Style Glossary: Waistcoats, Jumpers, and Singlets

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Stripe the Good Stripe Top, Basic Cable Sweater, and Dramaturge Vest

It’s a cool, overcast grey morning in England. Without paying much attention to the weather cues around you, you decide to step out in your favorite striped singlet and a vintage leather waistcoat. There’s no doubt you look stylish, but are you dressed appropriately? Your mother begs to differ.

“Are you crazy? It’s much too cold to be wearing just a singlet and a waistcoat! Go inside and put on a jumper!”

For those of us who live in America, here’s a little translation in Sydney, London, and beyond, the sleeveless tops we know as tank tops are called singlets, vests are called waistcoats (a sophisticated term I’m determined to popularize here in the U.S.), and sweaters are dubbed jumpers.

We love fashion nomenclature as much as the next person, so share with us your local clothing terms in the comments below!

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16 Responses to Style Glossary: Waistcoats, Jumpers, and Singlets

  1. Al 09/28/2010 at 3:16 pm #

    I’ve always wondered what the Brits call the garment that Americans call “jumpers”. Those little overdress things. Inquiring minds wanna know.

  2. Meredith 09/28/2010 at 3:51 pm #

    As far as I knew, a “tank top” in British parlance is actually a “vest”. I’ve never heard the term “singlet” before!

  3. Kate 09/28/2010 at 5:05 pm #

    As a Brit, I disagree with the term singlet. I’ve never heard it used for that item before, infact we’re more likely to just call a tank top ‘a tank top’! Though our term is generally ‘vest top’.

  4. Morgan 09/28/2010 at 6:40 pm #

    As a New Zealander, I have no issue with ‘singlet’, but I think it’s more of an Antipodean thing. They’re usually called vests in the Uk (where I currently live).
    Just to add another level to the mix… in NZ/AUS/The US ‘pants’ refers to trousers – i.e. outerwear. In the UK it means underwear – i.e. underpants. Very confusing when a New Zealander tells a Brit their pants are falling down!

    • Emily (ModCloth) 09/28/2010 at 7:33 pm #

      Great point about the “pants” confusion Morgan! I definitely received a few curious looks when using the term during my time in the UK!

  5. Annie (ModCloth) 09/28/2010 at 7:27 pm #

    Thanks for your feedback, ladies! It’s so interesting to learn of the differences between common clothing terms. And Kate, I think you’re right – from my research, singlet seems to be more of an Australian or New Zealand term for a sleeveless shirt. Sorry for any confusion!

  6. Kit 09/28/2010 at 7:43 pm #

    Where I live in Australia, we call singlets, singlets OR tank tops. And we don’t call vests waistcoats either, but it did get little confusing when my American Uncle came over to Australia and I asked him to get my jumper…He had no idea what I meant!! He thought maybe I had a pet frog I wanted to bring, lol!
    Yes Morgan, I understand completely!! I have had some very funny incidents happy to me! But I think the worst story was when some American friend of ours were visiting. Here we call what I think Americans call ‘flipflops’, ‘thongs’ and me not relizing they only thought of thongs as in the underpants, I yelled out to my brother, “(my brothers name), I can’t find my thongs, did you borrow them again?!”
    I completely scandalized them!

  7. Charlotte 09/28/2010 at 9:10 pm #

    I am a British girl studying in the USA and I have to admit these different words trip me up on a daily basis!!
    I agree with everyone else who has said that a tank top is a vest though. I don’t think the word singlet has been used in the UK in the last couple of centuries.
    I find the vest/vest thing confusing though- our vest and your vest are very different things!!
    Jumpers are jumpers though!!

    Charlotte xx

  8. Caitlin 09/29/2010 at 3:53 am #

    The classic Australian term is definitely the thong… which apparantly is a G-string to the rest of the world… It has difficult caused some problems with non-Aussies!

    The other Aussie-ism is calling singlets wife-beaters.

    • Angela 10/01/2010 at 11:50 am #

      Calling them “wife-beaters” actually isn’t just and Aussie-ism. It’s pretty common where I live–the southern United States. I prefer to avoid the allusion to domestic violence and just call them “undershirts.” It doesn’t bear any reference to t-shirts anymore, since they’ve become outerwear, not underwear.

  9. Mickie 09/29/2010 at 9:34 am #

    To my knowledge Brits called tank tops, vests?

    And being Canadian… yeah we speak generally the same as Americans in this respect…

  10. SoftCastle 09/29/2010 at 10:25 pm #

    Here in jolly ol’ England, we wear “playsuits”. I think Americans refer to them as “jumpsuits”.

    • Mickie 09/29/2010 at 10:52 pm #

      Actually, those would be rompers. Jumpsuits are full-body onesie-type things. :)

  11. Charlotte 09/30/2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Yeah we never call tank tops, “singlets” its a vest.

    Playsuits in England are “rompers” in the US which is such an awful word!

  12. Leiah 10/03/2010 at 12:09 pm #

    @Charlotte – i would love rompers to be called playsuits instead! “Playsuit” is such a cuter term!

  13. Ally 10/27/2010 at 11:03 pm #

    What Americans call ‘jumpers,’ or ‘rompers,’ I think here in Sydney I’d call it a jumpsuit.

    Singlet is definitely an Australian term, but I’ve only ever head Americans call them ‘wife beaters.’

    One of my favourites is our habit of calling track pants ‘tracky daks’ or a track suit just a ‘tracky.’
    There’s also the flannel shirt, or ‘flanno’ and men’s shorts, called ‘stubbies’ after a certain brand. Wear with socks and thongs.

    High fashion in Sydney, mate.

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