Haute Obscure: 8 Terms for Fashions Gone Extinct

Pannier

The word pannier originally referred to a large basket used for transporting goods, but it took on a new sense during the 1700s when women of the European upper class took to distending their skirts in order to show off luxurious textiles. Pannier then referred to an oval framework made of whalebone or cane worn under the skirt to achieve this mile-wide silhouette. The trend was taken to an extreme by Marie Antoinette: had she needed to use her panniers to transport goods, she would have had ample cargo space.

Bustle

In the mid-to-late 1800s, a new silhouette, the S-curve, began to gain popularity among European ladies of leisure. Still prizing the dramatic hourglass figure of a corseted waist and fullness at the hips, women began padding the backs of their skirts rather than the sides, incorporating a bustle. The history of this sense of the word is uncertain, but it might have evolved out of an earlier sense of the term, "rustling motion."

Merry Widow

The opulent fashions of the Edwardian era were topped off by wide-brimmed, elaborately decorated hats known as Merry Widows. These lavish lids were named after the 1905 operetta of the same name by Hungarian composer Franz Lehar. The term can also refer to a strapless brassiere and short corset with attached garters.

Jabot

A jabot is that decorative burst of lace or ruffles around the neck that makes an otherwise drab judge's robe or pirate's ensemble pop. The fashion appeared in the Baroque period and was adopted by men and women alike. Jabots have declined in popularity, but the flourish is still favored by some judicial bodies, including UN's International Court of Justice.

Houppelande

If you're looking to add a touch of stately drama to your wardrobe, but you don't want to compromise comfort, a houppelande might be just the thing. A long robe or tunic with billowing sleeves and often trimmed or lined with fur, the houppelande was the garment of choice among both men and women in the late Middle Ages. These gowns are the fashion ancestors of the modern-day academic and legal robes.

Wimple

A wimple is a garment covering the neck and chin worn by women throughout medieval Europe as a sign of modesty. It was often worn with a veil and circlet, or ring-shaped head ornament. Western women are thought to have adopted the style after the Crusades introduced the veiled stylings of Muslim women. Some nuns still wear them today.

Hennin

One perk of being a European noblewoman in the Middle Ages was that you got to wear a pointy hat known as a hennin, sometimes also referred to as the steeple headdress. These conical or heart-shaped embellishments, which were often worn with a flowing veil, typically ranged from 12 to 18 inches high, but sometimes reached 36 inches.

Hobble skirt

Few garments are named as appropriately as the hobble skirt, a long skirt that emerged toward the end of the Edwardian era that was so narrow at the bottom, the wearer had to walk with short, mincing steps. The designer of this mobility-restricting marvel is said to have been inspired by watching Mrs. Hart O. Berg, the first American woman to fly as a passenger in an airplane, walk away from an aircraft with her skirt tied at her ankles to prevent it from blowing in the wind.

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with weird words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Dictionary Is More Than The Word Of The Day

Enter your email for quizzes, quotes, and word facts in your inbox every day.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.