Kipper and Cod - Tailoring Slang Unpacked

Tailoring is an old profession steeped in tradition.

As such, over the years it has developed its own language. And not just technical jargon. 

 

Here are some of my favourites:

 

Kipper : A "Lady" tailor or "tailoress".

So called because back in the day, as women began to infiltrate Savile Row, they would go around in pairs in order to avoid being left alone with a randy old tailor. 

 

Cabbage : Scraps of cloth.

I assume this is because the strips of discarded fabric look a little like shredded cabbage but I can't get confirmation from anyone. 

 

Clapham Junction : A pattern with numerous alterations or additions.

Any who has discovered they entered CJ at the wrong end will understand this one. Apparently it is London's busiest station! 

 

Crushed beetles : Badly made button holes.

This one is a little close to home as I first heard it while I was first learning how to do buttonholes. 

 

Doctor : Alteration tailor.

Because a good one can fix all sorts of dodgy garments and a bad one will kill them stone dead. 

 

 Kicking your heels : No work to do.

Tailors sit on their boards to sew, crossing one leg over the other to create a good platform on which to rest whatever you are working on. With no work the legs just dangle freely.

(On a related note - I recently found out the muscle which crosses your thigh is called the "Sartorius" muscle, named after tailors because of the way they sit) 

  

On The Cod : Gone for a drink.

This is one of my favourite phrases, and one which can be regularly heard on a Friday afternoon as the tailors down tools and head for one of the many West End pubs. Sadly I can't find the origin of it.

 

Pig : An unclaimed garment.

This is another one which I can't trace but I've included it because I'm always AMAZED that someone would go through 3 fittings and pay all that money to just not pick up their suit! Madness. 

 

Skiffle : A fast job that a customer wants in a hurry.

Named after the speed of Skiffle music.

 

Trotter : Fetcher and carrier or messenger. 

Easy to see the origins of this one. 

Makes it onto the favourites list because of some of my favourite customers, the Trotter family. 

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