Fashion Dictionary: British Fashion Terms You Need To Know!

With the launch of our new UK microsite (and ecommerce coming this fall!), we started thinking. There is a verbal fashion gap when it comes to the names of certain key clothing items. Something you’ve worn your whole life might go by a completely different name across the pond, and we want to make sure that nothing gets lost in translation. Below, you’ll find our fashion dictionary that will translate common fashion phrases in both British and American english. Do you have a favorite fashion phrase we forgot? Make sure to leave it in our comments section!


BLDG 25’s Fashion Dictionary

Tank Top = Vest

Circular Scarf = Snood

Underwear = Knickers

Sweater = Jumper

Suspenders = Braces

Pumps = Court Shoes

Backpack = Rucksack

Plaid = Tartan

Vest = Waistcoat

Sneakers = Trainers

Fanny Pack = Bum Bag

Beanie = Bobble Hat

Bobby Pins = Kirby Grips

Hair Tie = Bobble

Pants = Trousers

Overalls = Jumpsuit


  1. This is an adorable post.

    I was in Guernsey – Channel Island – this summer and a guy on the beach came up to me and said, “This is our warmest weather, and you’re over here huddling up in your jumper!” I almost laughed, it sounded so British and adorable.

    Then he told me he liked my accent, which of course I can’t hear at all. ;)

    Ladaisi Blog
    Ladaisi Etsy

  2. It’s easy when we just have totally different words for things, but it’s hard when we use the same word for entirely different things. Okay, what Americans call a “vest” is what Brits call a “waistcoat,” and what Americans call “overalls” is what Brits call a “jumpsuit.” So, what is the British English translation of the American “jumpsuit” and “waistcoat”? – Alison { }

  3. I’m from the US and here’s what I learned from watching “The Inbetweeners”…

    Pants means underwear (I’m guessing if you want to say pants you would say slacks or jeans instead)
    and even though in the US “Fanny” is just an innocent way of saying bum or tush, in England it is slang for… the female… organ. Yes. So, be prepared for some strange looks if you say “Fanny Pack.”

    That is all.

  4. A couple more important points to share from England – in British English ‘suspenders’ are lingerie so you will also get funny looks if you talk about men in suspenders!

    ‘Pants’ really only refer to boys y-front style underwear, girls never wear pants. No-one ever says slacks, we stick to ‘trousers’ for anything that aren’t jeans.

    ‘Pumps’ are specifically ballet-style slip on flats.

    And yes, ‘Fanny pack’ will always raise a smile over here!

  5. As the commenter above pointed out, sharing words for different objects is the only time is gets really confusing, so if you’re wondering what American “braces” would be abroad, they’re simply refereed to as a “brace” in England! (i.e. I just got a new brace on my bottom teeth.) :D

    And the British English translation of the American “jumpsuit” and “waistcoat”? A jumpsuit is a onesie or a romper. My family are always mixing up the terms “jumper” and “romper”, and I always have to correct them- jumpers are sweaters, and rompers are the clothing where the top and bottoms are attached!

    You can actually learn a lot of terms by watching British YouTube hauls, just search “Primark” or “New Look” or “TopShop” haul and you’re bound to get a Briton result!

  6. Thanks for sharing. This is all correct, except the last one:
    overalls = dungarees (the straps come over the shoulders and do up to a panel on the front)
    jumper/romper = jumpsuit (trousers and top are attached)

    beanie without a pompom = woolly hat/ wool hat.
    warm vest, especially for outdoors = gilet.
    pantyhose = tights

  7. Never heard the term kirby grips before… Also, isn’t a snood a hair net for beards? o_O
    Liz was right about everything (especially ‘slacks’), except for the ‘pants’ issue. Yes pants is underwear, but not just for boys – girl pants are pants too! I hear the word pants used for girls’ underwear more than knickers… Ok, some people say ‘panties’, but I have a personal hatred of that word…

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