which are often based on little more than classic foundations with clever twists," spokeswoman for the British-based Plain English Campaign, Marie Clair, said in a statement.

"These latest words are just existing, familiar words that have been cut and stitched to make nothing more than the Emperor's new clothes," she said.

However, the fashion industry's neologisms are becoming increasing common in everyday language.

The terms "jeggings" and the "mankini" worn by fictional Kazakh journalist Borat in the comedy film of his adventures in America earned a concrete place in the English language last month as the most recent additions to the updated Oxford English Dictionary.

"Ideally we would like to drop all these amalgamations, but our hands are tied due to the terms being used on search engines," Watson said.

The store has updated its fashion dictionary for personal shoppers to include the new terms in an attempt to clear up confusion on the high street.

"We are still aiming to strip away as much of this new language as possible and use plain English to describe everything we sell," Watson said.

(Edited by Paul Casciato)