When reading fashion writing, you’ll often come across the phrase “have on” used to describe what someone is wearing. This terminology may sound awkward or unclear to modern ears. So what exactly does it mean to “have on” an outfit? And why do fashion writers lean on this antiquated phrase?
Let’s explore the meaning, history, and usage of “have on” in the context of fashion.
- The Definition of “Have On” for Clothing
- The Origins and Evolution of “Have On” for Fashion
- Usage of “Have On” in Today’s Fashion Writing
- FAQs about “Have On” in Fashion Writing
The Definition of “Have On” for Clothing
To “have on” an item of clothing means you are currently dressed in or wearing that garment. For example:
- Anna had on a blue dress for the evening gala.
- The models had on the latest designer collections as they walked down the runway.
- I had on my favorite leather jacket today.
So “have on” essentially functions as a synonym for wearing or dressed in when describing someone’s outfit. While it may sound awkward to modern ears, “have on” used to be a standard way of denoting what someone was wearing. Let’s look at the history behind this phrasing.
The Origins and Evolution of “Have On” for Fashion
Using “have on” to describe clothing dates back centuries in the English language. In the 1700s and 1800s, it was common for people and fashion writers to say someone “had on” a gown, coat, or other garment. Back then fashion journalism was just emerging and writers were establishing the standard lingo.
The phrase “have on” literally refers to the act of possessing or holding an object on one’s body. So it served as a logical, if verbose, way of recounting sartorial details. While it may sound antiquated now, “have on” has become engrained in fashion vocabulary.
By the early 1900s, “have on” was ubiquitous in fashion writing and reporting. Style columnists would exhaustively describe what celebrities and socialites had on at events down to every accessory and fabric. However, as fashion language modernized over the decades, “have on” gradually fell out of favor as more direct phrasing like “wearing” took its place.
But the phrase still lingers, especially in old school fashion journalism contexts.
Usage of “Have On” in Today’s Fashion Writing
So when and why do contemporary fashion writers still use the antiquated terminology “have on”? Here are a few key ways it crops up:
In Established High Fashion Publications
Certain prestigious fashion magazines and newspapers like Vogue and the New York Times Style Section preserve the tradition of “have on” in their reporting on runway shows, society events, and celebrity style.
For example, you may read a sentence like: “Scarlett Johansson had on an emerald green Versace gown and Bulgari jewels at the benefit gala.”
Using “have on” in these elevated fashion writing contexts lends an air of sophistication. It also honors the publication’s history and reads as an intentional stylistic choice versus simply outdated language.
In Detailed Descriptions of Outfits
You’re more likely to encounter “have on” when an article provides an in-depth rundown of an entire #OOTD. For instance:
“Sarah Jessica Parker had on a plaid Burberry trench, olive green wide leg trousers, a ruffled white button down, and brown riding boots while filming in Manhattan.”
Since the phrasing flows well in detailed fashion descriptions, it persists selectively.
For Dialogue and Quoting Sources
Writers may use “have on” when directly quoting sources as a way to accurately portray how someone speaks about fashion.
“The designer told me the model had on a one-of-a-kind sample gown straight from the Paris runway show.”
Here the vocabulary reflects the original speaker rather than the writer themselves.
While not as ubiquitous as it once was, “have on” still maintains a place in fashion writing. It hearkens back to a more genteel era of style reporting. But some argue today’s more direct phrasing paints a clearer picture for readers than flowery terms like “have on.” In the end, word choice comes down to stylistic preferences in fashion language that evolve with the times and trends.
FAQs about “Have On” in Fashion Writing
Still, have questions about using “have on” when writing about clothing? Here are answers to 5 frequently asked questions:
1. Is “have on” proper English?
Yes, “have on” is perfectly proper and grammatically correct English. While it may sound antiquated or formal, “have on” has been used for centuries to describe wearing clothing.
2. Do people still say “have on” in casual conversation?
Outside of fashion writing, “have on” is rarely used in casual modern speech. Most people today would simply say “I’m wearing…” rather than “I have on…” in everyday conversations about clothing.
3. What’s an example of “have on” in a sentence?
An example sentence is: “Beyonce had on a stunning gold embellished gown at the awards show after party.”
4. When did people stop saying “have on” as often?
“Have on” started fading from pop culture vernacular in the mid-20th century. By the 1970s and 80s, it became known as fashion jargon versus mainstream lingo.
5. Is “have on” better than saying “wearing”?
Stylistically, it’s up to individual writers. “Have on” evokes an old-fashioned elegance that may suit certain fashion pieces or publications. But “wearing” is more widely used and understood today.