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Chic (style)

Conforming to the current fashion; stylish: chic clothes; a chic boutique. --American Heritage Dictionary

Chic is a French word, established in English since at least the 1870s, that has come to mean smart or stylish. Early references in English dictionaries classified it as slang and the New Zealand-born lexicographer Eric Partridge noted, with reference to its colloquial meaning, that it was "not so used in Fr[ench]" (Dictionary of Slang and Unconvential English, several ed 1937-61). There is a similar word in German, schick, meaning tact or skill; indeed chic may be linked to the word chicane.

In 1887 The Lady noted that "the ladies of New York ... think no form of entertainment so chic as a luncheon party" (20 January 1887).

The Oxford Dictionary gives the comparative and superlative forms as chicer and chicest. An adverb chicly has also appeared: see, for example, Tatler, May 2006: "Pamela Gross ... turned up chicly dressed down".

The "-chic" form
Towards the end of the 20th century and in the early years of the 21st, lexicographers, such as Susie Dent in her annual Language Reports (2003-5) for the Oxford University Press, noted how "-chic", as a suffix, came to be applied to various trends in fashion.

This form can probably be traced to the term, radical chic, coined in 1970 by the American journalist Tom Wolfe (b.1930) to describe a concert given for the Black Panthers by the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. By extension this was applied more generally to the adoption of radical causes by well-to-do society figures.

Some imitative terms, such as heroin chic (the waif-like, drug addicted look of the mid 1990s associated with the model Kate Moss) and boho-chic (a "Bohemian" style popularised by actress Sienna Miller in the mid "noughties") had a significant and recognisable impact, but others were essentially the passing coinages of journalists or retailers. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chic_(style) [May 2006]

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