Denim, Dernier & Dress
Happy day, reader dear!
Welcome to another edition of Style Glossary! Yes, the one that should have gone live last post. Thank you for your understanding and good wishes for Mr. CP. He seems to be on the mend.
Back to the Style Glossary! I know, you know, we’re on the fourth edition, so the fourth letter is D. And that’s why YOU, Dear Reader should be included in the glossary! Alphabetically, you would fit before Denim, Dernier and Dress, in first place!
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This humble and worn-by-all fabric has a fascinating story. No, Levi Strauss did not invent denim, but he certainly popularized it! We’ll get to him in a moment.
The word denim, comes from the French serge de Nimes meaning serge (a type of twill weave) from Nimes. Over time the serge was lost and de Nimes became denim. So why are pants made from denim called Jeans? Serge de Nimes was a very popular trouser fabric with sailors from Genoa, Italy, known as Genovese (plural Genovesi). Eventually the word Genovesi (and associated with the fabric) corrupted into jeans.
Most people associate the ubiquitous jean with Levi Strauss, the dry goods wholesaler who made a name for himself during the Gold Rush. Levi traveled to San Francisco. He found no gold and did find himself once again in the family business of dry goods. One of Levi’s customers, the tailor, Jacob Davis, had discovered a way to rivet the stress points of trousers to make them last longer. The two men went into business together, using Levi’s fabric and Jacob’s tailoring prowess, and the blue jean was born! In 1890 the lot #501 was given to the XX Waist Overall, and denim was never the same! (PS: Waist overalls had extra buttons on the waistband to attach button on suspenders.) The original 501’s were reproduced for a collection in 2017. I’d love to get my hands on a pair… Definitely a collector’s item!
Dernier is the scale measuring the sheerness or opacity of stockings… Think pantyhose and tights. That part is simple, the scale is where it gets a bit tricky.
In general, the higher the dernier number, the heavier and more opaque are the hose. The lower the dernier number the lighter and more sheer. Tights with a dernier of 20 will be sheer compared to those with a dernier of 80. The highest I’ve seen is 100. The shift to opaque from sheer happens somewhere around 40-ish. Opacity at these lower levels depends on both the dernier and the color of your skin. Say what?
A dark 60 dernier tight will look more opaque stretched over a dark skinned leg than it will over my fish-belly white winter gams. It’s just the nature of tights. Another factor? Size. If you are at the bottom of a size range, your tights will appear more opaque than those of someone at the upper edge of the same size range. Want more opacity? Buy a higher dernier or size up. (And hope they don’t fall down!)
Not to muddy the waters, but dernier and opacity have nothing to do with how matte or shiny your tights are. That is a function of the fabric itself. Very opaque tights can be shiny or matte. I will not argue the merits of matte vs. shine here! That seems to be along the lines of religious discussion in some corners of the interwebs…
BONUS: Since, as you, dear reader, so well know, I am easily thrown down the research rabbit hole… And because I love old vocabulary words, adding dizen–to overdress, to deck out gaudily to the D list is imperative. It might not be fair to include an antiquated word you are unlikely to find in style articles, but dizen was simply too fun to not share. So there you go! Dizen, or in another form, bedizened. You’re welcome.
We all think we know what a dress is, right? We generally think of entry number 3 from A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion:
Outer garment worn by women and children, cut in one or more pieces.p.101
Yes, for centuries, little boys also wore dresses. All children did! We less frequently think dress in its other contexts or meanings. Clothes required by custom or etiquette for certain occasions or times of day, like evening dress, or business dress. Or Dress: Clothes collectively, Western dress as distinguished from Oriental dress.
Beyond that, the types of dresses go on for pages! As with all changes throughout fashion history, watching the silhouette swing of dresses decade by decade of the last century is enlightening. We certainly tend to extremes! The more things change, the more they stay the same. The dresses in this video are not vintage; they are current (as of 3 years ago) style reflecting previous decade silhouettes, but a great illustration, nonetheless!
How About You?
What D words would you have included? I thought about diamonds… As for tights, do you have a matte vs. shine preference? Do you wear dresses? Or are they too dressy? Denim? Stretch or non? (Another discussion bordering on religion.) Were you familiar with the word dizen? Do tell… I love to hear from you!