Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Suitable Semantics

When you’re sensitive to language, many a good ensemble can become tainted.

For instance, I refuse to ever use the pejorative (but popular) term for tank tops and was appalled to find that term on the sales tag for my daughters’ dance class tops. There’s no amount of ironic intonation that renders that term acceptable to me.

On a lighter note, however, I did enjoy a laugh when I heard Senator Clinton invoke the “sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits” last night, while sporting a bright mango—you guessed it—pantsuit. (The image posted here is one of a light check for the Senator's pantsuits before her speech that evening.)

That’s another term that I’d prefer not to wear, because it sounds more dowdy than sexy, codes more 70s leisure suit than power suit.

When I was in grades one and two, my mum put me in dresses every day, until the magical grade three, when she bought me some pretty funky pantsuits.

So pantsuits remind me of red corduroy floral, thick yellow dotted swiss overlay, and denim bells.

I go with the term trouser suit, because it’s Canadian/British enough that it sounds a little foreign and mysterious(!), because it sounds more grown up to my ear. Of course, I could always just say suit, but that often codes as a skirt suit.

Are there any fashion terms that curdle your whey?

20 comments:

Cupcakes and Cashmere said...

wife beater was quite an unpopular term for white ribbed tanks...while i understand where the term comes from, i still find it despicable.

Anonymous said...

I´m confused, could you perhaps explain what the pejorative term for tank top is? For those of us who´se firt language is not english? I don´t think I´ve heard it. /Josefina

hollarback said...

Maybe I am not the right age for this...but I think most women don't call them pant suits - just suits... wonder when/how the "pantsuit" label came about. In regard to Ms. Clinton, it is always used as a slur in a way - I do remember wondering why there was so much comment on her suit...why it deserved a different name. In 2008, is a woman wearing pants really a newsworthy item?

hollarback said...

Oh, I hate the term "smock". It is such a horrible sounding word. It's not really a slang thing.

enc said...

I agree with you about that term-which-will-not-be-intoned for tank tops. It's detestable. The only way it'll go away is if everyone stops using it.

miss cavendish said...

C/C--That's the one I refuse to utter, the one that was on a child's dance top!!

miss cavendish said...

Josefina, Please see Cupcake/Cashmere's comment above!

WendyB said...

I also say "tank top"! Though I do see the humor from whence the other term originated.

Sal said...

I am SO with you on both items noted. Won't say w.b. EVAR, and pantsuit just reeks of stodge.

No other offensive clothing nomenclature springs immediately to mind, but I'll tell you this: Husband Mike can't STAND the word panties. Hahaha.

Anonymous said...

I still am stunned that they would put that term on any garment, much less a child's ...I never use that phrase.

In regard to pantsuits - To quote Daisy in "Spaced" - "It's a word that hates women."

miss cavendish said...

I do agree with hollarback that "pantsuit" is a slur in a "look-at-the-little-woman-trying-to-be-one-of-the-big-boys" kind of way. Why can't we wear suits unmodified?!

K.Line said...

Gauchos is a word I can't bear. It sounds so awful - and connotes something so 70s dreadful. As a matter of fact, I have a pair of gauchos (made by that amazing designer Ewanika) that are so complimented it's crazy. They are style itself. But I can't ever refer to them by name.

Kelly said...

I'll admit, I don't usually find a problem with w/b and I usually let it slip without even paying attention, but I CANNOT believe that they put it on a child's garment. Children can't understand, on their own, the reason it's called that.

I usually only hear "pantsuit" when used to describe a suit that is particularly dowdy (it makes me think of pleats and tapered legs). When I hear "suit" I usually think of a suit with a jacket and pants, and if I'm trying to talk about a jacket and skirt instead I specify "skirt suit"

But anyway, as for the term I hate, it's "babydoll" for a top or dress. I guess it's all very well, as I'm not particularly fond of the style either, but what kind of grown woman wants to put something on her body called a "babydoll"?

Anonymous said...

Another horrible term for tank tops that I cringe at is "guinnea t" with the slang geared at Italians.

miss cavendish said...

Sal, You'll be doing a post on panties next, no?

K.Line, Gauchos is such a 70s word. Do you remember culottes? Ick also.

Hollarback, Smock codes either painterly or maternity to me . . .

Kelly, Babydoll is cringeworthy; I agree. I think of marabou feathers and sheer fabric . . .

Anon, That's a new one to me; I certainly won't be using it!

Other Anon(!), I like that quote.

enc--I'm always amazed to hear it uttered, seemingly without thought to its meaning.

WendyB, Where does "tank top" come from anyway?

Songy said...

thongs..
I'm sure they are g-string there
here they are slippers or rather flip flops as Brits would say.

what can I say.

or another one budgiesmugglers. you would call swimsuit that guys wear - speedo type? need I explain more?

Imelda Matt said...

Collots...nuff said!

lady julia said...

Hillary's pantsuits, whatever you wanna call the damn things, made me shudder. Sooo last century, in a decade I can't even remember. Michelle Obama looked amazing, on the other hand. She has power dressing down pat.

ambika said...

I tend to just say 'suit' whether it's for a woman or a man, and specify skirts suit. Funny how my perception is the opposite.

I, too hate babydoll. Culottes is pretty awful, too. As are skorts. (In language and practice.)

Anonymous said...

"Panties" hate, hate, hate that word.