Stylish sites: European places that named fashion items

Exploring places across Europe that gave names to items of clothing, textiles and more

by
Adrian Murphy (Europeana Foundation)

When we wear clothing or use fashion items, how aware are we of their histories?

Places across Europe have given their names to many items of clothing and other textiles, reflecting a rich heritage of creating fabrics through craft and industrial methods.

Let's explore this history by taking a textile tour across Europe.

Denim & jeans

The fabric denim takes its name from Serge de Nîmes, named after Nîmes, a city in France. Jeans, meanwhile, take their name from the Italian city of Genoa. Both words were coined in the 19th century, as denim and jeans began to be popular.

Denim and jeans: the making of a fashion icon

Manchester

Manchester - a city in the north of England - is known for being a centre of the industrial revolution. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Manchester was a city associated with many factories and industries, in particular the textile industry. Manchester was a productive centre of cotton, linen and more.

Nowadays, the name manchester is used in countries across the world to denote types of textile. The Swedish for corduroy fabric is manchester. In Australia and New Zealand, manchester is used as a collective noun for household linen such as sheets, pillow cases etc., particularly in stores.

Duffle

As children, many of us wear duffle coats, mostly unaware that Duffel is a town in Flanders, Belgium.

The town has given its name to the thick woolen cloth that was used to make outer garments like coats, particularly for the military. The name is also used for a type of bag which nowadays is more likely to be made from synthethic materials.

Chantilly lace

Chantilly lace is a type of hand-made lace named for the French town of Chantilly.

The lace was first made in Chantilly in the 17th century, under the patronage of the Duchesse de Longueville who popularised the style in the courts of Paris. The lace's popularity over time has changed, notably after the French Revolution when the lace-makers were executed.

However, revivals in the 19th century ensured the lace's popularity, but then chantilly lace was not being made in Chantilly but in Normandy in France and in Belgium.

Balaclava

Balaclavas are thick headgear used to protect the head and face from the cold. Now we mostly associate balaclavas with criminals who need to hide their faces, but balaclavas are also used by skiers and others taking part in winter sports.

The name balaclava comes from the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War, named for a town in present-day Ukraine.

There, the balaclava was worn by English troops unaccustomed to bitterly cold weather. However, the name did not emerge until almost 30 years later.

Cologne

Though not a fabric, Cologne has given its named to a fashion item worn by men and women alike. Eau de Cologne is now used to denote perfumes and scents in concentrated form, while cologne itself can mean fragrances for men.

The name originates from Eau de Cologne, a perfume that originated from the northern German city in the early 18th century. It was created by Italian perfume-maker Giovanni Maria Farina who named it after his new home town Cologne, where he had moved in 1709.

The fragrance factory: Roure-Bertrand Fils and the perfume industry in Grasse

Suede

The English word for suede fabric takes its name - via French - from Sweden. In French, the name for Sweden is Suède.

Suede, a type of leather with a raised and fuzzy appearance, takes its name from gants de suède ('gloves from Sweden') which were made out of the velvety leather.

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