Last night at the French Conversation Group we were discussing various words for clothing in French. One word the seems to cover quite a few different types of clothing is gilet /ʒi.lɛ/, which on its own means a sleeveless jacket similar to a waistcoat (vest in American English), and apparently comes from the Maghrebi Arabic word jalikah (a type of jacket worn by Christian slaves in galleys) which comes from the Turkish word yelek (sleeveless jacket; wing feather) [from: Wikitionnaire, Wikitionary and turkishdictionary.net].
Gilet also appears in:
– gilet pareballes = bulletproof jacket/vest; flak jacket (AmEng)
– gilet de sauvetage = life jacket (BrEng) / life preserver / Mae West (AmEng)
– gilet de peau / gilet de corps = vest (BrEng), undershirt (AmEng)
– gilet matelassé = body warmer
– aller pleurer dans le gilet de qqn = to cry on someone’s shoulder
Gilet /ʒile/ is also used in English to mean “a bodice shaped like, or in imitation of, a man’s waistcoat” [source].
In British English the word vest usually refers to a garment, usually sleeveless, worn under one’s shirt, or undershirt in American English. While in American English a vest is a sleeveless piece of clothing with buttons down the front worn over a shirt and under a suit jacket, or waistcoat in British English. So in British English a three-piece suit consists of a jacket, waistcoat and trousers, while in American English these garments are a jacket, vest and pants. I’m sure there are regional variations in these names, as well as in the types of garments they refer to.
Another word that came up was camisole /ka.mi.zɔl/, which in French means “une sorte de vêtement du matin, court, à manches, qui se porte sur la chemise” (a type of morning clothing, short, with sleeves, that is worn on the shirt), and comes from the Provencal word camisola, which comes from the Italian camisciola, a diminutive of camisa (shirt) [from: Wikitionnaire].
In English camisole /ˈkæmɪsəʊl/ can refer to:
– a type of jacket or jersey with sleeves;
– a loose jacket worn by women when dressed in negligée*;
– an underbodice, often embroidered and trimmed with lace;
– a strait-jacket**
* ‘in negligée‘ = dressed in informal or unceremonious attire. In French négligé (adj) means ‘slovenly, scruffy, untidy, unkempt, slipshod, frowzy, floppy’; and en tenue négligée means ‘in casual clothing’ [source].
** strait-jacket = camisole de force in French.