Clothes in German: A complete wardrobe of 160+ terms, idioms & cultural tips

The fashion industry wouldn’t be the same without Haute Couture Designer Karl Lagerfeld and German top models like Claudia Schiffer and Heidi Klum. So if you happen to be in the fashion industry, you might have already come across some terms for clothes in German.

Even if you’re not that into fashion though, sooner or later you’ll run into clothes-related vocab when you’re learning German. After all, you and the people around you are probably wearing clothes most days of the week - and at some point you might want to talk about them!

Table of contents

Clothes in German

The proper way to say clothes in German is “Kleidung”. While the English word “clothes” has no singular, the German one has no plural. Some German slang terms for clothes are “Klamotten” or “Anziehsachen” (literally: to-dress-things).

There are a number of situations, in which it’s helpful to know the basic clothing terms from “hat” to “boots” in German:

  1. You might visit a German-speaking country and do some clothes shopping. Frankfurt, Vienna and Lausanne are great shopping destinations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland!
  2. If you don’t know a person’s name, you can make it clear who you’re talking about by referring to their clothes. So it’s good to know how to say “The lady in the brown coat” or “the guy in the yellow shirt” in German. It saves you from impolitely pointing fingers.
  3. Complimenting someone’s clothes is a safe and easy way to compliment a stranger, colleague or friend in German. Tell them they’re wearing a nice dress or you love their shoes. It will make their day!

Some helpful phrases you might want to remember include these important wardrobe-related questions and suggestions:

  • Was soll ich anziehen?
    (What should I wear?)
  • Wie ist der Dresscode?
    (What’s the dress code?)
  • Wie seh ich aus?
    (How do I look?)
  • Zieh einfach etwas Bequemes an.
    (Just wear something comfortable.)
  • Ich würde an deiner Stelle lieber etwas Schickes anziehen
    (I’d rather wear something fancy if I were you.)
  • Du siehst toll aus!
    (You look great!)

Download our FREE activity poster

For a great way to memorize the most common clothing types in German, make it interactive. Download our printable activity poster today, it's sure to pay off. Let's go!

Free Berlitz printable poster to help you learn the most common clothing items in German.

Dress codes in German

Usually German dress code is pretty casual. The most common styles are comfortable and casual or business casual in official settings. If you’re not going to the “Wiener Opernball” (the Vienna Opera Ball), the “Berlinale” (Germany’s biggest film gala) or similarly fancy events, it’s rather rare to see people dressed up in ball gowns and suits.

Beautiful wedding gowns for a formal wedding in German.

English German IPA
Casual Leger; Lässig [leˈʒɛːɐ̯; ˈlɛsɪç]
Smart casual Lässig-elegant [ˈlɛsɪç-eleˈɡant]
Semi-Formal Semi-Formell [ˈzemi-fɔʁˈmɛl]
Formal Formell [fɔʁˈmɛl]
Office attire Bürokleidung [byˈʁoːˈklaɪ̯dʊŋ]
Suit Anzug [ˈanˌtsuk]
Evening wear Abendgarderobe [ˈaːbntaʁdəobə]
Black tie Schwarze Krawatte [ˈʃvaʁt͡sə kʁaˈvatə]
White tie Weiße Krawatte [ˈvaɪ̯sə kʁaˈvatə]
Evening gown Abendkleid [ˈa:bəntklaɪ̯t]
Ball gown Ballkleid [ˈbalˌklaɪ̯t]

Underwear in German

Let’s hope you never encounter any underwear-related emergencies on vacation in Germany, but just in case, here is a list of underwear terms in German that will help you out.

English German IPA
Undershirt Unterhemd [ˈʊntɐˌhɛmt]
Underpants Unterhose [ˈʊntɐˌhoːzə]
Chemise Unterkleid [ˈʊntɐklaɪ̯t]
Briefs Kurze Unterhosen [ˈkʊʁt͡sə ˈʊntɐˌhoːzən]
Bra BH (short for “Büstenhalter”) [beːˈhaː]
Camisole Mieder [ˈmiːdɐ]
Corset Korsett [kɔʁˈzɛt]
Boxers Boxershorts [ˈbɔksɐˌʃɔʁt͡s]
Socks Socken [ˈzɔkn̩]
Knee-length sock Kniestrümpfe [ˈkniːˌʃtʁʏmp͡fə]
Panties Schlübbis (colloquial) [ʃlʏpbɪs]
Thong Tanga [ˈtaŋɡa]
Stockings Strümpfe [ˈʃtʁʏmp͡fə]
Pantyhose Strumpfhose [ˈʃtʁʊmp͡fˌhoːzə]

Outerwear in German

From windy Hamburg to snowy Munich, Germany isn’t exactly known for its great weather. So you better know what to wear for an outdoor activity. It always helps to ask a local what they suggest. All these outerwear words in German will come in handy for clarification.

Outerwear such as dresses, jackets, pants and shirts in German.

Dress in German

There’s the perfect dress for almost every event - from comfy shirt dresses to the classic black dress for any nighttime event.

English German IPA
Dress Kleid [klaɪ̯t]
Long dress Langes Kleid [ˈlaŋəs klaɪ̯t]
Short dress Kurzes Kleid [ˈkʊʁt͡səs klaɪ̯t]
Maxi dress Maxikleid [maksi:klaɪ̯t]
Formal dress Gesellschaftskleid [ɡəˈzɛlʃaftsklaɪ̯t]
Semi-formal dress Halb-formelles Kleid [halp-fɔʁˈmɛləs klaɪ̯t]
Cocktail dress Cocktailkleid [ˈkɔktɛɪ̯lˌklaɪ̯t]
Tube dress Schlauchkleid [ʃlaʊ̯xklaɪ̯t]
Sheath dress Etuikleid [ɛtˈviːˌklaɪ̯t]
Wedding dress Hochzeitskleid [ˈhɔxt͡saɪ̯t͡sˌklaɪ̯t]
Dress with a train Schleppenkleid [ˈʃlɛpn̩klaɪ̯t]
Sundress Strandkleid [ˈʃtʁantˌklaɪ̯t]
Babydoll dress Babydollkleid [ˈbeːbiˌdɔlklaɪ̯t]
Shirt dress Shirtkleid [ʃøːɐ̯tklaɪ̯t]
Romper Romper, Spielanzug [ʁo:mpɐ]
Little black dress Das kleine Schwarze [das ˈklaɪ̯nə ˈʃvaʁt͡sə]

Pants in German

“Pants” in German are “Hosen”. The most famous type of pants are the traditional “Lederhosen” but in everyday life, the most popular ones are probably shorts.

English German IPA
Pants, Trousers Hosen [ˈhoːzən]
Sweatpants Jogginghosen [jɔgi:ŋsho:zən]
Tracksuit pants Trainingshosen [ˈtʁɛːnɪŋsˌhoːzən]
Suit pants Hosenanzug [ho:zənantsu:k]
Shorts Shorts [ʃoːɐ̯t͡s]
Bermuda shorts Bermudashorts [bɛʁˈmuːdaʃoːɐ̯t͡s]
Baggy Pants Baggypants [ˈbɛɡiˌpɛnt͡s]
Harem pants Haremshosen [ˈhaːʁɛmsˌhoːzn̩]
Denims Jeans [dʒiːns]
Chinos Chinohose [ˈtʃiːno]
Pajama bottoms Schlafanzughose [ˈʃlaːfʔant͡suːkˌhoːzə]

Shirts and tops in German

The German word for “top” is “Oberteil”. Typically German, it’s very logical: The literal translation would be “upper thing”!

English German IPA
Top Oberteil [ˈoːbɐˌtaɪ̯l]
Shirt Shirt [ʃɜːt]
T-shirt T-shirt [ˈtiːˌʃøːɐ̯t]
Blouse Bluse [ˈbluːzə]
Button up shirt Hemd [hɛmt]
Polo shirt Polohemd [ˈpoːloˌhɛmt]
Singlet Trikothemd [tʁiˈkoːhɛmt]
Tunic Tunika [ˈtuːnika]
Sweater Pullover; Pulli [pʊˈloːvɐ; ˈpʊliː]
Hoodie Kapuzenpullover [kaˈpuːtsnplovɐ]
Turtle neck Rollkragenpullover [ˈʁɔlkʁaːɡn̩pʊˌloːvɐ]
Sweater vest Pullunder [pʊˈlʊndɐ]

Jacket or coat in German

These are especially important in the cold weather. Never, never forget your jacket in Germany! Even in the warmer months, it can get chilly here.

English German IPA
Jacket Jacke [ˈjakə]
Coat Mantel [ˈmantl]
Vest Weste [ˈvɛstə]
Cardigan Strickjacke [ˈʃtʁɪkˌjakə]
Blazer Blazer [ˈbleːzɐ]
Windbreaker Anorak [ˈanoʁak]

Skirt in German

“Skirt” in German is “Rock”. Easy to remember since skirts do kinda rock, right? Whatever your style is - mini denims or airy ruffled skirts - skirts are just easy and cool.

English German IPA
Skirt Rock [ʁɔk]
Long skirt Langer Rock [ˈlaŋɐ ʁɔk]
Short skirt Kurzer Rock [ˈkʊʁt͡sɐ ʁɔk]
Mini skirt Minirock [ˈmɪniˌʁɔk]
Ruffled skirt Rüschenrock [ˈʁyːʃn̩ʁɔk]
Pencil skirt Bleistiftrock [ˈblaɪ̯ʃtɪftˌʁɔk]
Pleated skirt Faltenrock [ˈfaltnʁɔk]
Kilt Schottenrock [ˈʃɔtn̩ʁɔk]
A-line skirt Glockenrock [ˈɡlɔkənʁɔk]
High-waisted skirt Hochtaillierter Rock [hoːxtaˈjiːɐ̯tɐ ʁɔk]

Shoes and boots in German

In German there are almost as many words for slippers as for all other kinds of shoes combined: Germans say “Pantoffeln”, “Puschen”, and “Latschen”, while the Swiss say “Finken” and the Austrians say “Schlapfen”, “Schluffen”, and “Patschen”. That almost sounds like someone is just making up German-sounding words, but they’re all real!

Shoes in German.

English German IPA
Shoes Schuhe [ˈʃuːə]
Boots Stiefel [ˈʃtiːfl̩]
Ankle boots Stiefeletten [ʃtiːfəˈlɛtn̩]
Stiletto Stilettos [ʃtiˈlɛtos]
Gumboot Gummistiefel [ˈɡʊmiˌʃtiːfl̩]
High heels Hackenschuhe [ˈhaknˈʃuːə]
Pumps Pumps [pœmps]
Sandals Sandalen [zanˈdaːlən]
Flip flops Flip Flops [ˈflɪpflɔps]
Formal shoes Formelle Schuhe [fɔʁˈmɛlə ˈʃuːə]
Flat shoes Flache Schuhe [ˈflaxə ˈʃuːə]
Sneakers Turnschuhe [ˈtʊʁnˌʃuːə]
Hiking shoes Wanderschuhe [ˈvandɐˌʃuːə]
Ballerinas Ballerinas [baləˈʁiːnas]
Clogs Holzschuhe [ˈhɔlt͡sˌʃuːə]
House shoes Hausschuhe [ˈhaʊ̯sˌʃuːə]
Slippers Pantoffeln; Latschen; Puschen [panˈtɔfl̩n; la:tʃən; ˈpʊʃn̩]
Slippers (Swiss) Finken [ˈfɪŋkŋ̍]
Slippers (Austrian) Schlapfen; Schluffen; Patschen [ˈʃlap͡fn̩; ˈʃlʊfn̩; patʃən]

Hats in German

If you’re up for a big fashion statement, choose a hat! They’re one of the most versatile pieces of clothing and probably the boldest one.

Women trying on hats in German.

English German IPA
Hat Hut [huːt]
Summer hat Sommerhut [ˈzɔmɐˌhuːt]
Cap Cap; Cappie [kɛp; kɛpi:]
Beret Baskenmütze [ba:skənmʏt͡sə]
Fedora Filzhut [ˈfɪlt͡sˌhuːt]
Beanie Mütze [ˈmʏt͡sə]
Straw hat Strohhut [ˈʃtʁoːˌhuːt]
Cowboy hat Cowboyhut [ˈkaʊ̯bɔɪ̯ˌhuːt]
Pointed hat Spitzhut [ʃpɪt͡shuːt]
Boonie hat Safarihut [zaˈfaːʁihuːt]
Top hat Zylinder [tsy:li:nde:]
Chef’s hat Kochmütze [ˈkɔxˌmʏt͡sə]
Turban Turban [ˈtʊʁbaːn]
Hood Kapuze [kaˈpuːtsə]
Bonnet Haube [ˈhaʊ̯bə]
Helmet Helm [hɛlm]

Other important clothing-related terms

Accessories can make or break an outfit. Most of them are somewhat seasonal, like scarves and gloves or sunglasses and summer hats. These are a number of accessories and other clothes-related terms we wouldn’t wanna miss including our personal favorites: pajamas!

Scarf, beanie and mittens in German.

English German IPA
Scarf Schal [ʃaːl]
Shawl Tuch [tuːx]
Headscarf Kopftuch [ˈkɔp͡fˌtuːx]
Gloves Handschuhe [ˈhantˌʃuːə]
Mittens Fäustlinge [ˈfɔɪ̯stlɪŋə]
Earmuffs Ohrenschützer [ˈoːʁənˌʃʏt͡sɐ]
Legwarmers Stulpen [ˈʃtʊlpn̩]
Watch Uhr [uːɐ̯]
Belt Gürtel [ˈɡʏʁtl̩]
Collar Kragen [ˈkʁaːɡn̩]
Necklace Halskette [ˈhalsˌkɛtə]
Ring Ring [ʁɪŋ]
Earring Ohrring [ˈoːɐ̯ˌʁɪŋ]
Toe ring Zehenring [ˈtseənŋ]
Bracelet Armband [ˈaʁmˌbant]
Piercing Piercing [ˈpiːɐ̯sɪŋ]
Umbrella Regenschirm [ˈʁeːɡn̩ˌʃɪʁm]
Sunglasses Sonnenbrille [ˈzɔnənˌbʁɪlə]
Bathing suit Badeanzug [ˈbaːdəˌʔant͡suːk]
Bikini Bikini [biˈkiːni]
Swim trunks Badehosen [ˈbaːdəˌhoːzn]
Uniform Uniform [ˈʊniˌfɔʁm]
School uniform Schuluniform [ˈʃuːlʔʊniˌfɔʁm]
Pajamas Schlafanzug [ˈʃlaːfʔanˌt͡suːk]

Clothing-related German idioms

Here are eight fun clothing-related German idioms that we found for you. We have shaken them out of our sleeves, you might say.

German Literal translation Meaning
Aus dem Ärmel schütteln To shake something out of your sleeve To come up with something just like that
Kleider machen Leute Clothes make people Clothes are status symbols
Das ist Jacke wie Hose That’s jacket like pants It makes no difference
Eine weiße Weste haben To have a white west To be innocent
Mir platzt der Kragen My collar is bursting I’m bursting with anger
Jemanden mit Samthandschuhen anfassen To touch someone with silk gloves To handle somebody with kid gloves
Zusammen unter einem Hut stecken To stick under the same hat together To be in the cahoots together
Wo drückt der Schuh? Where does the shoe pinch? What’s wrong?

Clothes related verbs in German

We do so many things with our clothes: put them on, take them off, wash them, dry them, fold them. Laundry is a never-ending circle and this is how you describe that circle in German with a number of clothes-related verbs.

English German IPA
To get dressed Sich anziehen [zɪç antsi:ən]
To get undressed Sich ausziehen [zɪç: ˈaʊ̯sˌt͡siːən]
To try on Anprobieren [ˈanpʁoˌbiːʁən]
To wear Tragen [ˈtʁaːɡn̩]
To suit Stehen [ˈʃteːən]
To tailor Maßschneidern [ˈmaːsˌʃnaɪ̯dɐn]
To button up Zuknöpfen [ˈtsuknœpfn]
To zip up Den Reißverschluss zumachen [de:n ˈʁaɪ̯sfɛɐ̯ˌʃlʊs tsu:maxən]
To sew Nähen [ˈnɛːən]
To knit Stricken [ˈʃtʁɪkn̩]
To crochet Häkeln [ˈhɛːkl̩n]
To patch Flicken [ˈflɪkn̩]
To wash Waschen [ˈvaʃn̩]
To dry Trocknen [ˈtʁɔknən]
To iron Bügeln [ˈbyːɡl̩n]
To fold Falten [ˈfaltən]

Cultural considerations when it comes to clothing in German

When you travel to Germany, you’re in for a few clothes and laundry-related surprises. Don’t expect a dryer in every household and definitely don’t expect all Germans to actually wear Lederhosen or Dirndl!

  • While you might picture Germans wearing “Trachtenkleidung”, the famous clothing that consists of “Lederhosen” (Leather pants) and “Dirndl” (A traditional dress), you might be surprised that this is exclusively a Bavarian tradition. In all other parts of Germany, it’s rather unlikely you’ll see people wear anything like this!
  • Washing machines are significantly smaller. Most washing machines are only the size of what would be considered a half load in the US.
  • You probably won’t find any top-loaders either because European homes tend to be a lot smaller, too. In apartments, washers are often part of the kitchen and therefore designed in a way that leaves some counter space on top of them.
  • Only around 40% of German households have a dryer and even those who do use them a lot less frequently than Americans.
  • Dryer guilt is a thing in Germany! Even if dryers are used, they tend to run for a long time because they’re often set to a more eco-friendly setting. To be honest, dryers are kind of frowned upon by many people because of their environmental impact.

Fashion is fun but clothes are even more than that

Clothes are a huge part of our lives, bigger than some of us may realize. As Stanley Tucci rightfully points out in The Devil Wears Prada: “Halston, Lagerfeld, de la Renta - what they did, what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it.” - and he’s right. We do spend our lives in clothes.

So take the time to learn some of these clothes-related German terms and make your language learning journey that much more fashionable!

Want more free German language and culture tips? Check out the other great articles we’ve got for you on our German language blog.

Call Us


Find out more

Fill in the form below and we’ll contact you to discuss your learning options and answer any questions you may have.