Describing clothes in French

In this article, we are going to look at the different ways of describing clothes in French in terms of type, fabric, patterns, colour, and sizes. Describing clothes in French will no longer hold any secrets for you.

You can choose haute-couture, designer brands, (les marques de créateurs), or ready-to-wear (prêt-à porter) outfits - des tenues.

You might choose des vêtements classiques, which means conventional clothing or des vêtements chics – smart clothes – des vêtements habillés – formal attire – or des vêtements décontractés – casual wear, (which can also be called le sportswear).

Younger people or skateboarders also wear streetwear, comprising, for instance: T-shirts, baggy trousers (des baggys), and bright colours (des couleurs vives/fluo).

The word vintage is also used for describing clothes these days, meaning styles from the seventies and eighties.

French vocabulary terms for types of clothing

A few everyday clothes’ names are the same/similar to English, note that all the nouns are masculine so preceded by un or le:

Words used from other languages:

Other words for clothes in French:

Describing clothes styles in French

We are going to look at different styles in each category.

For dresses and skirts, you might choose une robe/une jupe courte - a short dress/skirt, or une robe/jupe longue – a long dress/skirt.

Or a mid-length dress/skirt – une robe/jupe à mi-mollet.

You could choose between une robe droite, a straight dress - une robe cintrée – a waisted dress - une robe de plage – a sundress – une robe chemise – a shirt dress – une robe à col rond – a round-collared dress – une robe à col claudine – a dress with a Peter Pan collar – une robe avec décolleté – a low cut dress – une robe à boutons - a button-through dress.

For skirts, you might choose une mini-jupe – a mini-skirt, une jupe plissée – a pleated skirt- une jupe crayon – a pencil skirt – une jupe évasée – a flared skirt.

For jeans, you could chose – un jean skinny – skinny jeans - un jean slim - slim jeans, un jean bootcut - bootcut jeans, un jean à coupe droite – straight legged jeans.

For trousers : un pantalon à coupe droite – straight-legged trousers, un pantalon ample or un baggy – baggy trousers, - un pantalon serré - tight trousers, un pantalon à patte d’éléphant often reduced to à patte d’eph, literally trousers like elephant legs – otherwise, in English we would say: flared trousers, or flares.

For both jeans and trousers, you can choose un pantalon ou un jean à taille basse – hipsters, or à un pantalon ou un jean à taille hautehigh-waisted trousers/jeans.

Or un jean coupe boyfriend. Women can also choose un pantalon carotte – carrot pants. Both sexes can wear des Chinos – Chinos.

For pullovers/sweaters, you can choose un col roulé – a polo-neck sweater – un pull à col rond – a round-neck sweater, un pull avec un col en V - a V-neck sweater , un pull col camionneur - a turtle-neck sweater, un pull col cheminée – a funnel neck sweater, un pull avec un col Claudine – a sweater with a Peter Pan collar.

For shorts, you can choose un short de bain – beach/swimming shorts, un short en jean – denim shorts - un short de foot/un short de surf – football shorts/board shorts– or un Bermuda – Bermuda shorts – also un short court ou un mini-short – short shorts/ultra-short shorts or hotpants.

For sweatshirts, we can find des sweats sans capuche – sweatshirts without hoods or un sweat à capuche – a hoody. Un sweat zippé – a zipped sweatshirt.

For coats - des manteaux - and jackets - des vestes et des blousons :

Un pardessus – an overcoat, une doudoune – a quilted winter coat (down coat), un imperméable often reduced to ‘un imper’ – a raincoat, un-K-way – a cagoule, be careful un ‘cagoule’ in French is a balaclava.

Un blouson d’aviateur literally a pilot’s jacket – un bombardier - a bomber jacket, sometimes the English word – bomber - is used without jacket afterwards but the ‘b’ is pronounced. Un Harington – un teddy – a teddy jacket, un caban – a pea coat. As well as un duffle-coat et un trench – a trench coat, a copy of what soldiers wore in the trenches.

Un perfecto – a perfecto short leather jacket, un parka – a parka coat, un poncho – a poncho, or une cape – a cape. Coats and jackets can of course be long or short.

For example, un manteau long – a long coat or une veste courte – a short jacket.

Likewise for various topsdes tops ou des hauts, you can choose between: à manches longues - long-sleeved or à manches courtes – short-sleeved, or sans manches – sleeveless.

Notice that a short-sleeved shirt for men is called une chemisette – “a little shirt.”

Describing the colors of clothes in French

Colors – les couleurs/teintes

To describe clothes in terms of colour, add an adjective of colour after the noun. Don’t forget to add the feminine ending to the adjective if necessary.

For example:

Other examples:

Use the adjective « clair » for light + a colour and the adjective « foncé » for dark + a colour.

The adjectives « fluo » or « flashy » are used for very bright colours.

For example:

The word ‘funky’ is also used to describe something which is patterned and has bright colours. For example: un gilet funky – a funky waistcoat.

Or pale + colour for pale colours.

For example:

Other colours which are used for clothes:

Describing the fabrics of clothes in French

The French word for fabric or material is: « le tissu ».

To describe the fabric the item - l’article is made from: say the item’s name first, then add ‘en’ + the fabric.

For example:

If you want to specify the colour, add it after the fabric:

More clothes fabric names in French:

Clothes motifs in French

The item might have a pattern/print – un motif/un imprimé or it might be plain - uni. For example a patterned blouse – un chemisier à motif – a patterned T-shirt – un T-shirt imprimé.

Here is some vocabulary for describing patterns/prints:

French vocabulary terms related to underwear

General vocabulary terms:

For both men and women:

Vocabulary terms for women’s underwear:

Vocabulary terms for men’s underwear:

Clothing sizes / les tailles

For sizes, refer to the following conversions. For some clothes like sweatshirts, you will find the same sizing as in the U.K: S,M,L, XL and going right up to 5XL in some cases.

Women’s clothes, for dresses, skirts trousers, etc.

UK 8 = FR 36, UK 10 = FR 38, UK 12 = FR 40, UK 14 = FR 42, UK 16 = FR 44, UK 18 = FR 46, UK 20 = FR 48/50, UK 22 = FR 52, UK 24 = FR 54.

Men’s clothes, for trousers, coats, and suits, etc.

UK 34 = FR 44, UK 36 = FR 46, UK 38 = FR 48, UK 40 = FR 50, UK 42 = FR 52, UK 44 = FR 54, UK 46 = FR 56, UK 48 = FR 58, UK 50 = FR 60.

Men’s shirts/collar sizes:

UK 14 = FR 36, UK 14.5 = FR 37, UK 15 = FR 38, UK 15.5 = FR 39, UK 16 = FR 40 UK 16.5 = FR 41, UK 17 = FR42.

As in the UK, children’s clothes are labelled by ages and usually stop at age 16.

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