Embellishments by Apparel Search - Terms of Interest to the Fashion Industry

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An embellishment is anything that enhances the appearance of clothing or fashion accessories without actually having any functional purpose.  A good example of this would be a nonfunctional fly on a women's boxer short.  Certainly a women does not need a fly on her underwear, yet on occasion a fly is added to the garment.

Popular methods of embellishment:

  • Rhinestones
  • Sequins
  • Embroidery
  • Textile Printing

In sewing and garment construction, an embellishment is anything that adds design interest to the article of clothes being developed.  A very common use of embellishment is the utilization of embroidery, printing, bows, cord, or rhinestones.  In addition, you will often find beads, buttons, toggles, zippers, appliqué, piping or lace used to embellish women's fashion or men's fashion.  When using embellishment treatments such as piping, designers can use subtle self fabric piping or a more loud and visible contrast fabric piping.

In addition to adding additional trim accessories, a fashion designer can further embellish their clothing by using fancy stitch work such as zig-zag stitching in places that would not typically require such a stitch selection.  Actually, I am not certain that a stitch would officially classify as an embellishment, but since I am the one writing this description of "embellishment" I have some poetic license at my disposal...  Anyway, I personally think that fancy stitch work should be considered a form of embellishment.  If you disagree, I guess you can stop reading this article..  Better yet, If you disagree with the views expressed here, please contact Apparel Search to voice your opinion.   You are welcome to contact us with your thoughts.  We may adjust this article based on your suggestions...

Buy the way, what is the difference between "Trim" and "Embellishment".  For that matter, what is the story with the term "Trims & Notions".  All of these terms appear to be very similar.  Possibly they categories contain the same items...  In my opinion, embellishments are items that are NOT required for the proper construction of a garment (they are extra bells and whistles to improve the visual appearance; but are not required for proper fit or quality of the garment).  The trims or notions on the other hand are items that are more of a necessity to the garment.   For example, thread, zippers, brand labels, care labels.  Also, I would conceder hangers, hangtags and price tickets garment trimming as these are often required to complete a garments so that it is ready to be sold.

Types of trimming may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Bias tape

  • Braid

  • Buttons

  • Cord

  • Embroidery

  • Interfacing

  • Lace for edgings or insertions

  • Passementerie

  • Piping

  • Ribbon

  • Ruffles or frills

  • Tassels

This gets confusing because some quote un quote trim items can also be used for embellishments.  For an example, sewing thread can be considered as a trim because it is required when sewing a t-shirt.  However, sewing thread can also be utilized on the t-shirt as an embellishment by using alternate colors, stitch type or stitch placement.  So, would you call thread a trim or an embellishment?

On Apparel Search we have bundled most of the trims and notions into a section that we currently reference as our clothing components section.  In that section, we list manufacturers of "trimming", "notions" and "embellishments".

If you are looking for embroidery or printing as a form of embellishing your clothing, you can check the apparel contractor section for facilities to assist you.

If you have any thoughts on how we can improve this article, please let us know.

View embellishments used in fashion on the Style Blog.

Written by ML at Apparel Search September 24, 2007

You may also want to learn about promotional apparel which often utilizes embellishment in some way.


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