‘HotPants,’ ‘Battle of Versailles’ and More Fashion Words and Phrases WWD Coined

The world has WWD’s legendary editorial director and publisher John B. Fairchild to thank for the phrase Fashion Victim and a host of other stylish bon mots.

“It was at La Caravelle that I coined the phrase ‘Fashion Victim’ after half a bottle of wine and time spent looking at the ladies at lunch and how badly dressed they were. They were overdressed to be seen,” he said in 2001.

But WWD’s knack for naming was not a one-hit wonder. Here’s a primer of a few other keepers — some are more self-explanatory than others.

SA: Seventh Avenue

They Are Wearing: Copyrighted in 1924 and still very much in use.

Fashion Flash: Copyrighted in the 1950s.

Fashion Victim: Those who are overdressed to be seen, FVs for short, coined in 1970. “Instead of being simply well-dressed women, they become walking billboards for all the latest status symbols. They allow fashion to wear them rather than wearing the fashion that suits them.”

The Locomotives: The movers and shakers.

RBs: Rich Bitches, coined in 1982.

Social Cyclones: 1980s term for Gayfryd Steinberg and that ilk.

The Beautiful People: You know who you are.

The Cat Pack: A subset of the BPs (Beautiful People), coined in 1971, “The CP are the ones who make it in New York. When they walk into a New York room, there’s more than a ripple. There’s a wave.” There is even a Cat Pack Kiss.

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Chic Savages: Well-dressed, well-mannered warriors whose smiles never fade.

The Empty Pit: The gossipy underworld of the chic.

HotPants: Barely there shorts, coined in 1970. (Sears Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward quickly jumped on the trend.) When lengths inched down, WWD promptly called them WarmPants.

Midi: The longer lengths originally inspired by “Dr. Zhivago” and seen in Paris in 1966. They would start to appear in ready-to-wear collections over the next few seasons.

Longuette: The longer skirts of the 1970s.

Jackie O: The former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Daddy O: Her second husband, Aristotle Onassis.

Her Ultimate Elegance: Gloria Guinness

The Tiny Terror: Truman Capote

Mr. Fashion Right: Bill Blass

The Frog Pond: La Grenouille, the famed Manhattan restaurant.

L’Institut de l’Ennui: All those boring people.

Mr. Clean: Calvin Klein

Numero Uno: Giorgio Armani

The Chic: Valentino

Kaiser Karl: Karl Lagerfeld

The Lunch Bunch: Affluent socialites.

Ladies Who Lunch: Also affluent socialites, coined in 1972.

Nouvelle Society: ’80s social climbers.

Fashion Nuns: Those who favor a monastery-type look from Yohji Yamamoto.

Sportive: Casual looks out of Paris in the ’60s.

Le Smoking: Smoking jackets à la Yves Saint Laurent.

Tough-Chic: Hard-edged fashion.

Geek-Chic: IT-friendly attire.

The Nursery of Fashion: What is Paris, France?

The Battle of Versailles: The landmark 1973 fashion show, coined in coverage as a “battle” that pitted five French designers against five from the U.S., elevating American fashion.

Walker: A self-possessed man-about-town escorting well-heeled women on the party circuit. It was said to be first used about Jerry Zipkin, who became a confidante to some of society’s best-known and most affluent women. Zipkin was also called the Social Moth, or SM, because of the indefatigable manner with which he carried out his mission.

Wobbly WASPs: Blueblood society types, titans, celebrities.

The Ubiquitor: A seasonal sobriquet awarded to the celeb or socialite who attends all things all the time.

Killer Bs: When the A-list gets too pricey it’s time to summon these eager Bs to fill out any old front row.

The Delebrity: Celebrities who want to be designers and vice versa.


An original version of this story appeared in the print issue of WWD in 2010. It has been edited to include other WWD-coined phrases. 

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