Expanding vocabulary: 30 popular English idioms related to clothes

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    Far from always the English names of wardrobe items are used for their intended purpose. There are a lot of idioms and proverbs with them, and we will consider the 30 most common ones in this article. For convenience, they are divided into blocks: the outfit as a whole, outerwear, underwear, shoes, headwear.


    Let’s start on a positive note. Remember Andersen’s fairy tale “The Naked King”? An outfit was allegedly sewn for the king, but in fact he went out naked to his people. But in English there is a concept of birthday suit for such cases, so the king was still attire.

    Another thing is sunday clothes. This is the name of festive clothes, because earlier the most beautiful outfit was worn precisely for the church Sunday service. Now this can be said about any ceremonial clothing.

    Another frequent case is when a girl dresses not only beautifully, but sexually attractive. They say about her “dressed on the spot”, and in English – dressed to kill.

    Wash-and-wear is the name given to items of clothing that do not need to be ironed after washing. Probably the favorite things of most people.

    The following expression is not about clothes, but rather is political in nature. Have you heard about the concept of “gray cardinal”? This is a person who has great power and influence in a certain organization or in the political arena, but at the same time remains “in the shadows”. His name is not advertised, and many are not even aware of his real role. In English, they say man in a grey suit about such a person.

    Sometimes unpleasant situations happen when everything conceived is literally “bursting at the seams”, that is, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t stick. In English there is a phrase for such cases – to fall apart at the seams.


    Let’s start with shirt – “shirt”:

    • to lose one`s shirt – “to lose a lot of money”, especially when it comes to gambling and lotteries;
    • to give someone the shirt off one’s back – “give someone the last thing there is”. A shirt in this context also means money, property;
    • keep your shirt on! – so you can say to a person who is in a state of irritation or aggression, because it means “Calm down!”.

    There are also 2 interesting idioms with the word collar – “collar”. Have you ever heard that office workers are called “white collars”? Probably, it came to us from English – white collar.

    If you feel that you are losing your temper with anger, then you are hot under the collar, that is, very angry.

    Let’s move on to sleeve, “sleeve”:

    • roll up one`s sleeves – “roll up your sleeves”. The meaning is the same as in Russian, that is, “prepare for hard work”;
    • to wear your heart on your sleeve – means to openly express your emotions, do not hide them;
    • to have an ace up one’s sleeve – “to have an ace up one’s sleeve”, that is, to have information or privileges that will help get out of a difficult situation.

    They say about a very rich man:

    He has deep pockets.

    In Russian, you can hear an analogue – “rich Pinocchio”.

    And two more idioms with the word glove, “glove”.

    If something fits perfectly, they say it’s fit like a glove. And the phrase gloves are off is a synonym for the already familiar roll up one`s sleeves.


    Let’s start with an accessory for underwear, namely, with a belt, belt.

    We think you’ve heard the phrase “tighten your belt”? That is, to start living more economically if difficult times have come. In English it sounds the same – to tighten one’s belt.

    And if someone struck “below the belt”, that is, meanly acted towards you, then you hit below the belt.

    Next – idioms with the word “pants”. But note that there is a British version of trousers and American pants.

    When you do something intuitively, almost at random due to lack of knowledge or experience, you fly by the seat of your pants. Due to the fact that something does not work out, you can start to get nervous – to have ants in one’s pants.

    About a person who likes to talk, make plans, but is in no hurry to put them into practice, they say all talk and no trousers – “a lot of words, little deed”.

    If you catch someone “red-handed”, that is, for a forbidden or impartial deed, you catch someone with their pants down.


    Have you ever had situations when outsiders tried to teach you wits? Did you give unsolicited advice or criticize your decisions? Did you want to shout back “Stay in my shoes!”? The English in such cases will exclaim “Walk a mile in my shoes!”.

    Let’s move on to another situation. Imagine that something scared you. How do we talk about sharp fear? “Heart went to the heels”, right? There is a similar phrase in English – to have one’s heart in one’s boots.

    When someone frankly sucks up, tries to curry favor (often this happens at work), they say about such a person that he is lick someone’s boots. Often such persons who “lick shoes” to the authorities, behave too arrogantly with colleagues and subordinates, put on airs. In English – to get too big for one’s boots.


    A person who tries to find a solution to a problem is said to put on his thinking cap. If translated literally – “put on his cap of reflection.”

    Do you want to emphasize that something needs to be done very quickly, almost immediately? You can use the phrase at the drop of a hat, that is, “until the hat falls.”

    For a friend with whom you have shared a secret, you can ask:

    Keep it under your hat! – Keep it a secret!

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