CLOTHING and FASHION vocabulary in ITALIAN: how to describe what you’re wearing

Let’s be honest, everyone decides to go shopping in Italy, right? Then, knowing the terms listed in this article might prove to be helpful! We won’t talk about shirts or trousers, but we’ll talk about words a bit more complex, which you need to know in order to be able to say that you have a more advanced level of Italian.

Italian Fashion Vocabulary

Italy is, along with France, the homeland of fashion, which boasts designers and brands internationally recognized as synonymous with quality and elegance. And all italians, at least once a week, love to dress up. Not everyone can afford  expensive brands, but surely it is important to know all the terms listed below, even for cheaper purchases.


A dress is a woman’s garment that, however, has many different versions and styles:

Tube dress:

A tube dress is a simple dress, generally tight, knee-length and sleeveless.


A caftan is a dress with a soft cut, usually up to the ankle, open on the front, with long and wide sleeves. It is usually made from very light fabrics such as cotton or silk. You can wear it open, maybe over a swimsuit, or closed with a sash, or a belt generally obtained from the same fabric of the dress.


This dress is sleeveless and generally has a round neckline, straight or square. It is usually worn on a shirt or t-shirt.

Peplum dress:

The peplo was a white dress worn by women in ancient Greece. Today it is a very simple dress, a sheath dress and linear embellished, in the waist, by a beret, a volant that breaks and streamlines the figure.


As we will see also later, there are many terms that the Italian has borrowed from the French in the field of fashion. This is one of those. The chemisier is a dress closed at the front by buttons, with or without collar, essential line, simple, that is very reminiscent of that of a shirt.

Robe manteau:

Another French term: this indicates a dress that, however, in its cut is very reminiscent of a jacket or coat, is in fact buttoned on the front, often double-breasted, with collar and men’s lapels.


A men’s suit made up of jacket and trousers is called, in fact, a suit or dress. If the jacket and trousers are combined together but have different colors, fabrics or patterns, then it is called “spezzato”.

However, there are also other types of men’s suits:


It is a male evening dress usually in cloth or silk and wool. It consists of a mono or double-breasted jacket and pants with a silk gallon on the outer seam. The tuxedo is also characterized by a sort of high belt in silk that is put on the pants and that covers the waist.


It’s a man’s formal suit, with black jacket with a long flap behind and striped trousers in shades of gray or black. A pearl grey or white vest is generally added to the suit.


It’s a suit used for very formal occasions, with short jacket up to the waist on the front, that extends behind in two flaps called “dovetails”.

These elegant outfits can be matched with:

  • a bow tie, more commonly known as papillon;
  • a classic tie, or one of its variants (plastron, knotted and stopped with a pin – ascot, knotted with a double knot and stopped with a pin, typical of the tight)
  1. TOPS

Many students wonder what the difference is between “maglia”, sweater and t-shirt. The T-shirt is generally light, cottoned, short-sleeved  A “maglia” instead is, according to the dictionary, a “knitted textile garment, tight to the chest, made to be worn on the skin”. Well, the word “maglia” is quite generic and basically indicates all the clothing that you wear at the top of the body, without making accurate distinctions.

A “maglia” as we were saying, It can have short or long sleeves and the neckline (or neckline) can be round, V-shaped, squared, crew neck, boat, single shoulder, American style or without straps.

Amongs the tops, the most important types are:

The sweatshirt (with or without hood), that can be openable through a zip or closed.

The turtleneck, a high neck, snug and folded on itself whose name comes (had you already imagined it?) from Fellini’s film “La Dolce Vita”, because in that period the protagonist of the film Marcello Mastroianni often wore it, even outside the setting film.

The lupetto which, unlike the turtleneck, does not bend over itself: it is well fitted and rises up to half the throat.

The cardigan, a wool knit jacket, without collar or lapels, with long sleeves and buttoning on the front, usually with buttons.


Men’s and women’s trousers may be:

high waist, which are worn at or above the hips, usually at least 8 cm above the navel.

low-rise, which are worn below the hips, a few inches lower than the navel.

flared, a type of tight pants on the thighs that come down very wide from the knees down.

“cigarette”, straight cut and slightly tight, but not too much especially on the calves and ankles.

plus fours , short and wide, below the knee.

carrot-like, wide on the sides and thighs, which then descend a bit larger on the legs.

palazzo pants, pants with high waist and pleats, long and with straight and very wide leg.

shorts, more or less short, but always above the knee.

  1. SHOES

As for shoes, the most important types to know are:

The “ballerina” shoes, called so because they are inspired by the shoes of ballet dancers, very low and low-cut on the foot, they are generally round on the front but some are pointed.

Loafers, soft shoes, without laces, low-cut on the foot, with flexible and lightweight sole.

Sandals, open shoes, generally flat and with strips of leather or fabric on the top.

The pumps, once again a French term, to indicate the classic and timeless high-heeled shoes, more or less edgy.

The Chanels, shoes with heels, closed in front and open behind, closed with a strap, designed by Coco Chanel.

Cowboy boots, pointed and heeled leather boots, reminiscent of those used by cowboys in western movies.

The brogues, with or without heel, in patent leather or suede but always laced, with laces. Do you know what they are called in France? Let us know in the comments!

Flip-flops made up of Y-shaped sole and belt, used especially for the beach or more informal contexts.

Slippers, are open shoes (with a band on top) or front closed that are used at home.

Ankle boots, generally suede and ankle high.

The “tronchetti” (ankle boots) are boots with more or less high heel, and they go higher above the ankle.

Sneakers, are in different fabrics and originally intended for physical activity, even if today we all use them to go out.

The sabots, basically low shoes, closed on the front but that leave the heel uncovered.

  1. BAGS

When you think about one of the most important accessories for every outfit, you usually think about bags. Of course, there are some distinctions to make here too.

Bags can be: shoulder strap bag(with an adjustable strap that rests on one shoulder and drops it down to the hips), shoulder bags(to be placed on the shoulder) or hand bags (to be carried in the hand). Then, there is also the pouch, a purse that is worn at the waist.

As for the shapes, however, we have:

Shape trunk, tapered and elongated, with double handle and closed by a zipper.

Mail man-like, a shoulder bag often flat and with pockets.

The bucket, which recalls the shape of a bucket and closes through tie rods.

The tote, large bag with double handle, usually rectangular and which remains open at the top, used mainly for work and office.

The clutch, small evening bag without handle, soft or rigid, to carry in hand.

The trousse (or beauty case), small or large bag, rather rigid, often in the shape of a round or rectangular box, which generally contains makeup, creams and personal care products.

  1. HATS

Remaining on the subject of accessories, let’s take a quick look at the most important types of hats:

Baseball hat, the one with a visor.

The fedora, soft felt hat, with a recess in the center of the dome and the curved flap.

The straw hat, a round straw hat, with a flat and hard dome, a rigid brim and usually decorated with a ribbon.

The panama, summer straw hat with wide brim and with the cap hollowed at the center.

The turban, headdress that comes from the East, formed by a long silk scarf, wrapped with multiple turns around the head.

Before concluding, let’s list some words about materials and prints.


Acrylic, light, does not wrinkle, dries quickly and should not be ironed.

Brocade,precious woven fabric, characterized by patterns woven in relief, usually flowers or figures.

Velvet, fabric woven with a short and soft pile, with a smooth, compact, shiny surface.

Tulle, lightweight fabric, very fluffy, is used in layers often overlapped.

Satin, fabric with a very smooth and glossy uniform appearance.

Silk, thin and shiny fiber, very valuable.

Lace, more or less elaborated.

Pile, soft synthetic fabric, highly insulating, very warm.

Cotton, that doesn’t need no explanations.

Linen, one of the oldest vegetable fibers, very light and fresh.







Pied de poule

Polka dot







Leopard print


Now that you have reached the end of the article, do not forget to put into practice what you have learned and use these words as often as possible. For example, write us in the comments below what you are wearing right now.

Instead, if you want to learn or revise the vocabulary of kitchen utensils, look at the lesson dedicated entirely to the kitchen vocabulary in Italian!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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