Learn to Describe More Precisely When Shopping in France
Shopping is very much a part of going on vacation, as it gives you the opportunity to walk around neighborhoods, interact with different people, and perhaps pick up something original that you cannot find at home. Shopping experiences will inevitably differ from one region to another, depending on where you visit. I remember shopping in Lyon, being in the fitting room, or the cabine d’essayage, and being interrupted several times by an attendant who opened the curtain to see what was going on. I don’t find this an effective way to sell clothing. A much more effective way is to engage in conversation with people, which is what I experienced one summer in Marseille when I was shopping with a model-y friend and people were very interested in helping us and generally quite friendly. It was also that time of year when the big sales, or soldes, were going on, and we were able to find some nice pieces at low prices.
|le chandail||sweater||le pantalon||trousers, pants*|
|la chemise||shirt||le jean||jeans|
|le chemisier||blouse||le short||shorts|
|le t-shirt, tee-shirt||t-shirt||la jupe||skirt|
|le pull, pull-over||sweater||la robe||dress|
|le tailleur||suit; trouser suit, pant suit||les chaussettes (f.)||socks|
|le costume||suit||les chaussures (f.)||shoes|
|le blouson||jacket||les bottes (f.)||boots|
|la veste||jacket||les sandales (f.)||sandals|
|le gilet||vest||les ballerines (f.)||ballet flats|
|l’anorak (m.)||anorak, parka||les chaussures à talon (f.)||heels|
|le slip||underpants, knickers||les baskets (f.)||sneakers|
|le calçon||boxer shorts||les espadrilles (f.)||canvas shoes|
|le soutien-gorge||brassier, bra||les tongs (f.)||flip-flops|
|le maillot de bain||bathing suit, swimsuit|
* In the American sense – outerwear, not underwear.
|les boucles d’oreilles (f.)||earrings||la cravate||tie|
|le bracelet||bracelet||l’écharpe (f.)||scarf, sash|
|la bague||ring||le foulard||scarf|
|la ceinture||belt||le sac||bag|
|les lunettes de soleil (f.)||sunglasses||le sac à main||purse|
|le bonnet||beanie||le sac à dos||backpack, knapsack|
|la casquette||baseball cap||les gants (m.)||gloves|
To ensure that an item fits, you can find your proper clothing size, taille, or shoe size, pointure. To speak generally of what size you might need, you can use the following terms:
Sizing in France may be different from sizing that you are accustomed to. If you are from North America and need to feel fatter, you can appreciate jumping from a size 4 to a size 36, especially while looking at yourself in three-way mirror under fluorescent lighting just outside a fitting room while the boutique staff and other customers look on. This still won’t beat adding two sizes to what you would normally wear while in a dance store in your own country in order to find something that fits. It’s all relative.
Most colors change form according to gender, being descriptive words, so you will need to know the feminine and masculine forms. To make these plural, simply add an s. For colors ending in the letter e,the feminine and masculine forms are the same.
|couleurs primaires||primary colors|
|AUTRES COULEURS||OTHER COLORS||AUTRES COULEURS||OTHER COLORS|
|violette, violet||violet||grise, gris||grey, gray|
|verte, vert||green||noire, noir||black|
The names of some colors come from nouns, which is the case for those listed below. For these colors there is no agreement. There is, however, agreement for rose, fauve, and mauve, which are exceptions.
|marine||blue marine, marine blue||orange||orange|
For colors that are compounds, forms are invariable.
|bleu acier||light blue|
|bleu marine||navy blue|
|bleu roi||royal blue|
|gris clair||light grey|
|violet foncé||dark purple|
If you would like to be more approximate about the colors to which you refer, you can use the suffix -âtre, e.g., blanchâtre, jaunâtre, bleuâtre. This is sometimes used in a pejorative sense. We could describe socks that are not as white as they should be as blanchâtres, for example.
The names of some colors are inspired by metals, such as those listed below. These are often preceded by a preposition when modifying a noun or noun phrase. There are also have separate adjectival forms that agree with whatever they are modifying.
|couleurs métalliques||metallic colors|
|or ; d’or, en or ; dorée, doré||gold, golden|
|argent ; d’argent, en argent ; argentée, argenté||silver, silvery|
|bronze ; de bronze, en bronze ; bronzée, bronzé||bronze|
|cuivre ; de cuivre, en cuivre ; cuivrée, cuivré||copper, coppery|
|à rayures ; rayée, rayé||striped|
|tartan ; tissu écossais||plaid, tartan|
|la base||primer||le poudre||powder|
|le correcteur||concealer||le rouge à lèvres||lipstick|
|le crayon contour||liner||le vernis à ongles||nail polish|
|l’eye-liner (m.)||eye liner||la crème solaire||sunscreen|
|le fard / l’ombre (f.) à paupières||eye shadow||SPF||FPS (ou SPF)|
|le fard||blush, rouge||UVA/UVB||UVA/UVB|
|le fond de teint||foundation||anti-UVA, UVB ; contre les UVA, UVB||anti-UVA, UVB|
|l’illuminateur (m.)||highlighter||le courbe-cils||eyelash curler|
|le lip liner||lip liner||l’éponge à maquillage (le beautyblender)||beauty blender|
|le mascara||mascara||le pinceau||brush|
If you look at the packaging on a lot of makeup, there will be translations in multiple languages, often including French.
Other Useful Terms about Shopping
While shopping, these terms may come in handy:
|la cabine d’essayage||fitting room||le prix||price|
|la caisse||counter||acheter||to buy|
|la carte de crédit||credit card||essayer||to try (on)|
|la carte bleue||debit card||bon marché||cheap|
|le chèque||check||chère, cher||expensive, dear*|
|le chèque de voyage||traveler’s check||en rupture de stock||sold out|
|la monnaie||change||en solde||on sale|
* This is mainly used in the UK and reflects the uses of the corresponding term in French to denote affection as well as expense.
|Est-ce que je pourrais essayer... ?||Could I try on .... ?|
|J’aimerais...||I would like ...|
|Je prendrai...||I’ll take ...|
|Est-ce que je pourrais regarder... ?||Could I take a look at ... ?|
|Est-ce que vous auriez... ?||Do you have / Would you (happen to) have ... ?|
|Je cherche...||I’m looking for ...|
|J’aime bien...||I like ... *|
|Ça ne me va pas.||This doesn’t fit / look good on.|
|Auriez-vous une autre couleur ?||Would you (happen to) have another color?|
|C’est combien ?||How much is this / it?|
|Est-ce que vous prenez les cartes de crédit ?||Do you take credit cards?|
* This is less emphatic than “J’aime...”
It is customary to greet the people working in boutiques and shops when entering, and to thank them or say goodbye to them when leaving.
Returns are less common in France than in places such as the United States, but this might be changing. Large chain stores will usually take returns, according to whatever policy they have in place.
French clothing will have the same types of labels as in other countries with symbols for machine washing, lavage en machine, dry cleaning, nettoyage à sec, etc. The temperatures will be in Celsius.
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