Not long ago, the Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA) came out with its Industry Standards, which includes a glossary of terminology. Whenever I write anything, I check those standards to be sure I am industry-correct. However, there still are many terms left to our own discretion.
If you compare glossaries from one book to another, the two never contain exactly the same terminology and some definitions even may differ. This makes sense because only terminology used within different books would need to be defined and some terms have more than one meaning.
Thanks to a very dear friend, I’ve started collecting old how-to sewing books. Of course, these books are primarily about sewing clothes, but can provide much inspiration for window treatment designs as well as techniques long ago forgotten. I recently acquired “The Vogue Sewing Book,” ©1973. I was sewing a lot of clothes for my family at that time, but I’m sure I never would never have bought the book then. At that point in my history, Vogue patterns were considered only for the most experienced seamstress, which I did not consider myself.
Now, in 2003 and considering myself an accomplished fabricator, I paged through this book with a different perspective. I found many interesting ideas and techniques, but the real treasure to me was in the glossary.
There were some terms that I had never heard of that were very applicable for what window treatment fabricators do. I also realized that many terms we use in the window coverings business come from garment and French terminology, e.g. the bishop sleeve drapery panels. This book even had a page-and-a-half of French fashion terms. As I read over them, I couldn’t help but think how easily many could be adapted to window treatment terminology and how much better and more sophisticated this terminology would sound.
Spurred on by the Vogue book, I researched some other glossaries and my own collection of terminology. My hope is that you will find some words among the following to assist in communicating with your customers. Be sure you use the correct terminology for what you really offer your customer. Just using fluffed-up terminology with no real connection to what you offer will come back to bite you.
GOOD, UNDERSTANDABLE TERMINOLOGY
Cut-in-one: In garment terminology this means cutting two sections as one as opposed to cutting two different sections that would have to be seamed. This is a perfect term for a casual swag or window scarf that forms a swag and cascades from one cut. Many times a Kingston valance is cut-in-one with the separating horn.
Favoring: This term refers to pillowcasing an edge and then pressing just a hairline of the face fabric to the back so the lining will not be seen, e.g. shaped edges of soft cornices. The pressing process would favor the face fabric.
Castellated edge: This refers to a decorative edge made by alternating indented and projecting square or rectangular shapes resembling an ancient Egyptian design or a jack-o-lantern’s toothy grin. I found this term in a book by a British author. The sharp angles of the castellated edging are very labor intensive and therefore more costly.
It is true that the words you use can make or break you. I even have books telling me which words sell when used in advertising and marketing. In our industry we are very concerned with our speech and terminology because the meaning must be totally clear to you and your customers. However, it doesn’t hurt to dress-up the vocabulary a bit.
Whatever you do and say in the first few seconds when you talk with a new prospect will generate an immediate opinion of you. While words only account for seven percent of this opinion, how you use your voice accounts for 38 percent. (The other 55 percent is from physiology.)
Therefore, if you could use some status-sounding vocabulary pronounced with confidence, the odds are greater that you will attract a higher-end clientele as well as greater respect.
BORROWING FROM THE FRENCH
This is not a new idea. We already use many French words: appliqué, boutique, chic, fleur de lis and toile are a few examples. So let’s take it a little further and start trying out some additional terms.
Atelier (‘a te ‘lyay): An artist’s studio or workroom. In my atelier, we are very particular about quality. When you say this, think of Picasso working in his atelier!
Bon goût (bohn ‘goo): Good taste. You show bon gouût in your ideas and fabric choices. Be sure you say this so it is taken as a compliment! You even may have to follow with a synonym so your client understands the compliment, i.e. “With such tasteful choices, your treatments are sure to make a grand impression!”
Chez (shay): A place of business or perhaps a studio. Please have the fabric drop shipped to my chez.
Couture (kü ‘tür): Sewing or the product of a seamstress (ahem, fabricator!). Now this is a term with which many consumers and certainly designers are familiar. It is commonly associated with the design houses that create one-of-a-kind dresses. You might say “Our couture is of the highest quality.” Doesn’t that have a very nice ring to it as opposed to “Our work is of the highest quality?” Just using the word certainly enhances the perception of the customer’s value of what you do.
Couturier (kü tü ryay): Male designer or dressmaker.
Couturiere (kü tü ryare): Female designer or dressmaker. Don’t you think it would sound so much better for your business card to read something like “Kitty Stein, couturiere of fine window dressings”? I’m almost sorry I’m not fabricating any more!
Étoffe (ay ‘´tawf): Quality materials. We only use the finest étoffe to create our designs.
Haute couture (‘oat kü ’tür): High fashion or high quality. Because our workroom is haute couture, we excel in the finest details and handwork.
Passementerie (pahs ‘mahn tree): Trimmings, usually elaborate. This term is in the WCAA book and is often used. Most of us are so used to saying “trims” that we overlook this wonderful word that could leave a much greater impression.
Répertoire (rep e twar): Designer’s collection (i.e. your portfolio). While I am measuring, would you like to look through my répertoire?
Soigné (swän ‘yay): Very carefully detailed and finished; the modern definition is elegantly maintained, or designed, or well-groomed, sleek. “You can expect only soigné couture from our workroom.”
Yes, you could pass off much of this vocabulary lesson as just a fun exercise, especially if you are like me. The only other language I learned besides English was Latin. I can’t say I could perfectly pronounce every word I’ve given you. If you have a friend who speaks French, you could learn the proper pronunciation. If your customer doesn’t know French, then, as long as you are close, it doesn’t matter. I finally learned the proper pronunciation of choux (shoe), which means cabbage in French! Until that time, I was way off!
Just for fun, start using one word at a time. Then add another. Before long your vocabulary répertoire will be soigné!
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm offering educational resources to the industry on its Web site (www.workroomconcepts.com). Her experience in the window covering arena has contributed to her success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and writer, she has authored several industry products including Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.