French Underwear Vocabulary + Buying Lingerie in France Bilingual Dialogue

There is more to French underwear than “un pyjama”, “un slip” and “une culotte”. Should you like to buy regular knickers or some sexy French lingerie, this vocabulary will come in handy. Then, you can practice the new words in this real life-like dialogue at a French lingerie shop.

So now let’s explore “les sous-vêtements” – French underwear vocabulary. We also use the word “les dessous”, more like undergarments, a bit old-fashioned.

I understand the English vocabulary for underwear varies quite a lot between US, Australian and British English… I’m French and American myself, so that’s the English I’ll use – but should you need a picture, I’ll direct you to a very famous – and mainstream – French lingerie store Etam.com.

Boy, writing this article made me discover a lot of new vocabulary, in French and in English!

Of course, this lesson is intended for adults: I don’t wish to offend anybody, but I will list here all kind of underwear, including lingerie that may not be appropriate for everybody. I will also block the comment section for obvious reasons.

1 – French Underwear Vocabulary for Men

  1. un slip = briefs
  2. un caleçon = boxer shorts
  3. un boxer = boxer briefs (pronounce it like “boxair” in French)
  4. un maillot-de-corps = undershirt (not that used anymore, or used by itself, without the shirt!)

2 – Sleepwear Terms in French

  1. un pyjama – pyjamas – note that more often than not, pyjamas are singular in French, although both spellings are possible.
  2. une chemise de nuit = nightgown, not to be mistaken with “une robe de soirée” which is an evening gown!
  3. un peignoir = bathrobe
  4. une robe de chambre = a dressing gown

4 – Slimwear and Slips French Translations

  1. Une gaine – slimming underwear – we usually specify which part we’d like slimmed: “une culotte gainante” = slimming panty, “un body gainant” = slimming bodysuit…
  2. “Un jupon” is a skirt slip
  3. “une combinaison” a dress slip.

5 – Legwear French Vocabulary

Usually used in the plural…

  1. Une chaussette – a sock
  2. Une socquette – ankle sock
  3. Un bas – stockings
  4. Un collant – tights, leggings

6 – How To Say Women’s Knickers and Panties in French

  1. une culotte – generic for women’s panty, knickers
  2. un hipster – hiphugger
  3. un boxer, un shorty = shorties
  4. un tanga – cheekies
  5. un string – a thong
  6. Note we seldom use “un slip” for women’s panties, but it’s not unheard of.

7 – How To Say Bra in French

“Un soutien-gorge” is a bra. It may be the weirdest word of all, since it literally translates in “hold the throat”. Now, in older French, “la gorge” referred to both neck and chest area, and older bras were a real contraption often starting at the neck… So there is a reason behind the madness of this word! Note that “un soutien-gorge” becomes “des soutiens-gorge” in the plural, with an S at soutien, but no change for gorge. More about to hold in French.

  1. une brassière – a sports bra (watch out though that this word is mostly used in France for a piece of clothing for baby: some kind of shirt that clothes in the back. For sports bra, we mostly say “soutien gorge de sport”).
  2. un soutien gorge rembourré – padded bra
  3. un soutien gorge bandeau – band shape bra
  4. un ampliforme – push up bra
  5. un soutien-gorge corbeille – demi-bra
  6. un bonnet A, B, C, D, E – a bra cup
  7. avec bretelles, sans bretelles – with straps, strapless
  8. les armatures – wires

8 – More French Sexy Lingerie Vocabulary

  1. Un body – a bodysuit
  2. un caraco – a camisole (note that the French word “une camisole (de force)” usually refers to a straitjacket… go figure…)
  3. un bustier – a teddy – not to be mistaken with “un corset” in French which is actually a corset with strings on which you pull to shape-up a woman’s waist… Note that “une robe bustier” means a strapless dress.
  4. une guépière – a teddy with garter attached (sometimes called a corset in the US)
  5. un porte-jarretelles – garter belt
  6. une jarretelle – a garter. Please, watch out with this one… Dictionaries are infamous to translate the English word suspenders by “des jarretelles”, when most people were looking for suspenders for pants (“des bretelles” in French). It doesn’t bring out quite the same mental picture!!
  7. une nuisette – a (tiny) nightgown
  8. un déshabillé – a sexy robe

9 – French Women and Lingerie

French women like lingerie. In my town of Paimpol, Brittany, 8000 inhabitants, we have two dedicated lingerie stores on top of supermarkets and general clothing stores where you can also find more mainstream lingerie. However, the French lingerie stores sell, how to put it, “classy” lingerie: comfortable and pretty (yes, it exists), sometimes sexy, but to some limit. We are in the world of Erotica, not porn.

I was very surprised the first time I pushed open the door to a “lingerie” store in the US (on Boston’s Newbury street, so not a shabby neighborhood at all) to find “lingerie” items that would only be seen in some Pigalle “chaud Paris” sex shops. So, there is definitely a cultural gap here.

Moreover, I feel that in France, women of all shape and ages wear lingerie: they wear it because it makes them feel pretty, and it’s not something that necessarily wears-off with age. Of course, you also have plenty of dedicated lingerie chain stores for teens, with nothing larger than a B cup. Oh well, no country is perfect!

Now, let’s practice the French underwear and lingerie vocabulary in a learn French in context dialogue.

French Underwear and Lingerie Vocabulary

10 – French Lingerie Dialogue

Zoé rentre chez Etam, et commence à regarder les différents modèles de lingerie. Après quelques minutes, une vendeuse vient la voir.
Zoe enters an Etam shop, and proceeds to look at the different lingerie models. After a few minutes, a salesperson comes to see her.

  • Bonjour Madame, est-ce que je peux vous aider ?
    Hello Ma’am, may I help you?
  • Bonjour Madame. Non merci, je ne fais que regarder. Enfin… pas vraiment. Je cherche un joli ensemble pour une occasion spéciale: mon vingtième anniversaire de mariage.
    Hello Ma’am. No, thanks, I’m only browsing. Well… not really. I’m looking for a pretty set for a special occasion: my twentieth wedding anniversary.
  • Ah, félicitations.
    Ah, congratulations.
  • Merci Madame. Donc je cherche un ensemble sexy, sophistiqué, mais bon, je n’ai plus vingt ans non plus…
    Thank you. So I’m looking for a sexy set, sophisticated, but let’s be honest, I’m no longer twenty…
  • Que pensez-vous de cette guépière noire et rouge ?
    What do you think of this black and red teddy?
  • Oh la la, c’est un peu beaucoup pour moi.
    Oh my, it’s a bit much for me.
  • Alors ce joli petit ensemble soutien-gorge culotte en coton bleu peut-être ?
    Then, maybe this pretty blue bra and panty set made of cotton?
  • (Rigolant) Wow, entre l’ensemble en coton et la guépière transparente, il doit bien y avoir un juste milieu, vous ne pensez pas ?
    (Laughing) Wow, between the cotton set and the see through teddy, there must be a fair middle, don’t you think?
  • Bon, vous aimez la dentelle ?
    Allright. Do you like lace?
  • Oui, j’aime beaucoup la dentelle.
    Yes, I love lace.
  • Et vous avez une couleur préférée ?
    And do you have a favorite color?
  • Je n’aime pas trop le rouge pour la dentelle, ni le blanc : je ne suis plus une mariée, et encore moins le rose fushia. J’aime bien le noir, mais j’aimerais bien quelque chose de différent, peut être turquoise, c’est une couleur très tendance en ce moment.
    I don’t quite fancy red for lace, nor white: I’m no longer a bride, and certainly not fushia pink. I like black, but I’d enjoy something a bit different, maybe turquoise, it’s a fashionable color lately.
  • Justement, c’est une des couleurs de notre nouvelle collection. Nous avons cet ensemble-ci qui est très joli : la culotte vient en format classique, shorty ou tonga.
    Actually, it’s one of the colors of our new line. We have this set which is very pretty: the panty comes in regular, shorties and cheeky.
  • Oui, mais le soutien-gorge me parait bien petit. Un petit triangle sans armature, ça ne va pas le faire. Je fais un bonnet D. Mais attendez… j’aime bien cette nuisette-là, avec le déshabillé qui va avec. Vous l’avez dans ma taille ?
    Yes, but the bra looks quite tiny to me. A small wireless triangle, it’s not going to work for me. I’ma D cup. But wait a second… I like that sexy nightgown over-there, with the matching robe. Do you have it in my size?
  • Je regarde. Oui voilà. Ah, et j’ai aussi cette longue chemise de nuit en satin, avec un joli imprimé corail, rouge et émeraude. Il y a un ravissant décolleté dans le dos, mais ça reste de bon goût.
    Let me see. Yes, here it is. Ah, and I also have this long silk nightgown, with a pretty coral, red and emerald print. It shows a gorgeous low cut back, but is not vulgar.
  • J’adore l’imprimé. Hum, je ne suis pas sur d’avoir la place pour ma poitrine… Mais on verra. Je vais les essayer. Où sont les cabines d’essayage ?
    I love the print. Hum, I’m not sure they’ll be room for my boobs… We’ll see. I’ll try it on. Where are the dressing rooms?
  • Au fond du magasin, à droite.
    At the end of the store, to the right.
  • Merci beaucoup madame.
    Thanks a lot.
  • Je vous en prie. N’hésitez pas à m’appeler si vous avez besoin d’une autre taille ou d’autre chose.
    You are welcome. Don’t hesitate to call me should you need another size or another item.
  • D’accord, merci.
    Sure thing, thanks.

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