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English Idioms and the World of Fashion

Fashion idioms

The language of fashion is often as creative and diverse as the garments it describes. However, there are a number of English idioms that pop up again and again when talking about clothing and trends. The following list entails 32 of them:

1. au courant
The term
au courant refers to something that is up-to-date and/or reflects the latest styles and trends.
Example: Fashion magazines are full of glamorous pictures of
au courant clothing and accessories.

When something is avant-garde, it is very modern and revolutionary.
Example: What one person might describe as
avant-garde, another might find over-the-top and silly.

blast from the past
The English idiom a blast from the past refers to something that makes you think of the past.
Example: These polyester jumpsuits are a real
blast from the past. My mother wore similar ones in the 1970s.

can’t hold a candle to someone/something
When something can’t hold a candle to someone or something, he, she or it is not as good in comparison.
Example: This season’s fashion show
can’t hold a candle to those from last year. It was phenomenal.

to blaze a trail /to be a trailblazer
Someone who blazes a trail, i.e. a trailblazer, is a leader or revolutionary in a certain field .
Example: Is Lady Gaga a fashion

cheap and cheerful
Clothing that does not cost much but is attractive can be described as cheap and cheerful.
Example: If you like
cheap and cheerful fashion, this clothing line is the right one for you.

Clothes make the man.
This English idiom implies that
people will judge you by your clothes, i.e. good clothes will make people respect you more.
Example: Why did Sam go to the job interview looking like that? Doesn’t he know that
clothes make the man?

fashion victim
fashion victim is someone who wears fashionable clothes even when they do not look good on him.
Example: Those capri pants might be in style, but they don’t look good on you, Louise. Don’t be a
fashion victim!

free and easy
The term
free and easy refers to something that is unconstrained and informal, i.e. the opposite of stiff and formal.
Example: This summer’s designs are
free and easy.

fashion faux pas
fashion faux pas is a fashion mistake.
Example: Wearing green and yellow tennis shoes to the wedding was a
fashion faux pas that Bernice will never forget.

to be a cut above
Something that is a cut above is superior or better than something else.
Example: The workmanship of this dress
is a cut above.

to be a slave to fashion
Someone who is a slave to fashion is someone who wears clothes and accessories solely because they are in style.
Example: Too many people are slaves to fashion. Forget about trends - wear what looks good on you!

13. to be all the rage
Something that is all the rage is something that is in or currently fashionable.
Example: Floor-length dresses
are the latest rage.

14. to be dressed to the nines
When you are
dressed to the nines, you are wearing fashionable, fancy or attractive clothes that make you look very good.
Example: Did you see Beverly at last night’s reception? She was
dressed to the nines.

to be in (style)
When something is in or is in style, it is fashionable at the moment.
Example: I didn’t know that harem pants were
in last year.

to be striking / stunning
When something is striking or is stunning, it attracts attention because it is exceptionally beautiful, different or unusual.
Example: The blouse’s asymmetrical neckline is stunning.

to be out (of style)
When something is out or is out of style, it is no longer fashionable.
Example: I didn’t know that harem pants are
out this year.

18. to catch on
The English idiom to catch on means to become popular or fashionable.
Example: A-line skirts have really
caught on, although I, personally, prefer pencil skirts.

19. to catch someone’s eye / to be eye-catching
If something catches your eye or is eye-catching, it is exceptionally attractive or noticeable.
Example: This year’s bright colors are very eye-catching.

to come into fashion
If something
comes into fashion, it becomes fashionable.
Example: He wondered whether leather hats will
come into fashion again.

to cut a fine figure
If you cut a fine figure,you look good and cause others to admire your appearance.
Example: Bruce
cut a fine figure in his new black suit.

to dance to someone else’s tune
Someone who dance’s to someone else’s tune does what he is told or in the same way that others have done before him.
Example: A revolutionary designer does not
dance to anyone else’s tune. He dances to his own tune.

to each his / her own
The idiom to each his own means that people have different tastes.
Example: In my opinion, the colors were not complementary.
To each his own, I guess.

to fit like a glove
When something fits very well or fits perfectly, it fits like a glove.
Example: Her wedding dress
fit like a glove 3 months before the wedding, but it needed to be let out just before the ceremony.

to go out of fashion
When a style our item of clothing
goes out of fashion, it is no longer fashionable.
Example: Shoulder pads
went out of fashion in the late 1980s.

to go overboard (on something)
The expression to go overboard (on something) means to use or do too much of something.
Example: I love, glamor and shine, but it is not a good idea to go overboard on the glitter.

to have had its day
When something has had its day, it is old, no longer useful, no longer successful or outdated. In the world of fashion, this expression could apply to a piece of clothing, a trend or a person working in the industry.
Example: I think that Dad’s checkered suit has had its day. It’s time to buy a new one.

to have had one’s fill of something
If you have had your fill of something, you have had too much of it and don’t like it anymore.
Example: I
have had my fill of pastel colors. From now on, I only want to wear black.

to make a fashion statement
If you make a fashion statement, you wear something that expresses your personal taste and/or is attention-grabbing.
Example: Michael’s pink plaid pants
made a fashion statement at work last week.

30. to turn heads / to be head-turning
When something or someone turns heads or is head-turning, it gets people’s attention.
Example: The designer’s polka-dot patterns and bright colors
were head-turning.

31. to work wonders
The English idiom to work wonders means to improve something a lot.
Example: That style
works wonders for your figure. You look fabulous!

32. yesterday’s news
The expression yesterday’s news refers to something that everyone already knows or something that no one is interested in anymore.
Example: These bold patterns are yesterday’s news. Today, people are wearing solids in subtle colors.


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Idioms in the World of Art

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

Recently, upon working on a German-English translation, I realized that the language of art is not that simple. The artists among us probably wonder how I could possibly think that discussing art could be simple, right? My only answer to that question is that, in the past, I had mostly translated business texts which I had falsely perceived as somehow being more challenging. Besides that, I had always loved art and, at times, thought that I was good at it. An art translation was going to be a piece of cake, I thought. My false illusions quickly disappeared when I had to translate German words like Grundklang and Klang into English, for which there are, quite interestingly, no direct English translations within the context of visual art in the dictionary (any suggestions from German native speakers?). I soon realized that talking about art, although very interesting, was not going to be as easy as I had thought. And how about trying to do it in a foreign language? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, would it not be nice to have the vocabulary to express what you want to say? The following is a short list of 16 English idioms that could all be used to discuss art:

Well begun is half done.
Do you think that there is a reason why I put this English proverb at the top of my list of art idioms? Well begun is half done means that when you begin a project or task properly, it will be easier to successfully complete the rest.
Example: The art teacher reminded his students of how important it is to plan a composition. He told them that well begun is half done.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
This English proverb means that every person has a different idea of what beauty is and whether something is beautiful or not depends on who is looking, i.e. who the beholder is.
Example: No one could understand why Carmen loved Eduardo’s boring abstract compositions. Beauty, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder.

This expression refers to tasteless creations that are not worthy of being called art. The following example will help clarify what kitsch is.
Example: My mother-in-law gave us a picture as a gift. It was a portrait of Elvis on a hot pink velvet background. Needless to say, I refused to hang it on the wall because I felt that it was kitsch.

4. to be striking
A work of art that is striking is one that is very noticeable or outstanding.
Example: Rich in contrast and color, Picasso’s Weeping Woman is striking.

5. to bear fruit
Something that bears fruit produces positive or successful results.
Example: After spending months in his studio, Pierre’s hard work finally bore fruit.

6. to break with convention
An artist who breaks with convention is one who does not do things in the traditional or expected way.
Example: The avant-garde artists of the time broke with convention.

to bring something to life
When an artists brings something to life, he makes his subject come to life.
Example: Through his realistic and very detailed sculptures, the artist brought local historical figures to life.

8. to each his / her own
The idiom to each his own means that people have different tastes.
Example: The artist chose very dark colors for his composition.
To each his own, I guess.

to be eye-catching
When a work of art is eye-catching, it attracts your interest or attention.
Example: Van Gogh’s use of bright colors makes his sunflower pictures very eye-catching.

to grab someone
If a work of art grabs you, it captures your attention or appeals to you very much.
Example: Caspar David Friedrich’s Moonrise by the Seareally grabs me.

to move someone
When a work of art moves you, it makes you react emotionally.
Example: The artist’s mother-daughter portraits really moved the young mother and she began to cry.

to put the finishing touches on something
If you put the finishing touches on a work of art, you are adding the final improvements to make it complete.
Example: She needed another hour to put the final touches on her mural.

to resonate with someone
When a work of art resonates with its audience, it causes them experience a feeling of shared emotion or belief.
Example: The Fukushima photographer’s compositions really resonated with the audience, most of whom were tsunami survivors.

to speak to someone / so something
If a work of art speaks to you or to your heart, it is something that you can relate to and something that appeals to you.
Example: The Iranian film A Separation really spoke to the audience.

to stand the test of time
If a work of art can stand the test of time, it will regarded as good for a long time.
Example: It is fair to say that the work of Leonardo da Vinci has stood the test of time.

to strike a chord
When a work of art strikes a chord, it causes an emotional reaction or response.
Example: The student’s black and white photographs struck a chord with her fellow students.

Do you have some more suggestions for this list?