The Insider’s Guide to Clothing and Shoe Sizes in France
Have you ever noticed how the French seem to be snappy dressers? Seeing the Parisians stepping out in what appear to be their 'Sunday Best' just to go to work can really make you want to head to the nearest clothes shop and spend, spend, spend! When you get there, be sure to have the appropriate vocabulary to hand, including how to ask where to try on the clothes that you fancy, which will make the experience even more satisfying.
Women's dress sizes
In France, as with many countries, there are two basic systems both familiar to English speakers. The simpler of the two is the 'small, medium, large' (SML) system. Unusually for the French, these have not been translated and garment labels bare the usual S, M and L plus the variations such as XS, XXL and so on. One might have expected P (petite) and G (grande) in place of the S and L.
The other system is numeric. French sizes are easy for the English, adding 28 to your usual UK size will give the equivalent French size. US women are used to having multiple ranges of numbered sizes - miss petite, misses, women's and more but if you search the Internet, you will soon find plenty of conversion charts to help.
Men's clothing sizes in France are similar to the women's, that is to say, the SML system plus numeric sizes. Having said that, it is also useful if you know your main size measurements such as neck, chest and inside leg in cm. To do this is straightforward, simply multiply the number of inches by 2.54 then round up or down to the nearest whole number.
For both men and women buying clothes in France, you may need to go up a size since the French average body size is of a smaller frame than the US or the UK.
It doesn't matter in what country a pair of shoes is made, there will be variation between brands and also between different ranges from the same manufacturer, so you always need to try them on before buying.
French shoe sizes will give you the impression of having big feet! Why do we say this? In France, the smallest women’s shoe size is 34 (girls 26) and for men is 38 (boys 29)! The reason for this is that French cobblers settled on using the Paris point as a measure for making their shoes. What is the Paris point do we hear you ask? It is a measure of two thirds of a cm.
We hope this short introduction to clothing and shoe sizes in France is a useful primer but even if you can already tell your chaussons from your chaussettes why not try a French language level test to see how much more you could learn?