Strange clothing names

Some of our words are adopted from items of clothing, like jeans. They are often called Levis because a San Francisco tailor, Levi Strauss, made tough, durable trousers out of denim cloth with copper rivets to strengthen the pockets. His Levis held up under the grueling work of prospectors in the Gold Rush.

Leotards: These figure hugging one piece garments, used by acrobats and gymnasts, were designed by French acrobat Jules Leotard. He invented the flying trapeze and mid-air somersault. Jules was immortalized by the song, "The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze."

Corset: Catherine de Medici was the wife of King Henry II of France. She dominated her husband's court during the 1550's. She was irritated when so many of the ladies were getting fat, and banned all women who had large waists. Rather than accept ostracism, the ladies invented corsets, a tightly laced garment that squeezed their waist into a fashionably narrow size. The first corsets were stiffened with whalebone but later steel stays were used. These corsets were so restrictive that a new illness called "The Vapors" developed. Ladies fainted due to the tightness of their corsets.

Bras or Brassiere: Up until 1913, the standard undergarment for ladies was the corset. New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob wanted to wear her new, low cut evening gown but did not want her corset to show. Using two silk handkerchiefs and some ribbon, Ms. Jacob created a new breast support. It was so successful she patented her invention as a brassiere, the French word for upper arm. In 1928, Ida Rosenthal improved her design by devising the system of cup sizes for bras.

Stetson hats: In 1865 James B. Stetson invented the cowboy hat that bears his name. It was a closely woven hat with no holes for ventilation. Stetson noted that cowboys had to carry water to make coffee and his hat was a convenient water bucket. They held about half a gallon but " a ten gallon hat" was the nickname for larger Stetsons.

Bowler or Derby hats: In London, they are bowlers. These hats were designed and manufactured by Thomas and William Bowler. Their first big sale was to William Coke, in December 1849. Coke took the hat, stomped on it, then reshaped it. Since the bowler retained its shape he placed a large order. In the United States it is a derby. The Earl of Derby wore one to the race which bears his name. In America bowlers were advertised as "hats like the English wear to the Derby, " and the name caught on.

Sombrero: This broad brimmed hat has a descriptive name. When you attend a bullfight in Mexico you have a choice: "Sombra y Sol ( Shade and Sun )" The shaded seats are more expensive. The root for sombrero is "sombra." It allows the Mexican worker to carry some shade with him as he toils in the field.

Tuxedo: These formal dinner jackets were named after a country club in New York, where they were introduced.

Denim: This is a strong, tightly woven cloth used for working clothes. It came from Nimes, France and was originally "serge de Nimes." We shortened this to denim.

My friend, Arminta Braasch, loves to create new dishes then dream up clever names for them. Here is her recipe for a dessert she called Melon-Cholia.


1 cantaloupe, peeled and sliced into 8 sections

2 peaches, peeled and cubed

1 cup honeydew cubes

1 cup halved and seeded Tokay grapes

1/2 cup chilled ginger ale

PREPARATION: Pour ginger ale over all except cantaloupe. Chill for an hour. Arrange two pieces cantaloupe to make a boat, fill with fruit and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

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