Italian Vocabulary for Clothing

Laundry hanging from apartment buildings in Venice
Walter Zerla

I walked into a boutique shoe shop on the main corso in Viterbo, Italy, looking to buy some shoes to match an outfit later that evening. La commessa (the saleswoman) greeted me with a salve! and pointed to the merchandise arranged around her store. 

Pairs of shoes sat on illuminated shelves, shoes with heels so tall, you couldn’t imagine wearing them without twisting an ankle on the cobblestone streets that lined the center of the city (take that from someone who once bought a pair of too-high heels and nearly become all too acquainted with a cobblestone thoroughfare). 

Each visit to an un negozio (a store) to find a sweater, a pair of jeans, or a new top became an opportunity to acquire new, specific vocabulary for the items themselves and all the various colors, sizes, and materials they came in. 

Below you’ll find a list of common vocabulary and phrases that can be used when shopping in Italy or just talking about clothes.

Accessories - gli accessori

Clothing - l’abbigliamento/ il vestiario

Shoes - le scarpe

  • Flip-flops - le infradito
  • High heels - le scarpe col tacco
  • Hiking boots - le scarpe da trekking
  • Rainboots - i stivali di gomma/stivali da pioggia

Vocabulary - Descriptions

  • Cotton - il cotone
  • Leather - il cuoio
  • Linen - il lino
  • Polyester - il poliestere
  • Silk - la seta
  • Wool - la lana
  • Loose - largo
  • Tight - stretto
  • Striped - a righe/strisce

Phrases

  • Cerco una felpa a righe. - I’m looking for a striped sweatshirt.

TIP: Notice that in Italian there is no preposition used after the verb “cercare - to look for”. The “for” is implied within the verb.

  • Sono/Porto/Indosso una taglia…(media). - I’m a medium.
  • Vuole provarlo? - Do you want to try it on?
  • Vorrei provare questi, dove sono i camerini?- I’d like to try these on, where are the fitting rooms?

TIP: In the phrase above, “lo” would be used if the item were singular and masculine, like "il vestito - the dress". However, if it were singular and feminine, like la sciarpa - the scarf, it would be “Vuole provarla”? While it’s important to make everything agree, don’t stress if you can’t remember the gender of the object you have. You’ll be safe with using the pronoun “lo”.

  • È comodo. - It’s comfortable.
  • Il vestito è troppo stretto, avete una taglia più grande? - The dress is too tight, do you have a larger size?
  • Questi (stivali) sono scomodi. - These (boots) are uncomfortable.
  • Preferisco il rosa. - I prefer pink. (As a colour)

TIP: Notice the differences in meanings below.

  • Preferisco la rosa. - I prefer the rose (flower).
  • La preferisco rosa - I prefer it (something feminine like: la gonna, la sciarpa, la maglietta...etc) in pink.
  • Lo preferisco rosa. - I prefer it (something masculine like: il golf, il pantalone, il papillon...etc) in pink.