All about Clothes

09 December 2022

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about clothes, outfits, suits, and costumes.


Dear Teacher,

Ask a Teacher: All about Clothes
Ask a Teacher: All about Clothes

Could you explain for me when to use ''costume'', ''outfit'', ''suit'' and ''clothes'' please?

Kind regards,

Chau from Vietnam


Dear Chau,

Thanks for this question! "Costumes" and "suits" are kinds of "clothes." An "outfit" is a combination of clothes that you wear for the day. Let's look at each of these a little closer.


"Clothes" is a plural noun meaning coverings we wear over our body to give protection and keep us warm or cool. Sometimes, "clothes" we wear can be stylish or have a special meaning.

By the end of the week my dirty clothes pile up and I need to wash them.

Kinds of "clothes" include pants, shorts, shirts or "tops," dresses, and skirts. They also include underwear and socks.

I have summer clothes like skirts and shorts and winter clothes like sweatpants and hoodies.

Some "clothes" are worn only at special times, for example:

My gym clothes include stretchy pants and a tee-shirt.


An "outfit" is a set of clothes. The word "outfit" is a countable noun.

When I travel, I like to pack an extra outfit just in case.

On the internet, people like to share their outfits of the day or OOTDs.


A "suit" is a formal outfit consisting of a jacket, pants, or a skirt, and sometimes a vest, all made from the same cloth.

Suits were a popular choice for work before 2020.

My husband wore a blue suit to our wedding.

A "suit" can also be a piece of clothing that you wear for a certain activity.

For example,

Swimsuits are for swimming and other water activities.


"Costume" has several meanings.

As a noun, the first meaning is a set of clothes for a performer when they are on stage or worn by a person for a specific reason or an event like a holiday.

During the play, the actors had to change their costumes many times.

I have a full closet of dance costumes that I need to sell.

What is your Halloween costume this year? My costume is a cat!

The second meaning as a noncount noun refers to clothes worn by people during a time in history or in a specific country or area.

She dressed in her country's traditional costume for an international event.

Victorian-era costumes consisted of fitted clothes like high-collared shirts and long skirts for women that did not reveal much skin.

And, we use "costume" as an adjective describing something like a play or film set in the past and where actors use clothing from that time period.

The television show Outlander is a costume drama set in the 1700s in countries like Scotland, France, and The United States.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you!

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And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

stylish adj. following a popular way of dressing or presenting oneself

hoodie – n. a sweatshirt with a hood covering the head

vest – n. a sleeveless piece of clothing with buttons down the front that is worn over a shirt and under a suit jacket

highcollared – adj. describing part of as shirt or coat that fits around the top part of the neck

reveal – v. to show something that was hidden or unknown earlier