Vocabulaire en Français des Vêtements Garçon/
Boys' French-Language Clothing Glossary (M-Z)

Figure 1.--Many of the boys pictured in French postcards during the 1920s-30s show boys in white kneesocks and strap shoes (des souliers), in this case both black and white strap shoes. These strap shoes were called "souliers" in French. Souliers are low-cut shoes. Boys from affluent families in the mid-20th century might wear such souliers. Other boys of more modest means more commonly wore high shoes called chaussures which were more sturdy and more practical for rough school wear. Note that the younger boy's blouse is almost sleeveless.

Here is a French-language alphabetical listing of clothing items. They lead to English-language pages, but we think that the alphabetical French listing will help French speakers navigate our web site. This list includes not only the French words for garments, but also terms used in the manufacture and sewing of garments. We have included not only modern terms, but also older terms that are found in historic fashion publications. Our understanding of some of these historic terms is incomplete. French readers are incouraged to suggest additional terms or to provide any improvements on our discriptions of these terms.

Voici une liste alphabétique de termes de vêtements en langue française. Ils mènent à des pages de langue anglaise, mais nous pensons que la liste française alphabétique aidera les francophones à naviguer sur notre site.

A French HBC reader points out that "glossaire" in French has a different meaning than "glossary" in English which would seem to be a comparable word. The modern French word "glossaire" now has a special meaning, it is a list of technical words used for the theatre and literature and science. He thinks a better word for "glossary" is "vocabulaire des vêtements garçon".

Manches montées: "Manche" in French has double meaning of a) Handle (originating from "main" the hand) of a tool, and b) sleeves which applies here for HBC. I do not yet know what "montées" means. The verb "monter" usually means to climb, to go up, to mount, to build. Used here to define a sleeve type, it could mean that sleeve size is increasing from wrist to shoulder. (Refer to spanish "aumentado".)

Manteau: Coat. Actually there are several French words for coat. "Manteau" is currently the one most commonly used. We have generally seen it used in the sence of an overcoat or heavycoat, but do not know yet if this is the case.

Martingale: Half belt in the back of jacket or coat. A French reader reports, "Ce qui signifie qu'aux poignets il y avait une martingale qui s'attachait par un bouton . Cette coupe ètait à la mode cette année-là." This would translate as something like, "This means that at the back waistline there was a "martingale" (ornametal back belt) attached by buttons. This style was very popular in 1933." The word has also been incorporated into the English language. The primary definitioin is a piece of equestrian tackle, part of the harness. Thus it is related to some extent as the French term is a belt. Interestingly, the first known English use of the word was in the late 16th century when it described a type of hosiery thatfastened at the back. The term ledgedly was based on "martega", an inhabitant of "Martigue"--a town in southeast France.

Mi-bas: Chaussettes is the modern term for kneesocks, worn by children, women, and men. "Chaussettes montantes" also means knee socks. The French also say chaussetttes hautes or simply chaussettes. All these terms are commonly used today. "Mi-bas" meaning knee socks is an old word for "chaussettes". It is no longer commonly used in popular language, but is found in the catalogs.

Noeud: I believe that this means necktie.

Noeud papillon: Literaly a "butterfly tie". These are narrow bow-like lies worn by boys instead of neckties furing the 1950s-70s. We note them advertized in a 1971 La Redoute catalog. They were worn at scome private schools and choirs. We note a French school wearing similar neckwear, but more of a string tie

Pantalon: The French word "pantalon is used to cover quite a range of different garments. We will assess here the various garments that are described as pantalons. Unlike English there appears not to be a separate word for pants and trousers.

Pantalon à pont: This appears to be the French term for bell-bottom trousers.

Pardessus: This appears to mean coat or overcoat. HBC has noticed the word "pardesus" used for "coat" in fashion magazines as late as the 1940s. As far as we can determine, oy was used in same sence as "manteau". Whether there was orginally if it connotated a coat with some specific attributes. A French reader tells us that "pardessus" and "manteau" have the same meaning. "Pardessus" is an older word which appears to have generally been used for men's coats. It is rarely used in contemporary French. The French today would use "manteau" for coat.

Patron réduit: This term was used in sewing magazines. It meant "reduced pattern". HBC is unsure, however, precisely whay was meant by a reduced pattern.

Pélerine capuchon: Pélerine" is a type of inexpensive raincoat that in past years was only for children, or a somewhat different model for bike riders, called "pélerine cycliste" that would cover in front up to the handlebars. "Capuchon" means hood (generally all pélerines do have hoods). So the garment here, "pélerine capuchon" translates to "hooded raincoat" and the full term "pélerine capuchon mobile" best translates to "raincoat with removable hood.

Pli: Pleats

Pli Watteau" This word is no longer common used in France, but HBC has noted it being used through the 1930. It is a double pleat placed at the middle of the back began up till the botom which was considered very smart for boy. The "pli Watteau" was fix with the help of a "martingale", a half belt in the back.

Pont: I'm not entirely sure yet what "pont" means. There appears to have been single and double pont trousers. A French reader reports that "double pont" are trouses with a pont. They are double buttonning and reserved for older boys. Simple pont were traditional short or long trousers with only one button in part of the waist. This style was common in short trouses for boy till 12 years and became very commum after. {HBC is a bit confused here.] The cut of the short pants tended to be quite short. There were both trim fitting and wide leg styles.

Raglan: This is an English term that is used in France. It is a loose overcoat in which the sleeves are cut so as to continue up to the collar. The garment is named for English Field Marshal Lord Raglan (1788-1855).

Robe/Robette: This was a smock-like dress worn by little girls. The term in the 1950s was often used in connection with rompers (barboteuses) which were worn by boys of similar pre-school age. The robettes and barboteuses would be made with identical top styling. They were sometimes used to dress brothers and sisters in coordinated outfits.

Robe anglaise: The "robe anglaise" or English dress in the early 20tyh century did not have a belt and was worn by girls and little boys, a little shorter in this case.

Sandales: The French have two different words for sandals. Open-toed sandals are "sandales". Closed-toe sandals are "sandalettes". These old words are still used today.

Sandalettes: The French have two different words for sandals. Open-toed sandals are "sandales". Closed-toe sandals are "sandalettes". These old words are still used today.

Sarrau: We have noted "sarrau" used for smock, but am unsure as to just what type of smock is meant. HBC had prepard an assessment of French smock terms.

Smocks: Smocking today is generally associated with the English in the 19th century, although clothing historians believe it has much more ancient origins and was worn in many European countries. Smocking is basically embroidery on pleats. The material has to be pleated before smocking.

Smoking: The French (and the Dutch) say 'smoking' for what the British call a dinner jacket and you, if I am not mistaken, a tuxedo. This is probably from the English "smoking jacket" which is, however, a totally different thing. In times when men were heavy smokers (and women were not, or were not supposed to be), they retired after dinner to a another room and enjoyed cigars. They changed into a smoking jacket usually made of velvet so as not to incommode the ladies with the smell. The nearest equivalent is 'huisjasje' in Dutch and 'veste d'intérieur' in French, but these words do not necessarily imply that they are being worn for smoking.

Socques: Wooden shoes. A French reader indicated that this is an archaic word that will be unknow to most French speakers. It also meant a sort of slipper in wood or leather.

(Le) short: Modern French speakers might also say "le short" (curiously singular) to refer to short pants. The French Acasdemy does not approve of the use of such foreign words, but this is very commonly used.

Socquettes: Anklesocks this word being derived from word socques (wooden shoes like the Dutch). HBC does not yet have a separate page for ankle socks. The winter type is call "chaussettes basses".

Soldes: End of season sales made at reduced prices, in order to get rid of models that could be out of fashion nextseason.

Souliers: Patent leather or other dressy shoes. Souliers are dressy shoes worn for church on Sunday or other special occasions. This word is not very commonly used today. In the mid-20th century it was commonly used for expensive single bar and "T" strap patent leather shoes. It was also used for closed-toe sandals. For intance: one would say, " Un garçonnet avec de jolis souliers" that means that a little boy was well-dressed with his shoes. In France these shoes are still available, but often in specialty boutiques. The term for more ordinary shoes is "chaussures". Souliers are low-cut shoes. Boys from affluent families in the mid-20th century might wear such souliers. Other boys of more modest means more commonly wore high shoes called chaussures which were more sturdy and more practical for rough school wear.

Surjet: Sewing term referring to overcasting or whipping.

Tablier: "Tablier" is the most common term for a child's smock, especially a school smok. HBC is unsure about the derivation of the word, but the word may come from the word "table" which is used for a school desk in French. HBC had prepard an assessment of French smock terms. Smocks are a loose, lightweight over garment worn to protect the clothing while working. Initially the smock was a garment for adult workers, especially farm workers. Eventually mothers faced with the need of protecting expensive garments from the hard wear associated with children began dressing their children in smocks. The smock by the late 19th century had become primarily a child's garment, although it was also wrn by shop workers, artists, and other adults. The smock was essentially a large shirt or overgarment with the fullness controlled by the smocking (embroidery on pleats). The use of smocking (the decorative embroidery can be easily traced to the 15th century). Albrecht Durer's Self Portrait (German) shows a smocked shirt, and the Mona Lisa (Italian) has a smocked chemise. The use of needlework to control fullness is a very old technique and became known as smocking. Smocking needle work continues today and is a popular addition to fancy collars as well as garments for younger children.

Tablier cardigan: A cardigan is a short, front buttoning knitted jacket or sweater. Similar to the cardigan sweater as used in English. When used for smock, as in "tablier cardigan", it means a short, front buttoning smock. HBC had prepard an assessment of French smock terms.

Tenues de baptème: Baptismal gowns

Tissu: Fabric or cloth material.

Trosseau: "Trosseau" in French means a complete outfit. This would mean a complete outfit for a boy or girl oe man or woman. The word has been incorporated into the English language, but in English "trosseau" has a very different meaning, meaning an outfit exclusively for a bride. A French magazine in 1947, for example, offered a trosseau for a young boy.

Tunique: In French the most obvious translation of "tunic" is "tunique". I'm not sure to what extent this term was used for boys' tunic suits. We have also noted the tunic suits worn by boys at the turn of the 20th century as "blouses".

Vareuse: Jacket

Velours: The French call velvet "velours".

Velours côtelé: The French call corduroy "velours côtelé" (ribbed velvet) or simply "velours", leading to obvious confusion with "true velvet". Indeed HBC notes that HBC's French readeers often refer to corduroy as "velvet". Of course this has been complicated as some inexpensive velvet-like fabric is today made with cotton and marketed as velvet or velveteen--but this is not true velvet. The texture of the two fabrics has some relationship, but true velvet is much more plush and very expensive as it was made with silk rather than cotton and with a fashion image almost the opposite of corduroy. The composer Erik Satie was, for example, afamous collector of "complets de velours." No one now seems to know whether his suits were of velvet or corduroy. Another French term used around 1970 was "cordelet".

Veste: Jacket translates to "veste", usually part of ensemble pants and jacket worn together. Usually worn today by men not by young boys. In the 19th century, however, vests were often worn by both men and boys, although conventions here varied by country.

Veston croisé: A "veston croisé" (crossed jacket) is a jacket where the sides of the jacket with the buttoning cross over each other by about 20 centimeters. HBC believes that this means "double breasted".

Veston droit: A "veston droit" (straight jacket) would button one end just over the other. HBC believes that this means "single breasted".

Vètements bébé: Baby clothes

Vichy: Vichy of course is a French city, best known for the site of the French World War II Government with collaborated with the Germans. Vichy was also noted for the production of ginham cloth. So much so that he French word for ginham is "vichy". Vichy was commonnly used in little girls' dresses (robes), rompers (barboteuses), children's smocks (tabliers d'enfant), ?? (guimpes), ?? (chemisiers), bloomer suits (costumes bloomer), blouses (blouses), and a variety of other garments.

Zéphyr: The word "zephyr" is normally the name of a very smooth wind. As well it is name of a god in the greek mythology. With reference to garments it defines a very light fabric.


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Created: September 18, 2001
Last updated: September 26, 2003