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

Marie Schmoll

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!

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!)

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
CasualLeger; Lässig[leˈʒɛːɐ̯; ˈlɛsɪç]
Smart casualLässig-elegant[ˈlɛsɪç-eleˈɡant]
Semi-FormalSemi-Formell[ˈzemi-fɔʁˈmɛl]
FormalFormell[fɔʁˈmɛl]
Office attireBürokleidung[byˈʁoːˈklaɪ̯dʊŋ]
SuitAnzug[ˈanˌtsuk]
Evening wearAbendgarderobe[ˈaːbntaʁdəobə]
Black tieSchwarze Krawatte[ˈʃvaʁt͡sə kʁaˈvatə]
White tieWeiße Krawatte[ˈvaɪ̯sə kʁaˈvatə]
Evening gownAbendkleid[ˈa:bəntklaɪ̯t]
Ball gownBallkleid[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 GermanIPA
UndershirtUnterhemd[ˈʊntɐˌhɛmt]
UnderpantsUnterhose[ˈʊntɐˌhoːzə]
ChemiseUnterkleid[ˈʊntɐklaɪ̯t]
BriefsKurze Unterhosen[ˈkʊʁt͡sə ˈʊntɐˌhoːzən]
BraBH (short for “Büstenhalter”)[beːˈhaː]
CamisoleMieder[ˈmiːdɐ]
CorsetKorsett[kɔʁˈzɛt]
BoxersBoxershorts[ˈbɔksɐˌʃɔʁt͡s]
SocksSocken[ˈzɔkn̩]
Knee-length sockKniestrümpfe[ˈkniːˌʃtʁʏmp͡fə]
PantiesSchlübbis (colloquial)[ʃlʏpbɪs]
ThongTanga[ˈtaŋɡa]
StockingsStrümpfe[ˈʃtʁʏmp͡fə]
PantyhoseStrumpfhose[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 GermanIPA
DressKleid[klaɪ̯t]
Long dressLanges Kleid[ˈlaŋəs klaɪ̯t]
Short dressKurzes Kleid[ˈkʊʁt͡səs klaɪ̯t]
Maxi dressMaxikleid[maksi:klaɪ̯t]
Formal dressGesellschaftskleid[ɡəˈzɛlʃaftsklaɪ̯t]
Semi-formal dressHalb-formelles Kleid[halp-fɔʁˈmɛləs klaɪ̯t]
Cocktail dressCocktailkleid[ˈkɔktɛɪ̯lˌklaɪ̯t]
Tube dressSchlauchkleid[ʃlaʊ̯xklaɪ̯t]
Sheath dressEtuikleid[ɛtˈviːˌklaɪ̯t]
Wedding dressHochzeitskleid[ˈhɔxt͡saɪ̯t͡sˌklaɪ̯t]
Dress with a trainSchleppenkleid[ˈʃlɛpn̩klaɪ̯t]
SundressStrandkleid[ˈʃtʁantˌklaɪ̯t]
Babydoll dressBabydollkleid[ˈbeːbiˌdɔlklaɪ̯t]
Shirt dressShirtkleid[ʃøːɐ̯tklaɪ̯t]
RomperRomper, Spielanzug[ʁo:mpɐ]
Little black dressDas 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 GermanIPA
Pants, TrousersHosen[ˈhoːzən]
SweatpantsJogginghosen[jɔgi:ŋsho:zən]
Tracksuit pantsTrainingshosen[ˈtʁɛːnɪŋsˌhoːzən]
Suit pantsHosenanzug[ho:zənantsu:k]
ShortsShorts[ʃoːɐ̯t͡s]
Bermuda shortsBermudashorts[bɛʁˈmuːdaʃoːɐ̯t͡s]
Baggy PantsBaggypants[ˈbɛɡiˌpɛnt͡s]
Harem pantsHaremshosen[ˈhaːʁɛmsˌhoːzn̩]
DenimsJeans[dʒiːns]
ChinosChinohose[ˈtʃiːno]
Pajama bottomsSchlafanzughose[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 GermanIPA
TopOberteil[ˈoːbɐˌtaɪ̯l]
ShirtShirt[ʃɜːt]
T-shirtT-shirt[ˈtiːˌʃøːɐ̯t]
BlouseBluse[ˈbluːzə]
Button up shirtHemd[hɛmt]
Polo shirtPolohemd[ˈpoːloˌhɛmt]
SingletTrikothemd[tʁiˈkoːhɛmt]
TunicTunika[ˈtuːnika]
SweaterPullover; Pulli[pʊˈloːvɐ; ˈpʊliː]
HoodieKapuzenpullover[kaˈpuːtsnplovɐ]
Turtle neckRollkragenpullover[ˈʁɔlkʁaːɡn̩pʊˌloːvɐ]
Sweater vestPullunder[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 GermanIPA
JacketJacke[ˈjakə]
CoatMantel[ˈmantl]
VestWeste[ˈvɛstə]
CardiganStrickjacke[ˈʃtʁɪkˌjakə]
BlazerBlazer[ˈbleːzɐ]
WindbreakerAnorak[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 GermanIPA
SkirtRock[ʁɔk]
Long skirtLanger Rock[ˈlaŋɐ ʁɔk]
Short skirtKurzer Rock[ˈkʊʁt͡sɐ ʁɔk]
Mini skirtMinirock[ˈmɪniˌʁɔk]
Ruffled skirtRüschenrock[ˈʁyːʃn̩ʁɔk]
Pencil skirtBleistiftrock[ˈblaɪ̯ʃtɪftˌʁɔk]
Pleated skirtFaltenrock[ˈfaltnʁɔk]
KiltSchottenrock[ˈʃɔtn̩ʁɔk]
A-line skirtGlockenrock[ˈɡlɔkənʁɔk]
High-waisted skirtHochtaillierter 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 GermanIPA
ShoesSchuhe[ˈʃuːə]
BootsStiefel[ˈʃtiːfl̩]
Ankle bootsStiefeletten[ʃtiːfəˈlɛtn̩]
StilettoStilettos[ʃtiˈlɛtos]
GumbootGummistiefel[ˈɡʊmiˌʃtiːfl̩]
High heelsHackenschuhe[ˈhaknˈʃuːə]
PumpsPumps[pœmps]
SandalsSandalen[zanˈdaːlən]
Flip flopsFlip Flops[ˈflɪpflɔps]
Formal shoesFormelle Schuhe[fɔʁˈmɛlə ˈʃuːə]
Flat shoesFlache Schuhe[ˈflaxə ˈʃuːə]
SneakersTurnschuhe[ˈtʊʁnˌʃuːə]
Hiking shoesWanderschuhe[ˈvandɐˌʃuːə]
BallerinasBallerinas[baləˈʁiːnas]
ClogsHolzschuhe[ˈhɔlt͡sˌʃuːə]
House shoesHausschuhe[ˈhaʊ̯sˌʃuːə]
SlippersPantoffeln; 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
HatHut[huːt]
Summer hatSommerhut[ˈzɔmɐˌhuːt]
CapCap; Cappie[kɛp; kɛpi:]
BeretBaskenmütze[ba:skənmʏt͡sə]
FedoraFilzhut[ˈfɪlt͡sˌhuːt]
BeanieMütze[ˈmʏt͡sə]
Straw hatStrohhut[ˈʃtʁoːˌhuːt]
Cowboy hatCowboyhut[ˈkaʊ̯bɔɪ̯ˌhuːt]
Pointed hatSpitzhut[ʃpɪt͡shuːt]
Boonie hatSafarihut[zaˈfaːʁihuːt]
Top hatZylinder[tsy:li:nde:]
Chef’s hatKochmütze[ˈkɔxˌmʏt͡sə]
TurbanTurban[ˈtʊʁbaːn]
HoodKapuze[kaˈpuːtsə]
BonnetHaube[ˈhaʊ̯bə]
HelmetHelm[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 GermanIPA
ScarfSchal[ʃaːl]
ShawlTuch[tuːx]
HeadscarfKopftuch[ˈkɔp͡fˌtuːx]
GlovesHandschuhe[ˈhantˌʃuːə]
MittensFäustlinge[ˈfɔɪ̯stlɪŋə]
EarmuffsOhrenschützer[ˈoːʁənˌʃʏt͡sɐ]
LegwarmersStulpen[ˈʃtʊlpn̩]
WatchUhr[uːɐ̯]
BeltGürtel[ˈɡʏʁtl̩]
CollarKragen[ˈkʁaːɡn̩]
NecklaceHalskette[ˈhalsˌkɛtə]
RingRing[ʁɪŋ]
EarringOhrring[ˈoːɐ̯ˌʁɪŋ]
Toe ringZehenring[ˈtseənŋ]
BraceletArmband[ˈaʁmˌbant]
PiercingPiercing[ˈpiːɐ̯sɪŋ]
UmbrellaRegenschirm[ˈʁeːɡn̩ˌʃɪʁm]
SunglassesSonnenbrille[ˈzɔnənˌbʁɪlə]
Bathing suitBadeanzug[ˈbaːdəˌʔant͡suːk]
BikiniBikini[biˈkiːni]
Swim trunksBadehosen[ˈbaːdəˌhoːzn]
UniformUniform[ˈʊniˌfɔʁm]
School uniformSchuluniform[ˈʃuːlʔʊniˌfɔʁm]
PajamasSchlafanzug[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 translationMeaning
Aus dem Ärmel schüttelnTo shake something out of your sleeveTo come up with something just like that
Kleider machen LeuteClothes make peopleClothes are status symbols
Das ist Jacke wie HoseThat’s jacket like pantsIt makes no difference
Eine weiße Weste habenTo have a white westTo be innocent
Mir platzt der KragenMy collar is burstingI’m bursting with anger
Jemanden mit Samthandschuhen anfassenTo touch someone with silk glovesTo handle somebody with kid gloves
Zusammen unter einem Hut steckenTo stick under the same hat togetherTo 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.

EnglishGermanIPA
To get dressedSich anziehen[zɪç antsi:ən]
To get undressedSich ausziehen[zɪç: ˈaʊ̯sˌt͡siːən]
To try onAnprobieren[ˈanpʁoˌbiːʁən]
To wearTragen[ˈtʁaːɡn̩]
To suitStehen[ˈʃteːən]
To tailorMaßschneidern[ˈmaːsˌʃnaɪ̯dɐn]
To button upZuknöpfen[ˈtsuknœpfn]
To zip upDen Reißverschluss zumachen[de:n ˈʁaɪ̯sfɛɐ̯ˌʃlʊs tsu:maxən]
To sewNähen[ˈnɛːən]
To knitStricken[ˈʃtʁɪkn̩]
To crochetHäkeln[ˈhɛːkl̩n]
To patchFlicken[ˈflɪkn̩]
To washWaschen[ˈvaʃn̩]
To dryTrocknen[ˈtʁɔknən]
To ironBügeln[ˈbyːɡl̩n]
To foldFalten[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.

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