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To Dress in French – Porter, Mettre, S’Habiller etc…

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis on Jan 1, 2010

S’habiller, mettre un pantalon, porter un pantalon, être en pantalon… all these expressions can be quite confusing. Let me explain the different verbs used in French to express the notion of to dress, to wear.

1 – S’Habiller and se Déshabiller – Getting Dressed

These French verbs describe the act of getting dressed and undressed. They are usually NOT followed by a direct object (like a piece of clothing).

  • le matin, je m’habille. Le soir, je me déshabille. (In the morning I get dressed. In the evening, I undress).

You can however say “ce soir, je m’habille EN pantalon” (tonight, I’ll get dressed in pants) but the focus here is that you are wearing pants and not a skirt, so you won’t talk about the precise pair of pants you are going to be wearing (you cannot say “ce soir, j e m’habille en pantalon noir et court”… for this you need to use “porter” ou “mettre”).

For this notion, we also use the expression “être en”.

  • Ce soir, je suis en pantalon. Je m’habille en pantalon. (Tonight, I’m wearing pants).

Check out my blog post about the “se verbs in French” – the French Reflexive Verbs.

2 – S’habiller – to Dress Up in French

An idiomatic use of the verb s’habiller means “to dress up”.

  • Est-ce que je dois m’habiller pour aller chez Anne ? (should I dress up to go to Ann’s)

3 – Porter and Mettre – to Wear

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To describe what you are wearing, use the verbs porter (to wear) or mettre (to put on).

  • Ce soir, je porte un pantalon noir et un pull rose.(Tonight, I’ll wear a black pair of pants and a pink sweater)
  • Demain, je vais mettre une robe bleue. (Tomorrow, I’ll wear a blue dress)

4 – Other French Verbs Related to to Dress

Other French verbs commonly used with clothes are :

  1. enlever (to take off),
  2. retirer (to take off),
  3. enfiler (to slip in),
  4. essayer (to try on),
  5. se changer (to change clothes),
  6. rester en… pyjama (to stay in… my pyjamas)

5 – Common French Expressions Related to to Dress

Note these common expressions that can be a bit confusing:

  1. “Comment tu t’habilles ce soir?” what are you going to wear tonight?
  2. “Qu’est-ce que tu mets demain?” what are you going to wear tomorrow?
  3. “Elle portait quoi ?” what was she wearing?
  4. “Je ne me change pas, je reste en jean” I won’t change outfit, I’ll keep wearing my jeans.

6 – Clothes Related French Idioms:

There are a lot of French idioms about clothes. Here are a few of my favorite French expressions about clothing, with a literal English translation and then the English meaning. Don’t hesitate to suggest some more in the Disqus section below and I’ll add them up to the list!

  1. “Il est sur son trente-et-un”: he is on his 31st : he is dressed very chic
  2. “Je n’ai rien à me mettre”: I have nothing to wear.
  3. “Dans le couple, c’est elle qui porte le pantalon”: in the couple, she wears the pants: she is the decision maker
  4. “Il l’a laissée tomber comme une vieille chaussette” : he dropped her like an old sock : he ditched her badly
  5. “ce politicien a souvent retourné sa veste” : this politician often turned his jacket inside out: he changed his opinions
  6. “Elle n’a plus d’argent : elle doit se serrer la ceinture” : she is broke: she has to tighten her belt : she has to be very careful about her spendings
  7. “Finalement, il a vidé son sac” ; finally, he emptied his bag ; finally, he spilled the beans.
  8. “Je t’ai vu venir avec tes gros sabots” : I saw you come with your large wood clog : I saw you come from far (you were not very discreet)
  9. “J’étais tellement en colère… Je n’ai pas pris de gants” : I was so mad: I didn’t take gloves : I was so mad, I spoke directly and frankly.
  10. “J’en ai plein les bottes !” : I have plenty on my boots : I’m very tired / I’ve had enough.
  11. “Elle n’a toujours pas trouvé chaussure à son pied” : she hasn’t found a shoe that fits her foot : she hasn’t found the perfect match
  12. “Son frère essaie toujours de lui faire porter le chapeau” : his brother always tries to make him wear the hat : to make him be the guilty one
  13. “Son café, c’est du jus de chaussette” : his coffee is sock juice : it’s a very bad coffee
  14. “Ce type est un coureur de jupons” : this guy runs after half-slip : he is a womanizer
  15. “Il lui a demandé de sortir avec lui mais il s’est pris une veste” : he asked her out but he got a jacket : she turned him down
  16. “Elle change d’avis comme de chemise” : she changes her mind like she changes shirts : she changes her mind all the time
  17. “Ne t’inquiète pas : j’ai plus d’un tour dans mon sac” : don’t worry, I have more than one trick in my bag : I’ll find a solution

To learn all these notions in context, I suggest you check out my unique downloadable French audiobooks, featuring different speeds of recording and enunciation, and focussing on today’s modern glided pronunciation.

You might also enjoy my post on

How to dress in Paris.

How to Describe Clothes in French

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