On Friday, I was chatting to a friend who was preparing her impending civil partnership when she told me:
"All there is to do now is pick up dad’s corsage."
Suddenly, I had this image of my friend’s father in a frilly, tight, lacy little number. The ceremony was held in Brighton, maybe this absolutely not flamboyant charming man was trying to fit in? After all, everyone knows that English people can be very eccentric. I couldn’t wait to see him! I said as much to my friend, who rolled her eyes and explained that a corsage is a little bouquet of flowers that you pin to your jacket.
How disappointing.
So, to sum up, a corsage in English looks like this:
Whereas in French, it looks like this (following an outcry on the French side at my poor choice of photo, I have found myself compelled to change it – this one is more accurate but the other one was funnier!):
Fed up with debates on corsages? Well, sorry but it’s still going on on the French side. Besides, I have so much work that I’m struggling to write for this blog, so we might as well study the subject in some depth. Here are two examples of corsage sent by a reader (thanks Sandrine!).
The sleeves and the collar lead me to think that they should be called chemisettes or chemisiers. I’m ever so confused, I no longer know what to put in my corsage drawer!
For reference, this is the photo I chose originally and which, I admit, isn’t brilliant (but funny when I imagine my friend’s father wearing it):

By | 2016-10-18T15:50:31+00:00 February 27th, 2006|Words|3 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Erin February 27, 2006 at 9:29 pm

    And see, in the US, a corsage is the same thing as in the UK, except only a woman would wear one, either pinned to her dress or around her wrist. The equivalent for a man is a “boutonniere”, which, even though I speak French, I have no idea if it has the same meaning (or even exists) in French.

  2. Marie-Louise February 28, 2006 at 11:36 am

    In French, “une boutonnière” means 1) a buttonhole 2) boutonniere, corsage (for both men and women I think)

  3. Xavier Kreiss March 5, 2006 at 10:48 am

    Marie-Louise makes an important point: a corsage can have the same meaning in English and in French – although in the English sense it would only be worn by a woman.
    A man could too, of course, but it might raise a few eyebrows. However, it takes all kinds.
    As for the English translation of the more often used meaning of the French “corsage”, I would favour “blouse” or “top”.
    When I was much younger, I once stayed with an American family. The daughter went out to the prom marking the end of her high school years. Big event. She spent a lot of care on her dress (it was worth it) but it was her “date” who brought her corsage. An orchid.
    I remember her asking her mother, the next day, if orchids could be dried/pressed for keeping. The answer was a little disappointing to her, but the question indicated that she’d been given memories which must have proved much more durable.
    Of course, a shy young woman wishing to make sure her “date” kept his distance could always wear a cactus …

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