Let's learn clothing idioms

Here's a handy tip to learn and practice these clothing idioms: 

As you get dressed in the morning or when you go shopping, say one of these idioms related to the piece of clothing.

A visual presentation with small clothing icons of 8 English clothing idioms on this page with definitions and a sentence example of each idiom.

Remember that an idiom is a fixed phrase that doesn't change. The meaning is metaphorical and not literal so you cannot usually know the meaning from looking at the individual words.  I've created different lists of idioms and infographics to help you as study English idioms.


If you want to see more example sentences of these idioms, click on the link that says "read more."

When you step into someone's shoes, you take over and do someone else's job.

  • It's going to be very difficult for anyone to step into our nanny's shoes  because our children think of her as their second mother.
  • Last month I stepped into the director's shoes  while he was away on family leave and I refuse to do that ever again.
  • Could someone step into my shoes  at the school assembly next month?

When you lose your shirt, you lose all or almost all of your money.

  • Be very careful about using credit cards to pay for daily expenses because you could eventually lose your shirt  if the debt becomes too high.
  • My father lost his shirt twice  when he started his first and second businesses but fortunately he succeeded on the third try.
  • It's not unusual for gamblers to lose their shirts  so I don't recommend taking so many trips to Las Vegas.

When you're decked out, you are dressed in fancy or special clothing.

  • I look forward to the holiday party each year because our team gets decked out  in formal wear instead of wearing jeans and t-shirts.
  • This year at the Academy Awards everyone was decked out  in sexy evening gowns with plunging necklines and thigh-high slits.
  • Wow, you sure are decked out!  Where are you going tonight?

When you air your dirty laundry (in public), you talk about your personal problems in front of other people.  Example:  It's so embarrassing when our boss airs her dirty laundry  on the phone in the lunch room... read more

If you say something that is below the belt, you say something that is beyond what is socially acceptable and often cruel.

  • Whenever we argue my wife always says things that are below the belt.  If I ever said something as cruel she would never forgive me for it.
  • I was really shocked when my colleague told me I couldn't possibly understand because I didn't have children. That was really below the belt.
  • Don't you think telling your date that he was the worst kisser ever was a bit below the belt?

When something happens at the drop of a hat, it occurs immediately and without planning.

  • Just call me when you need me and I'll be there at the drop of a hat.
  • My former assistant was available at the drop of a hat  to help out and I never appreciated it until now.
  • It's a good thing that you quit because your supervisor never appreciated that you were ready to help at the drop of a hat  on weekends.

A hand-me-down is clothing that is given to a family member or friend because it no longer fits or is not needed.

  • Since I don't have siblings I'm lucky that I don't get any hand-me-downs.
  • I didn't get hand-me-downs  either because I was the oldest child.
  • You are lucky to have dresses! The majority of my clothes are hand-me-down  pants and shorts from my brothers.

A kick in the pants is something that gives you a very strong motivation to do something or to change your behavior.

  • Getting cancer was the kick in the pants  I needed to quit smoking.
  • When my son's unemployment benefits end next month it will give him a kick in the pants  to apply for more jobs.
  • I almost wish my boyfriend would get arrested for drug possession. He needs something to give him a kick in the pants  to stop doing drugs.

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You might like these other idiom infographics

Do you need to learn English clothing vocabulary? Click here to see a list of clothing items (and watch the video to learn the correct pronunciation).

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