English Language Blog

English idioms involving clothing Posted by on Aug 18, 2015 in English Vocabulary

Image by Joel Penner on Flickr.com.

Image by Joel Penner on Flickr.com.

This post is one for all the “fashionistas” (or people who love clothes and fashion) out there. Today we are going to look at clothes from hats to shoes, but we aren’t going to talk about specific clothing vocabulary, we are going to look at idioms and expressions that involve clothing. So, even if you don’t care much about fashion, this post will still help you build your English knowledge and give you a few more fun phrases to work into your everyday speech.

Clothing-related idioms from top to bottom:

at the drop of a hat – without planning or notice, impromptu, unexpectedly
Example: We are ready to leave for the hospital, to have the baby, at the drop of hat.

to take (one’s) hat off to (something) – to admire or respect something or someone
Example: I take my hat off to you Burt, that was an extremely well prepared presentation.

a stuffed shirt – a very rigid, old-fashioned, or formal person (usually a man)
Example: I expected my new boss to be a real stuffed shirt after the interview, but he is actually a pretty cool guy.

to ride on (someone’s) coattails – to gain success or fortune due to the work of someone else
Example: It is clear that Zack is riding on his father’s coat tails; there is no way he could be where he is now in business on his own.

to have (someone) in (one’s) pocket – to have control over someone
Example: The secretary has her boss in her pocket since she found out about his illegal activity.

to have an ace up (one’s) sleeve – to have secret knowledge, especially when it can be used against someone else
Example: I’m sure the vice president has an ace up his sleeve that he is waiting to use when the time is right.

off the cuff – without preparation, impromptu
Example: The speaker decided to make a few off the cuff remarks before beginning her prepared speech.

to tighten (one’s) belt – to spend less money
Example: The time has come for us to either tighten our belts or find second jobs.

by the seat of (one’s) pants – due to luck or good fortune
Example: Henry passed his math class, but only by the seat of his pants.

to have ants in (one’s) pants – to be restless, to move a lot
Example: After a whole week of rain and staying indoors I felt like I had ants in my pants and can’t wait to get outside.

if the shoe fits, wear it – a way of saying that someone should accept a general comment or criticism as applying to them
Example: A: “Just because I was late for work twice this week doesn’t mean I am a late person.” B: “I don’t know about that, if the shoe fits, wear it.”

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.