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How to Talk About Fashion in French: A Complete Guide

CEO Tinh Phung
Image: Two women hiding in a clothes rack smiling France has long been hailed as a fashion capital, known for its impeccable style. From the streets of Paris to the local thrift stores, French fashion...

Two women hiding in a clothes rack smiling Image: Two women hiding in a clothes rack smiling

France has long been hailed as a fashion capital, known for its impeccable style. From the streets of Paris to the local thrift stores, French fashion is a conversation worth having. In this article, we will explore the essential French clothing vocabulary that will elevate your fashion discussions. Whether you're planning a trip to Paris or simply want to expand your language skills, this guide is for you.

Tops

When it comes to tops in French, there are various options to explore. From t-shirts to sweaters, each term carries its own unique flair.

French English
Les hauts Tops
Le chemisier Blouse
La chemise Shirt
Le T-shirt T-shirt
Le pull Sweater
Le gilet Cardigan
Le débardeur Tank top
Le maillot Jersey
La veste Jacket
La chemisette Blouse (short-sleeved)
Le sweat Sweatshirt
Le polo Polo shirt
La camisole Camisole
Le corsage Bodice
Le caraco Caraco

While most terms are straightforward, there are a few nuances to consider. For example, "un tee-shirt" doesn't always refer to a short-sleeved top and can sometimes denote a thinner long-sleeved option. Additionally, "une chemise" is often used to describe both shirts and blouses, while "un chemisier" specifically refers to a blouse.

Bottoms

French terminology for bottoms is influenced by English, making it relatively easy to grasp. However, it's important to note that unlike English, French terms for pants, shorts, and jeans are singular.

French English
Le pantalon Pants
La jupe Skirt
Le short Shorts
Le jean Jeans
Le legging Leggings
La culotte Panties
Le slip Briefs
Le shorty Boyshorts
Le jogging Sweatpants
La combinaison Jumpsuit
Le bermuda Bermuda shorts
Le caleçon Boxers
La salopette Overalls
Le pantacourt Capri pants
La culotte gainante Shapewear

Outdoor Clothing

French vocabulary for outdoor clothing offers a wide range of terms. While some items may seem similar, there are subtle differences worth noting. However, if you make a mistake, don't worry. French speakers will still understand what you mean.

French English
Les vêtements d'extérieur Outdoor clothing
L'imperméable Raincoat
La veste de randonnée Hiking jacket
Le chapeau de soleil Sun hat
Le pantalon de randonnée Hiking pants
Les bottes de randonnée Hiking boots
Les gants de ski Ski gloves
Le bonnet Beanie
La veste coupe-vent Windbreaker
Le pantalon imperméable Waterproof pants
Les chaussures de marche Walking shoes
L'écharpe Scarf
Le sac à dos Backpack
Le gilet de sauvetage Life jacket
La parka Parka

Outdoor coats and jackets in French can be a little tricky. "Un manteau" refers to a heavier winter coat, while "une veste" is a lighter jacket that is often longer in length than sweaters and other shirts. "Un blouson" typically refers to a heavier, shorter jacket that provides extra warmth, such as a bomber or leather jacket. Don't fret if you mix up these terms, even native speakers can sometimes struggle with the distinction.

Special Occasion Clothing

Knowing how to talk about clothing for special occasions or vacations is always handy in conversation. Additionally, understanding what to pack for a beach trip or a night out in France can elevate your travel experience.

French English
Le costume Suit
Le smoking Tuxedo
Le maillot de bain Bathing suit
Le bikini Bikini
La robe Dress
La cravate Tie
Les chaussures de soirée Evening shoes
Le smoking Dinner jacket
La robe de cocktail Cocktail dress
Le noeud papillon Bow tie
Les chaussures habillées Dress shoes
Le costume trois pièces Three-piece suit
La Cravate en soie Silk tie

Accessories

French speakers have a keen eye for accessories. Familiarizing yourself with these terms will enhance your understanding of French fashion and help you navigate shopping conversations.

French English
L'accessoire The accessory
Le bijou The jewel
Le sac The bag
La ceinture The belt
Le chapeau The hat
Les gants The gloves
Le parapluie The umbrella
Les lunettes The glasses
Le foulard The scarf
Le portefeuille The wallet
La cravate The tie
Le collier The necklace
Les chaussettes The socks
Le parfum The perfume
Le bracelet The bracelet

You may notice that "une cravate" looks identical to the English word "cravat." In fact, the English term was borrowed from French to describe a neckerchief or handkerchief that some men choose to wear when dressing up.

Hats

Hats are a crucial part of many outfits, and being able to specify the type of hat you desire is essential. Here are the French terms for popular hats.

French English
Le chapeau Hat
Le béret Beret
La casquette Cap
Le bonnet Beanie
Le panama Panama hat
Le fedora Fedora
Le sombrero Sombrero
Le turban Turban
Le bob Bucket hat
Le casque Helmet

Shoes

Shoe terminology in French varies depending on the specific type of shoe you are referring to. While the generic term "les chaussures" covers shoes in general, being more specific in conversation or while shopping can be advantageous.

French English
Les chaussures Shoes
Les bottes Boots
Les sandales Sandals
Les baskets Sneakers
Les mocassins Loafers
Les talons hauts High heels
Les tongs Flip-flops
Les pantoufles Slippers
Les chaussures de sport Sports shoes

Although French often borrows words from English, it's important to use them correctly. For example, "baskets" refer to sneakers, while "le basket" refers to the game of basketball. Similarly, "les tennis" can describe tennis shoes, while "le tennis" refers to the sport itself. Understanding the singular and plural forms of these terms is key.

Underwear and Sleepwear

Shopping for underwear in France can be a unique experience due to different sizing systems. Knowing the appropriate vocabulary will help you find what you're looking for.

French English
Le pyjama Pajamas
Le slip Underwear
Le caleçon (Men's) underpants
La culotte (Women's) panties
Les chaussettes Socks
Le soutien-gorge Bra
Le peignoir Bathrobe
La chemise de nuit Nightgown
La combinaison Jumpsuit
Le soutien-gorge de sport Sports bra
Le collant Tights
Les sous-vêtements thermiques Thermal underwear

Patterns

If you prefer patterned garments over plain block colors, understanding the common terms for different patterns in French will come in handy.

French English
Les rayures Stripes
Le pois Polka dots
Le carreau Checkered
Le floral Floral
Le zigzag Zigzag
Le camouflage Camouflage
Le léopard Leopard
Le chevron Chevron
Le tartan Tartan
Le damier Checkerboard

Clothing Verbs

Verbs are crucial when describing the clothes you or others are wearing. Combine these verbs with the French clothing vocabulary to discuss fashion effortlessly.

French English
Essayer To try on
Ajuster To fit
Porter To wear
Enfiler To put on
Enlever To take off
S'habiller To get dressed
Se déshabiller To get undressed
Fermer To close
Ouvrir To open
Acheter To buy
Vendre To sell
Changer To change
Laver To wash
Sécher To dry
Repasser To iron
Ranger To tidy up
Coudre To sew
Déchirer To tear
Boutonner To button up
Déboutonner To unbutton
Ziper To zip up
Déziper To unzip
Serrer To tighten
Détendre To loosen
Étirer To stretch
Rétrécir To shrink
Grandir To grow (out)

By combining these words with the appropriate verbs, you'll be able to describe clothing effortlessly. For more context, check out the video of native French speakers discussing their clothing from Easy French.

Now that you possess the essential French clothing vocabulary, immerse yourself in the language of fashion. With these words at your disposal, you'll quickly become fluent in the world of French fashion. Happy shopping!

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