I Vestiti: Italian Vocabulary for Clothing

Learn the vocabulary to shop for clothes and shoes in Italy

Laundry hanging from apartment buildings in Venice
Walter Zerla

Picture it: You walk into a boutique shoe shop (una calzoleria) on Via del Corso, in Rome, looking for some shoes to match an outfit you will be wearing for an event later that evening. La commessa (the saleswoman) greets you by saying Salve! and points to the merchandise arranged around her store. Prego! she says.

What next? Whether you are shopping alta moda (high couture) or not, staff in most Italian stores can probably find a way to please you without you having to say a word. But the shopping experience can be more interesting and fun if you learn some vocabulary and find a way to say what exactly you are looking for. 

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

L’Abbigliamento: Clothing

Here are the basics in clothing (also called i vestiti):

If you are interested in high-end fashion, you want l'alta moda or moda di lusso, or le grandi firme: that means clothing of important signature or brand. If you are looking for sustainable fashion, you ask for moda responsabile.

Gli Accessori: The Accessories

Here are the main accessories:

Some of those items you can find in una calzoleria, a shoe store; un negozio di abbigliamento, a clothing store; or una pelletteria, a leather-goods store.

Le Scarpe: Shoes

And the main types of shoes:

  • Le scarpe alte/col tacco: high-heeled shoes
  • Le scarpe a tacco medio: medium-heeled shoes
  • Le scarpe basse: flats
  • Gli stivali: boots
  • I sandali: sandals
  • Le ballerine: ballerinas
  • Le infradito: flip-flops
  • Le scarpe da trekking: hiking boots
  • Le scarpe da ginnastica: tennis shoes
  • Le scarpe da corsa: running shoes
  • Gli stivali di gomma/stivali da pioggia: rain boots

Shopping for Clothes/Shoes

The key verbs for shopping for clothes or shoes are cercare (to look for), volere (to want), avere (to have, portare (to wear), indossare (to wear), stare a (to fit), provare (to try). To say that you are a certain size, you can also use essere, as in English.

  • Cerco una bella giacca estiva. I am looking for a nice summer jacket.
  • Sono/porto/indosso una taglia media. I am/I wear a medium.
  • Porto una 38. I wear a size 8.
  • Posso provare questo vestito? May I try this dress?
  • Mi piace il vestito rosso in vetrina. I like the red dress in the window.
  • Vorrei provare questi. I would like to try these.
  • Dove sono i camerini? Where are the fitting rooms?
  • Non mi sta/stanno. It doesn't/they don't fit.
  • Mi sta stretto/piccolo. It fits me tightly/it's small.
  • Sono grandi/piccoli. They are too big.
  • È comodo. It’s comfortable.
  • Questi stivali sono scomodi. These boots are uncomfortable.
  • Ha una taglia più grande? Do you have a larger size?
  • Ha altri colori? Do you have other colors?
  • Preferisco... I prefer...

Of course, if you are trying or buying something (provare and comprare, transitive verbs), that "something" is a direct object or you are going to use a direct object pronoun for it. If you are trying shoes, it's provarle; if it's a sweater, it's provarlo; if it's a scarf, it's provarlo. If you are a serious student of Italian, of course, you want to make everything agree, but don’t let it ruin your shopping experience!

Descriptive Vocabulary

Here are some useful descriptors for clothing and shoes involving materials and styles:

  • Il cotone: cotton
  • La pelle: leather
  • Pelle scamosciata: suede
  • Pelle lucida: patent leather
  • Pelle vegana/cruelty free: vegan leather
  • La lana: wool
  • Il lino: linen
  • La seta: silk
  • A maniche lunghe: long-sleeved
  • A maniche corte: short-sleeved
  • Elegante: elegant
  • Attillato: tight-fitting
  • Lungo: long
  • Corto: short
  • Scollato: low-cut
  • Col collo a V: V-necked
  • Col collo rotondo: round-necked
  • Casual/rilassato: casual/relaxed
  • Un vestito importante: a serious/important dress
  • A strisce: striped
  • A pois: polka-dotted
  • A tinta unita: solid-colored
  • A stampe floreali: flowered pattern

For example:

  • Vorrei una camicia di cotone a maniche lunghe. I would like a cotton, long-sleeved shirt.
  • Vorrei un vestito di lino semplice. I would like a simple linen dress.
  • Cerco un maglione in cashmere verde scuro. I am looking for a dark green cashmere sweater.
  • Vorrei un bel vestito italiano di una grande firma. I would like a high-couture Italian dress/suit.

And speaking of various colors: Some colors in Italian are invariable; among them are arancione (orange), marrone (brown), rosa (pink), blu (blue), viola (purple). They do not change, notwithstanding changes in gender and number of the items you are buying. Others—rosso (red), bianco (white), nero (black), grigio (grey), azzurro (azure)—change with gender and number.

  • Vorrei provare le scarpe altissime nere di pelle scamosciata che ho visto in vetrina. I would like to try the very tall black suede shoes I saw in the window.
  • Prendo gli stivali viola. I will take the purple boots.
  • Voglio comprare dei pantaloni gialli di lino. I want to buy some yellow linen pants.
  • Mio marito vorrebbe una camicia bianca elegante di Armani. My husband would like an elegant white shirt by Armani.