« monday morning | Main | good reviews »

February 04, 2014


Yes, in the US, the word haberdashery is only associated with menswear. (At least for me!) I've never seen it used in reference to crafting and making.

Yes, in the U.S. it's men's accessories. I now wonder if I have missed exactly the stores I was looking on some of my travels! And if I have misread what was happening in books that I've read.

Oh, how perculiar! Living in the UK I had no idea it could mean anything other than sewing supplies! Isn't language a funny and interesting thing?! Jen

In the US haberdashery is a man's world. Sewing notions are found in a fabric store or quilt store or in a large discount store they are found in the sewing section.

Yes, a haberdashery, here in the USA, is where menswear is sold. I would not look for notions there. (Is that what you call them, notions? That's what we call them here, all the sorts of things in the picture.....)

Isn't it a lovely word? Old fashioned, homely and comforting. I live in the UK and never knew it meant anything other than sewing or needlework supplies or notions.

I was aware of the double meaning, but my first thought would have been men's accessories. Here in the West US, I would buy my notions at a yarn shop or quilting store. We don't seem to have a nice word for it.

Yes, I'm sorry to say, haberdashery only refers to menswear here in the States. I love the UK term but it would confuse my fellow Americans to have it be used in that way.

i like Eddie Izzard's version in his brilliant sketch about shopping - 'Half a pound of haberdash, please'

Don't know if this is a one off but the Hackney based company Technology Will Save Us who devise and produce electronic kits (synthesisers, plant waterers, diy electronic games) and do workshops teaching soldering and coding (including at the Ace Hotel) describe themselves as a 'Haberdashery for Technology'. Noticed this when my 16 year old did work experience with them. I think it conveys perfectly the idea that you turn to them for alligator clips, breadboards and the like.

Yes, it is! So much so that when I read the subject line and clicked to see your blog, I wondered what did sewing notions have to do with haberdashery. I expected mens hats! (Although they are not a common store these days!)

I don't know that ALL US residents would be confused. I read a lot of British books and am somewhat familiar with "haberdashery as sewing notions." That said, it does much more have the sense of accessories, esp. men's accessories, over here, and we would be more likely to use the term "notions"

Although, to me, "notions" seem like more practical and less pretty things, like elastic instead of ribbons, snaps instead of pretty buttons....I don't know that American English has a word for the pretty little accessory-type things that may not be essential to sewing or knitting, but are very nice to have....

How interesting, I never would have thought to look at a Haberdashery for my craft supplies. Though local fabric stores are almost gone and the big chain craft stores have taken over. I like the idea of going to a Haberdashery to buy my thread, buttons... and I believe this is a more appealing word. I would gladly change over to using Haberdashery - why should the men have possesion of it? By the way it will be wonderful to be able to purchase your books on my Nook (B & N)!

Yes, most US people would not recognize a haberdashery as a store carrying notions. I know about the word difference (from this blog!) but if I was poking around the Internet it wouldn't occur to me.

I have never heard it used for sewing notions. I associate it with men's hats.

In Canada, haberdashery is a word associated with quaint/historical overtones only...unless a big city or two still has some such store, there's really no such thing as haberdashery here! (Most of us would say, "haberdasher-what?"...unless we had a penchant for old novels.) We would look for craft supplies or sewing supplies at either yarn/fabric/craft shops. And menswear is menswear...are there any men's hat/accessory places even in existence in Canada anymore? If so, not many, and again, likely only in very large cities that would support such specialization. Otherwise, any items to do with men's clothing are sold in a menswear shop or department.

The only context I have heard of is menswear. I live in Denver, USA.

I'm in Canada too and I agree with Jen. My first thought was that they sold hats and other men's accessories but we don't really use the term anymore except for high end (expensive) stores.

vancouver bc. i think back in my younger days, our big dept store 'the bay' used to have a haberdashery dept. associated with mens hats. even though we have a lot of spellings and ideas connected to the english, not in this case.

I am a lifelong Californian and not only is the word haberdashery used for only for menswear, it is a term that is used mainly on the east coast and not in here in SoCal (Southern California)!

If you said "Haberdashery" in Northern California 99% of the people would think you were speaking nonsense! Such a shame as it is a wonderful descriptive word.

Just another question: what fabric is this? Looks very japanese! I WANT SOME!!!!!

I understand both usages and I've lived in Oregon all my life. I would know what was meant from the context of what was being bought.

From the East Coast US: haberdashery is men's wear. I was not familiar with the UK meaning until now. I wonder when and how the US's version veered off to men's wear?

In Canada here. I guess I think of gloves and hats more than sewing supplies.

I had no idea of the US meaning. I can't pass one without buying something. My ancestors in Dorset 150 years ago were haberdashers and linen drapers, probably why I love crafting so much, it's deeply in my genes!

As stated above, we in Canada don't really use that word anymore. Although, if I hear it, I would think of men's accessories. Sewing supplies come from a fabric store.

In America, we would call that store or department "Notions." Lord knows why.

Correct, in the US it is a men's hat (and sometimes other accessories) shop.

I agree with all the Americans above who say that it refers to menswear (and specifically to hats, in my mind), and that it is a rarely used word now. I am an avid sewer & Anglophile, yet I only recently learned what it refers to in the U.K. I think most young and some middle-aged Americans have no idea what the word refers to even in the U.S.

Don't you just have to love language! As a Brit teaching English as a foreign language in the Netherlands to teenagers I have learnt (learned) a lot over the years. Most of the youngsters watch USA TV programmes. Pants for me are knickers or underwear; for them they are trousers. Fanny is your bottom in US but for Brits a part of a woman's anatomy not talked about in public places. I'd never heard of a fawcett (tap), daipers (nappies) or a pacifier (dummy) before I came to live in the Netherlands many moons ago (long before the world wide web)and the list goes on. This one is new to me too. A haberdashery is for sewing stuff. What fun that it has another meaning too. How about Australia, New Zealand? What do you use?

In Australia haberdashery means what it means in the UK, but I was aware of the other meaning ...

I had a vague idea of the connection of haberdashery referring to menswear even though I'm from UK... might it be because of haberdashery/menswear all being connected through drapery or millinery or tailoring - especially historically.

Transplanted Idahoan understanding is that a Haberdasher is a spear version of a Milliner, and that "Haberdashery" refers not to a location but to an action. Comparable to the gerund "hat making".

Yes, indeed!! It's all about menswear and our sewing supplies come from sewing stores, yarn shops and specialty fabric shops. I love the rabbit material also. Purl SoHo NYC carries quite a lot of Japanese fabric and I've ordered from them before. Need to check this one out!!

If you look at the history on the Haberdashers' Company website, you'll see that originally haberdashers sold the small sewing bits and pieces. In the early 1500s the hat makers joined the Livery company and after that, "haberdashery" came to mean both the small sewing items and hats!

If it is used at all in the U.S. any more, it relates to men's clothing. I remember a post ages ago on your blog that used it to refer to sewing supplies. That was a new meaning for me.

Interesting responses! I immediately thought of hats, but used in context, I would like to think I would figure out if someone was using it in reference to sewing notions. I'm living in Portland, OR.

Just want to check that we all agreed that millinery refers to ladies hats only? I like to digress!

Yes, Rebecca! Millinery = ladies' hats, so Haberdashery is the 'spear version', which is the male equivalent of 'distaff version'.
Great bit of history, Carol! Thanks for the share!


presumably everyone has seen this?

i've got nothing to add to the haberdashery question. it's all boringly referred to as "notions" here. but i do have a completely unrelated question. what is the name and make of that darling bunny fabric in today's background.

This is so interesting! Seems to me that "haberdashery" in the US also has an up-scale (read "snooty") connotation. But it's practically archaic here anyway, even in association with menswear.

In the 50s and 60s and into the 70s most large department stores in the U.S. (like Strawbridge's in Philadelphia, Rich's in Atlanta, Macy's in New York, etc.) had "sewing departments" where they sold "sewing notions". These departments are all gone now. These same stores had book departments, too, and they are gone as well. But that's another story!
We can buy at the big chain stores like Walmart where items are typically discounted but the service is nonexistent, or we can buy at small local quilt and yarn shops (LQS and LYS respectively) where we are likely to pay the highest retail price but also get friendly, helpful service as well as advice if needed.

Last summer when in Harrod's I asked for the location of their sewing department (even though I suspected they did not have one any longer) and got a friendly lesson about the term haberdashery. Another U.K. term that I like, which we do not use here (at least not in the South) is "bespoke", which I am under the impression means "custom-made". You may set me straight on that if necessary.

When I have a few minutes for inspiration, I always go to your blog first. Thanks very much for all that you share. I love the mix of book and art reviews, travel info, knitting and quilting. Perfect!

I'm a Canadian (with a Scottish Mum), I've always used the word haberdashery in relation to sewing notions. I've never understood until now why I sometimes received strange looks.

As with prior commenters from Oregon, I know both meanings since downtown Portland had stores using the word in both contexts while I was growing up (a mens accessories shop, and a fancy sewing store). Outside Portland, I believe the currently favored terms in the US are "mens accessories" and "sewing notions".

Ah, in Holland most of these shops are gone. We call them 'fournituren' which is probably from a french word. Th funny thing thou is that I happen to know that 'fournituren' shops in Belgium sell both kinds of things. You can find there for example embroidery things, next to socks and so on :-)

That is a funny melting pot. And I suppose it is a total coincidence.

For an outsider in this language thing it is even more difficult. One has to search for the origin of a book to see what 'calico' means (small flowery fabrics or plain unbleached). I recently leared that one half of the English speaking calls zippers zips. And the wadding/batting use usually gives away where the writer is from.

Groetjes, Merel

In Australia, my local haberdashery sold school uniforms, women's underwear, and bed linen, tablecloths and bathing coats as well as buttons, zips and cotton thread, wool and fabric by the metre. Not sure how they fitted it all in.

Beth, What is a bathing coat?

Haberdashery to me means sewing notions but I'm a big Anglophile so maybe that's why I associate that way.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Become a Fan

words and pictures

  • Please do not use my words or photos without my permission. Thank you.
Blog powered by Typepad