Whether you’re new to the apparel world or are looking to dive a little deeper into the specifics of the industry, it’s great to broaden your knowledge of some of the commonly used terms of the trade.

So many industry-specific terms are floating around, which can be confusing, especially if you’re starting. To make things easier for you, we’ve got a breakdown to simplify some of the most common terms you should know. Therefore, helping you navigate the apparel industry and sort through some of the jargon that may be unfamiliar. 

Here are the 21 must-know terms when starting your clothing line.

Manufacturing Terms

First, it’s crucial to know manufacturing terms. These will help you know specifics when ordering products to stock for your brand and getting them to customers.

Distributor or Wholesaler

Distributor or wholesaler is a term you need to know if you’re buying shirts in bulk and doing the printing yourself.

A wholesaler or distributor buys directly from apparel companies like Bella + Canvas, then ships products out from their national network of warehouses. You can buy Bella + Canvas from these wholesalers or directly from us with a resale license.

Resale License

Depending on your state, it may be called a resale certificate, seller’s permit, or resale license, however interchangeable. 

This license or certificate lets you buy wholesale goods without paying sales tax. However, once you sell the goods, your customer pays the sales tax, and you report that back to the state where you sold the product.

Decoration and Decorator

“Decoration” is the term used when talking about the artwork on the shirt. That could be a print with ink, embroidery, foil, etc. Therefore, the person or company putting the design on the shirt for you is the “decorator.”

Most often, the decorator is a print shop or a print-on-demand company. However, you can usually purchase blank apparel from your decorator, making them an even better resource.

Print-on-Demand or POD

As a company specializing in printing one-offs, a term commonly used in e-commerce when selling online. You can route orders directly to the POD company, which fulfills the order and ships it out to your customer.


Dropshipping is when the POD or fulfillment company ships your product to your customer, a common practice. If you shop online, you’ve most likely had something drop shipped.

Direct to Garment or DTG

DTG is a newer type of printing where all colors of your design are printed simultaneously and directly onto your garment.

Picture a giant version of your at-home inkjet printer. Therefore, it allows for a more cost-efficient way to print low quantities or even one-offs. If you choose to go with a print-on-demand company, they will most likely use DTG to print your apparel.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a term you’re most likely already familiar with and is a popular alternative to DTG. It’s the more traditional way to print apparel.

Create individual screens for each color in your design. Then, print each color. This type of printing is ideal if you’re ordering in bulk with orders of 25 shirts or more.

Garment and Fabric Terms

After covering some basic manufacturing terms, we’ll delve into the wide world of garments and fabrics.

Shirt Blank or Blanks

Use blanks when discussing the wholesale shirt you buy to add decoration to (print or embroider).

“Buy off the shelf” or “retail ready” are other phrases you’ll encounter when finding your blank. Therefore, you’re buying a ready-made shirt to print on and not sewing a shirt from scratch.

Cut and Sew

Cut and sew means you start with a roll of fabric and are cutting and sewing a custom shirt for your brand. 

Fabric Weight

The weight you’ll see listed on a site is talking about something other than the actual weight of the shirt. Instead, it describes the weight per square yard of fabric.

So, what does this mean for you? The heavier the weight, the richer the shirt. And vice versa, If you’re looking for a lightweight shirt, look for a lighter fabric weight.

Single or Single Count

A single count is just like a thread count for sheets. Single counts define the number of cross-sections within one square inch of fabric. The higher the single count, the tighter the knit and the softer the feel.

Insider tip: A high single count typically indicates you’re working with a premium, high-quality blank.


A silhouette refers to the cut or style of the shirt. For example, the Bella + Canvas 3001 and 3413 have the same silhouette but different fabric blends. 

Fabric Blend Terms

After understanding the basics of garment and fabric terms, there are a few popular types of fabrics that you should know. 

100% Airlume Combed and Ring-spun Cotton

We engineer the signature cotton at Bella + Canvas from raw materials. Longer staples and cotton with almost no impurities make our Airlume the best for printing. Plus, it creates the softest feeling shirt.

Heather or Heather CVC

Heather CVC is one of Bella + Canvas’ most popular products. This shirt is typically a blend of 52% cotton and 48% polyester. These are the shirts you see where there is a tiny speckle or differentiation in the color of the shirt.

The technical industry term is “Heather CVC.” However, you may see the word “Heather” just listed with the color, like Heather Navy or Heather Red, typically what that means.   


Tri-blend is arguably the lightest and softest shirt. It is made of three fabrics – cotton, rayon, and polyester — giving it the benefits of all three materials. It’s great for a vintage feel, athletic style, or the most comfortable shirt.

Business Terms

Now that you’ve understood clothing industry-specific terms, we’ll cover some need-to-know business terms.

E-commerce Platform

If you’re selling online — which can be a great, more hands-off business model — this will be your online store’s site.

Some examples include:

  • Shopify
  • Weebly
  • WooCommerce
  • And more

Most commonly, this will be a stand-alone website to which you can direct traffic.

Market Place

A marketplace is another type of e-commerce platform that’s great to consider. The customer visits the more prominent website in a marketplace and can organically find your products and many other stores. Etsy, Amazon, eBay, and Storenvy are all examples of marketplaces.

End User

In our corner of the apparel world, the end user is the final person who will be wearing your shirt. You may also hear this referred to as the “end customer.”


“Fulfillment” is the term used when referring to completing an order. For example, a customer buys something from you, and you need to fulfill it. The fulfiller may be you personally, the print-on-demand company, or another fulfillment company you’re using. 

Pop-up Shop

If you’re selling online, you can run a pop-up shop. In a pop-up shop, you sell your products in person for a limited time. As a result, it could be for a few months, a week, or even just one day.

A pop-up shop is a great way to grow your brand awareness, grab new customers, and meet your actual customers in person, which will help strengthen your community.

Point of Sale or POS

A POS is checking out your customers and keeping track of your inventory. At this point, many e-commerce platforms already have a great built-in way to sell both online and in person.

If regular selling in person will be a part of your business model, finding an e-commerce platform with a POS system already built in is a great idea. A solid POS is crucial for ensuring you can process transactions hassle-free.

Get Started With Your Clothing Line Today

And there you have it — the 21 terms you should know when getting started in the t-shirt industry!

Now that you’re more familiar with some industry specifics, you’re ready to dive deeper into launching your own clothing business. Check out our blog for more info on this exciting endeavor.

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21 Must-know Terms When Starting Your Clothing Line
Whether you’re new to the apparel world or are looking to dive a little deeper into the specifics of the industry, it’s great to broaden your knowledge of some of the commonly used terms of the trade.
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