TAILORING TERMS
Over its centuries of history, Savile Row has developed a colourful language of its own – here are a selection of words and phrases still mostly in use:
  • Baby – stuffed cloth pad on which the tailor works his cloth.
  • Banger – piece of wood with handle, used to draw out steam and smooth cloth during ironing.
  • Balance – adjustment of back and front lengths of a jacket to harmonise with the posture of a particular figure
  • Balloon – having a balloon – a week without work or pay.
  • Baste – garment roughly assembled for first fitting.
  • Basting – tacking with long stitches to hold garment parts together.
  • Bespoke – a suit made on or around Savile Row, bespoken to the customer’s specifications. A bespoke suit is cut by an individual and made by highly skilled individual craftsmen. The pattern is made specifically for the customer and the finished suit will take a minimum of 50 hours of hand work and require a series of fittings.
  • Board – tailor’s workbench.
  • Bodger – crude worker. Common to other trades.
  • Boot – loan until payday. Can you spare the boot? Can you give me a loan? Dates from crossed-leg days, when a tailor recorded the loan by chalking it on the sole of his boot.
  • Bunce – a trade perk, like mungo and a crib (see below).
  • Bundle – components of jacket or trousers bundled together for making-up.
  • Bushelman – journeyman who alters or repairs.
  • Canvas – a cloth usually made from cotton, flax, hemp or jute and used for providing strength or firmness.
  • Cat’s face – a small shop opened by a cutter starting out on his own.
  • Chuck a dummy – to faint. Allusion is to a tailor’s dummy tumbling over.
  • Clapham Junction – a paper design draft with numerous alterations or additions.
  • Coat – jacket. (Only potatoes have jackets, it used to be said)
  • Codger – tailor who does up old suits.
  • Cork – the boss.
  • Crib – large scrap of cloth left over from a job, usually enough to make a pair of trousers or a skirt.
  • Crushed beetles – badly made button holes.
  • Cutting turf – clumsy, unskilled working.
  • 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
  • Doctor – alteration tailor.
  • Dolly – roll of wet material used as a sponge to dampen cloth
  • Draft – sketch or measure plan of a garment
  • Drag…in the drag – working behind time.
  • Drummer – trouser-maker.
  • Goose iron – hand iron heated on a naked flame
  • Gorge – where the collar is attached
  • Have you been on the board? – are you experienced?
  • Hip stay – old-time name for wife.
  • Interlining – material positioned between lining and outer fabric to provide bulk or warmth
  • Jeff – a small master: one who cuts out his garments and also makes them up.
  • Kicking – looking for another job.
  • Kicking your heels – no work to do.
  • Kill – a spoiled job that has to be thrown away.
  • Kipper – a tailoress. So called because they sought work in pairs to avoid unwelcome advances.
  • Log…on the log – piecework: the traditional and complex system of paying out-workers.
  • Made-to-measure – garment made to a customer’s individual requirements, to some extent, but not necessarily by hand
  • Mangle – sewing machine
  • Mungo – cloth cuttings, which by custom the tailor used to retain to sell to a rag merchant for a little extra income.
  • On the cod – gone drinking.
  • Pattern – a template model used for cutting garments
  • Pig – an unclaimed garment.
  • Pigged – a lapel which turns up after some wear.
  • Pinked…pink a job – making with extra care.
  • Rock of eye – rule of thumb: using instinct born of experience, rather than a scientific cutting system
  • Skiffle – a job needed in a hurry.
  • Skipping it – making the stitches too big
  • Small seams – warning call when someone being discussed enters workroom.
  • Soft sew – an easily worked cloth.
  • Scye – the armhole: from ‘arm’s eye’
  • Skirt – part of a jacket that hangs below the waist
  • Striker – assistant to a cutter
  • Tab – fussy, difficult customer.
  • Trotter – fetcher and carrier: messenger.
  • Tweed merchant – tailor who does the easy work: a poor workman.
  • Whipping the cat – travelling round and working in private houses: common practice in old days when a tailor would be given board and lodging while he made clothes for a family and their servants.
Website Credits Copyright Savile Row Bespoke Asssociation 2014 / 2017