Two women hiding in a clothes rack smiling

French Clothing Vocabulary

It’s not hard to see why France has a reputation for great fashion.

Go to any French city, and you’ll see some of the most chic-ly dressed people in the world.

Just like with learning to count, learning the alphabet or mastering the present tense, it’s ideal to get on top of your basic clothing terms at an early stage in your French learning.

In this post, I’ll show you some of the most essential French clothing vocabulary you should know.

Whether you’re planning a shopping trip to Paris or you buy most of your clothes at your local thrift store, you’ll soon be talking about clothes entirely in French!



As in the English language, there are many variations on clothing tops in French. While grasping each one might seem challenging at first, it won’t be long before you know all of the niche differences without a second thought!

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 these are fairly straightforward, there are a few subtleties to be aware of. Un tee-shirt, for example, doesn’t always have to be short-sleeved, and might refer to a thinner long-sleeved top.

Une chemise is typically used to describe both shirts and blouses, although un chemisier specifically refers to a blouse.


Many of these in the French language take direct influence from English, so learning them is easy. As in the case of many other words such as le week-end (the weekend) and le tennis (tennis), the only difference with some of these is that they’re pronounced with a French accent.

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

Take note that while “pants,” “shorts” and “jeans” in English are plural, in French, they aren’t. Make sure you talk about them in the singular.

Outdoor Clothing

The world of outdoor clothing in French is particularly rich and there are many variations that come up. The way you refer to very similar but necessarily different items in French might take a little longer to get used to. If you make a mistake, though, don’t worry; French speakers will still be able to understand what you mean.

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 can throw up a few difficulties for French learners. Un manteau, for example, is usually used to refer to a heavier winter coat worn during the winter months.

Distinguishing between une veste and un blouson might also seem tricky at first: Typically, une veste is a lighter jacket, sport coat or blazer that’s often a little longer in length than sweaters and other shirts. Un blousonhowever, might refer to a heavier, shorter jacket that provides a little more warmth. (This could be a bomber jacket or leather jacket.)

The differences between these two can throw up a few problems, even amongst native speakers, so don’t worry too much about getting them wrong!

Special Occasion Clothing

Knowing about clothing for special events or vacations in French is always worth paying attention to, as it may come up in conversation. Getting to know what to take with you on vacation can be equally useful; planning a beach trip in France is very popular, and natives take their time off very seriously!

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


French speakers like to finish their outfits with the perfect accessories, and paying attention to the words for them can be very useful when in a French-speaking country.

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 might even notice that une cravate looks identical to the word “cravate” in English. In fact, it was borrowed from the French to describe the neckerchief or handkerchief some men choose to wear when dressing up.


Hats are a key part of many different outfits, so if you want to be specific about the hat that you want to buy or wear, here are the names of some popular hats in French.

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


Types of shoes vary in France and, depending on what you’re referring to, there could be any number of variations out there. Like in English, while using the generic term les chaussures (shoes) does work, it can pay to be a little more specific in conversation, or when searching for something to buy.

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

While there are many instances of French words being lifted from the English, here’s a good example of why you have to be careful of how those words are being used: Although baskets are used to refer to sneakers, the word used in the singular form, le basket, refers to the game of basketball.

Similarly, les tennis can be used to describe tennis shoes, but in its singular form, le tennisit refers to the game. The association between French and English can be simple, but it pays to know your singular from your plural!

Underwear and Sleepwear

With there being completely different sizing systems from countries outside of Europe, underwear shopping in France might throw you for a loop. It pays to know what you’re looking for when out shopping and knowing a few appropriate words can be a big help.

While different regions might refer to underwear with their own slang words, the following are universally accepted descriptions, and will always be understood.

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


If you want to opt for a patterned shirt or other garment rather than a plain block color, here are some common ways to refer to different patterns in French.

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

When constructing sentences about clothes that you or other people are wearing, verbs are a key element to the equation. Take a look at these verbs that you can combine with the above French clothing vocabulary to talk about fashion in French.

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)

To see some of the above words used in context, you could check out this video of native French speakers talking about their clothing from Easy French.

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Now you know the most essential French clothing vocabulary!

If you start to approach clothes in French the same way you would in English, you might be surprised at how quickly you’re able to catch on!

And one more thing...

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FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:


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For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:


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All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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