Character shopping

How do you describe clothing in French? You’ll need a vocabulary that sounds as chic and stylish as the nation is itself! After all, learning French includes learning a lot about French culture – and what will tell you more about it than French fashion?

Whether you're shopping for new clothes or just trying to describe what you're wearing, the words and phrases we present today will come in handy. So pull out your beret, practice your best Gallic shrug, and read on for a crash course in French fashion terminology.

The Basics

Before you can start learning about specific pieces of clothing, you need to know the basics. Here are some essential French words and phrases for talking about clothes and fashion.

Once you have these down, you'll be ready to dive deeper and move on to more detailed vocabulary.

Les vêtements - Clothing

Native

Translation

les vêtements

clothing

un chemise

a shirt

un tee-shirt

a t-shirt

une robe

a dress

un pull

a sweater

un pantalon

pants

un jean

jeans

une jupe

a skirt

un short

a shorts

des chaussettes

socks

les chaussures

shoes

un manteau

a coat

un blouson

a waist length jacket, a bomber jacket

un chapeau

a hat

un écharpe

a scarf

les gants

gloves

French Clothing Vocabulary in Detail

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s go deeper and learn some other French fashion words. To make your life easier, we’ve divided them into groups. Learn them one section at a time and remember to practice regularly – and you’ll learn this vocabulary in no time.

Ready? Here they are:

Les hauts – Tops

Native

Translation

un chandail

a sweater (an old fashioned word)

un tricot

a (knitted) sweater (very old fashion word)

un pull en V, un pull à col en V

a V-neck sweater

un pull à col rond

a round neck sweater

un cardigan, un gilet

a cardigan

une chemise à manches courtes

a short sleeve shirt

une chemise à manches longues

a long sleeve shirt

une chemise à manches trois quarts/ [a 3

a 3/4 length sleeve shirt

une blouse

a lady’s shirt (a bit old fashioned)

un chemisier

a blouse

un débardeur

a tank top

Character choosing a top in a clothing store

Les bas – Bottoms

Native

Translation

un bermuda

knee length shorts

un capri

above the ankle pants

un caleçon

leggings (this is also the word for men’s underwear)

Please note that while in English, the boots are mostly used in plural: “pants,” “shorts,” “leggins,” in French, they are all singular. You can use the French word “des pantalons” to talk about one pair of pants, but it is pretty old-fashioned.

Les vêtements d’extérieur – Outerwear

Native

Translation

une veste

a blazer

un imperméable

a raincoat

un K-way, un coupe-vent

a rain jacket

K-way is a brand that became so popular in French, that it’s now used to describe a very thin plastic jacket that you can fold into a small bag tied around the waist.

Native

Translation

un blouson en (de) cuir

a leather jacket

un anorak

a ski jacket

une doudoune

a padded ski jacket, a parka

If you don’t want to learn all the above words or forget any of them, don’t worry. You can always say “un manteau” – it’s the generic word to describe something warm to wear outside. “Une veste” is also generic for outerwear.

Character reminding the other one to wear a raincoat

Vêtements de nuit – Nightwear

Native

Translation

une chemise de nuit

a night gown

un pyjama

PJs. (Note that it’s singular in French)

une robe de chambre

a robe

un peignoir (de bain)

another word for robe

des pantoufles

slippers

Vêtements pour femmes – Women's clothing

Native

Translation

un bikini

a bikini

un caraco

a thin strap top

une jupe au dessus du genou

an above the knee length skirt

une jupe au dessous du genou

an under the knee length skirt

une jupe longue

a long skirt

une jupe plissée

a pleated skirt

une jupe droite

a straight skirt

une jupe fendue

a skirt with a slit

une mini-jupe

a miniskirt

une robe du soir

an evening dress

une robe bustier

a strapless dress

une robe sans-manche

a sleeveless dress

une robe à manches longues | courtes

a dress with long | short sleeves

une robe avec des petites bretelles

a dress with small straps

un tailleur

a woman’s suit

And women’s underwear:

Native

Translation

une culotte

panties

un soutien-gorge

a bra

un collant

pantyhose | tights

une combinaison

a slip

un jupon

a half slip

des bas

stockings

Vêtements pour hommes – Men's clothing

Native

Translation

un costume

a men's suit

un gilet

a vest, a waistcoat

un complet

a man’s suit (very old fashioned)

un smoking

a tuxedo

un veston de sport

a sport jacket

And men’s underwear:

Native

Translation

un caleçon

underwear

un slip

briefs

un boxer-short

boxer shorts

un maillot de corps

an undershirt

Vêtements spéciaux – Special clothing

Native

Translation

une salopette

overalls

un bleu de travail

coveralls, a boiler suit

un uniforme

a uniform

une blouse d'infirmier (infirmière), de docteur

scrubs

un tablier

an apron

un maillot de bain

bathing suit

Les chaussures – Shoes

Native

Translation

des baskets

sneakers

des bottes

boots

des sandales

sandals

des chaussures à talons

high-heel shoes

des chaussures plates

flat-heel shoes

des chaussures à plateformes

platform shoes

des bottes en cuir

leather boots

des mocassins

loafers

des chaussures de randonnée

hiking boots

des tongs

flip-flops

des tennis

tennis shoes

des sabots

clogs

des bottes de pluie

rain boots

des après-ski

snow boots

Les accessoires – Accessories

Native

Translation

une bague

a ring

une boucle d’oreille

an earring

un bouton de manchette

a cufflink

un bracelet

a bracelet

une broche

a brooch

un châle

a shawl

un collier

a necklace

une cravate

a tie

une ceinture

a belt

des lunettes

glasses

des lunettes de soleil

sunglasses

une montre

a watch

un mouchoir

a handkerchief

un parapluie

an umbrella

A character giving a girl earrings

Other Important French Clothing Vocabulary

Now you are familiar with some important French vocabulary related to clothing. However, if you want to go shopping for clothing or talk about high fashion with your friends, you might need to know some additional vocabulary. Here are the other three categories you will find helpful in daily French life: clothing verbs, clothing materials, and clothing idioms.

Let’s check them out:

French Clothing Verbs

Native

Translation

aller à

to fit, to be the right size for someone (relating to clothes, shoes)

chausser

to put shoes on someone else | to fit, be the right size (relating to shoes)

se déshabiller

to get undressed

se rhabiller

to get dressed again

essayer

to try on

s’habiller

to get dressed

porter

to wear

enfiler

to slip into or to slip on

mettre

to put on

enlever

to take off

faire la lessive

to do the laundry

plier

to fold

repasser

to iron

ranger

to put away

Characters talking about doing laundry

French Clothing Materials

Native

Translation

le tissu

the fabric | cloth

le coton

cotton

le cuir

leather

la laine

wool

le nylon

nylon

la laine

wool

le lin

linen

la satin

satin

la soie

silk

le daim

suede

le velours

velvet

le velours côtelé

corduroy

le cachemire

cashmere

le lycra

lycra

les matières naturelles

natural materials

les matières synthétiques

synthetic materials

les matières bio

organic materials

To talk about materials or to say that something is made out of a certain material, use the preposition “en” – for example, “un pull en cachemire” (a cashmere sweater).

French Idioms Related to Clothing

Native

Translation

Je n’ai rien à me mettre.

I have nothing to wear.

Elle est sur son trente-et-un.

she is dressed very chic (literally: she is on her 31st).

Retourner souvent ta veste.

To change your opinions often (literally: turn your jacket inside out.)

Il l’a laissée tomber comme une vieille chaussette.

He he ditched her (literally: he dropped her like an old sock.)

Dans le couple, c’est elle qui porte le pantalon.

The woman has the power in the relationship (literally: she wears the pants in the couple

Je n’ai pas pris de gants.

I spoke directly and frankly (literally: I didn’t take the gloves.)

J’en ai plein les bottes !

I’m very tired | I’ve had enough (literally: I have plenty on my boots.)

Final Thoughts on French Clothing Vocabulary

France is well-known for its fashion designers, from Coco Chanel to Jean Paul Gaultier, who often serve as global trend-setters. All French learners, whether interested or not in haute couture and famous French designers with their latest fashion ideas, need to be aware of the key French clothing vocabulary.

This is not an issue of fashion of wearing clothes à la mode (in style) – it’s the issue of being aware of this huge part of the French culture that clothing and fashion are.

With these phrases at your disposal, you won’t only be able to describe what you're wearing and ask about clothes sizes, but you also get an opportunity to engage in exciting French discussions with native speakers and boost your understanding of both the French language and French society. We hope this vocabulary helps you stay a la mode!