29 Of Fashion's Biggest Mysteries, Solved!

Update: Maybe we're not Sherlock, but that doesn't mean we can't solve a few fashion mysteries. Revisit this story, originally published on March 19, 2012, that finally provides answers to the questions weighing on our minds.
In honor of Mercury being in retrograde, we've dedicated this morning to tying up some loose ends — and that means answering the burning fashion questions you've harbored since forever, but for some reason or other, have forgotten to look up.
For all those times you paused to wonder if pony hair is actually made from ponies or what the heck Prorsum means anyway, but couldn't snag a consultation with the ol' WWW, we're here to help. So, click through, learn something, and get the answers to all those lingering fashion questions that have been bothering you.
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1. Why is houndstooth called houndstooth?

Actually, houndstooth does have something to do with canines and their chompers. The black-and-white, Scottish-by-origin print, which is inspired by the uneven shape of hound dogs' teeth, still makes regular appearances on modern-day jackets, dresses, and more.
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2. Are celebrities paid to wear designers on the red carpet?

How can we forget the Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino/ Abercrombie bribe in which the retailers wished their label and his abs stayed far, far away from each other.

That debacle aside though, quite the opposite occurs with celebs  who don't make us cringe. When it comes to red carpet events or publicity appearances, designers may arrange contracts with celebrities to wear their high-end label for a very generous sum in exchange — for instance, we've heard one Hollywood rumor that Gwynnie was offered $500K to sport Louis Vuitton jewels for her 2011 Oscar moment. And here, we would have done it for free!
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3. Were the Teen Vogue scenes on The Hills staged?

Yes. Most definitely.
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4. What does Anna Dello Russo actually do?

The short answer would probably be: What doesn't she do. Anna Dello Russo is the Editor at Large for Vogue Nippon (better known as Vogue Japan), where she works with photographers and stylists on editorial features.

Furthermore, Dello Russo blogs from, AnnaDelloRusso.com, a NowManifest site that also represents other fashion bloggers such as Rumi Neely and BryanBoy. Every other minute of the day, Anna of course remains a giant lens magnet. Street style photographers have tried to resist her gravitational pull, but they've rarely succeeded.
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5. What does the "Prorsum" in Burberry Prorsum stand for?

Thomas Burberry's namesake clothing label is equated with classic English style, but don't expect to see an uncle/son/great grandfather in his lineage with the name Prorsum. The latter half of the label name is actually Latin, meaning "forward."
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6. Does Le Smoking have anything to do with smoking?

Created by Yves Saint Laurent in 1966, the Le Smoking style incorporates a long, thin tuxedo-style trouser suit for women. It's a favorite of Catherine Deneuve, Diane Keaton, and Lauren Bacall. However, the term references the French mot for dinner jacket, a "smoking," rather than the actual act of smoking, even though the connection was made famous by photographer Helmut Newton, who took the iconic photo of the Le Smoking-clad model holding a cigarette.
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7. Where does Anna get her hair cut?

Anna Wintour has been wearing her hair in a bob since she was 14 years old, and she keeps her signature coiff looking pristine by getting hair professionally done (including cuts) every morning by hairdresser Charlie Chan.
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6. What does Margiela look like?

The elusive designer is notoriously camera shy and only one photo of his face, taken in 1997, exists on the interwebs. This is it.
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9. Where did the 29 in Refinery29 come from?

When the site was launching, the founders wanted it to focus on only the most curated selection of independent stores and designers and since it featured an interactive map of stores, they wanted the name to sound like a place. Hence, the name Refinery emerged. Done and done...well, almost. It felt like something was missing, so the founders consulted a psychic who told them that she saw the number 29 in their future along with great success. They couldn't very well move forward without these mystical digits and hence, 29 was added to the name and so far, it's proven quite lucky.
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10. Is pony hair really made from ponies?

No. Pony-hair leather isn't made from ponies or horses, but it is made of the hides of cows and calves whose hair hasn't been shaved off.
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11. How do you really pronounce ASOS?

From the lips of Kevin Fegans, Senior PR Manager of ASOS in the US, it's A-sauce.. Not A-sohs.
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12. Why are there only two main seasons in fashion?

The process to design, produce, and present a collection has typically taken about six months, therefore the fall/spring breakdown not only makes sense weather-wise, but also allows for the appropriate time for designers to complete their work. However, as the the fashion industry has been able to gain speed in the design -and-distribution process, new collections have been able to emerge (and be sold!) more frequently. Hello, pre-fall and resort.
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13. Who is the Barney of Barneys New York?

Barney Pressman opened the first Barneys in New York in 1923 using $500 that he got when he pawned his wife's engagement ring. At the time, the store was located at the corner of 17th Street and 7th Avenue, and stocked men's suits.
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14. What size is a "plus-size" model?

Like standard models, plus-size models need to be between 5'8" and 6' in height. But unlike standard models, the size range for plus-size models is quite wide, ranging from size six to a size 14. According to ABC News, the sizes have shrunk from what they were a decade ago, which averaged between size 12 and size 18.
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15. Why the red sole?

The red sole was seen as early as the days of Louis the XIV, but Christian Louboutin really made it his signature in 1992 when he was inspired by an assistant who was painting her nails in a red Chanel polish. He decided to test the same color on lacquer on the bottom of one of his early designs. Et voila! The rosso solini was born.
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16. Does Calvin Klein have anything to do with Calvin Klein, these days?

The man whose name is probably on at least one pair of your (or your boyfriend's) underwear has not been a full-time member of the company's creative team since 2003, when Phillips-Van Heusen (which also owns Tommy Hilfiger and Heritage Brands) purchased the company and Klein stepped down as Creative Director.

Today, Francisco Costa is the main womenswear designer for CK, while Klein is still involved with the company but not nearly to the same degree as he had previously been.
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17. What does "sample size" really mean?

When designers first create their collections, they make one (or a couple) of each style for their runway shows, to be loaned out for photo shoots, and other promotional reasons. Thus, these samples are usually constructed to be a standard size to fit models. For clothing, the sample size is a 2. Sample shoe sizes are a 37 for showroom display and a 40 for model use.
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18. Is Alexander Wang's hair permed?

Wang told W in 2011 that "Everyone thinks I perm my hair — for some reason they've never heard of Asians with natural curls." There you go — he's au naturale!
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19. What does BCBG stand for?

BCBG is an acronym for the French phrase, "Bon chic, bon genre," meaning "good style, good attitude."
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20. What size were the first models?

The title of first editorial model ever goes to Lisa Fonssagrives, who was 5'7" with a 23-inch waist and a 34-inch bust. Not a huge difference from the 5'6", 24-inch waist, 34-inch bust average of today's models.
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21. Is it true that PR girls aren't allowed to wear anything but black?

Says Natasha Zeller, Account Executive at Laforce + Stevens, “While the sea of black that is so stereotypical to PR girls occurs on event days, we are generally a lively and colorful bunch of dressers.  It’s not uncommon to see girls dressed in an array of prints and patterns, often combining both in one outfit—tastefully so, of course.”
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22. What happened to Kira Plastinina? 

While the then-16-year-old designer had to close down her NYC shops in 2008 — another victim of the economy, it seems — Kira Plastinina has not entirely disappeared from the fashion industry.

Kira now designs under the label Lublu Kira Plastinina ("lublu" meaning "I love" in Russian). She last presented at New York Fashion Week for the fall '11 season, and continues to present at Moscow Fashion Week. A list of retailers for Lublu can be found here, including one boutique in Los Angeles and Showroom Seven in NY.
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23. Does anyone actually shop pre-fall?

Says Julie Loewenberg‬, Director of Sales at Theory, "Pre-fall ships at that time when you are over dresses, T-shirts, and all of your summer looks. You might walk into the stores and everything has been on sale five times over. That is the point of pre-fall. To give you a sneak peek of what’s to come, and help you get ahead of your fall shopping. From a volume standpoint it certainly isn’t a large delivery, but it does help start momentum for the fall season, and gives us an early read on what customers are responding to." So...sorta?
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24. Do celebrities get to keep all the clothes they wear?

For one-of-a-kind pieces (like red carpet gowns and runway samples worn for magazine shoots), celebrities have to return the pieces they wear so they can be borrowed again for other events events and shoots by other celebs and models. However, many celebrities are gifted clothing in the hopes that they'll eventually wear them, be photographed in them, and act as "free" advertisement.
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25. Is it worth going to school for fashion design?

Says RISD grad and designer, Katie Gallagher, "Tough one! I think that it definitely depends on which school it is that you go to; some offer more of a commercial education, and others come at it from a craft and artistan point of view. After that, its all about what you make of it while you're there. Like anything else, artistic talent is enhanced by perfecting the skills that make it usable."
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26. How much does it cost to put on a fashion show?

Whether you're showing at Milk Studios, Lincoln Center, a Chanel airplane, or a LV train, the cost to present a new collection is seriously steep. One industry insider tells us that price tags for runway shows can range between $80,000 and $200,000, depending on variables like stylists, makeup artists, and celebrity appearances. However, it helps to have the right connections — many designers are able to do it all for free depending on various sponsorships from brands and venues.
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27. Why are the buttons on different sides, on guys' and girls' shirts?

It's an old tradition that began when fancy women used to get dressed with the help of a chambermaid, but men didn't. Seamstresses put the buttons on the side of the garment that facilitates right-handedness. So, self-dressing men had the buttons running along the left side of the shirt while women, who needed help getting dressed, had the buttons running along the right side.
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28. Is anything not Photoshopped in a magazine?

Currently, there are no regulations as to what a magazine can and can't Photoshop. While many publications have come under scrutiny for manipulating images and possibly creating impossible expectations of society's view of what's beautiful and attractive, everyone is still free to slim, crop, lighten, darken, and enhance as they see fit.

However, there has been a recent push from organizations like Off Our Chests to regulate Photoshop use by requiring magazines to include a printed disclaimer if an image has been altered in any way.
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29. Do designers pay celebrities to sit front row?

While we're sure there are celebrities who actually care about the newest batch of collections from the world's most-respected designers, it's true that their presence doesn't come without a price tag.

Just this past Fashion Week, designer Nicole Fahri blew the lid off of the theory that designers were getting something (read: a celebrity endorsement) for nothing. The Daily Mail even reported that stars like Rihanna or Beyoncé can charge a whopping £60,000 (approximately $95,000) for their front-row seats.