Just as Denim jeans were originally created for men and evolved into being everyday, essential unisex wear, culottes were traditionally knee breeches for gentlemen of the European upper classes from the late Middle Ages to the late nineteenth century, and were also worn as part of the military uniform.
In the following years, when women’s liberties slowly inched towards being part of the make-up of society, women’s clothing needed to become more flexible and less rigid. This in itself was a testament to a time of change of how women needed and wanted to be seen within society. Two world wars aided to launch women out of the quintessential wife role, and into the workforce. Since culottes looked like skirts but were actually pants, they crossed the gender divide and served the purpose of allowing women to be feminine and also practical.
Given this unique sartorial history, can we make culottes the denim Jean of the 21st century and make them a go-to skirt-pant like the skinny jean? For some reason, culottes induce fear in women even though they suit every body shape, are stylish and practical and should be heralded for their history.
In the cover photo, Caroline has matched her Zara culottes with her trusty M and S button cardigan. The pop of colour is from her vintage Missoni coat and her Fendi bag. Her trusty Raybans complete her look.
Trust us, we were also not sure of culottes until we gave them a go. And now they are a staple of our wardrobe. They are also current staples of the catwalk. From the thick structured wool culottes from Vilshenko worn by Alexa Chung below, to the soft and sensual silks from YSL, culottes are a strong staple that have been modified and altered to suit fashion trends.
For every body type there is a shape and style that flatters. You can go high waisted, low waisted, elasticated waist, pleated, denim, leather… The list goes on.
What’s so great about culottes they are so versatile. Paired with trainers and bare legs, a mid length pair of culottes from Asos can look great for a relaxed Spring/summer day wear about town and the playground. Add some black tights with heels, and this look is perfect for a day at work followed by work drinks. And given their iconic history, say their little bit for Women’s Lib at the same time.
We like to keep our culottes one colour, as we find they are enough of a fashion statement, so we avoid stripes or patterns at all costs and, as we are culotte novices, tend to stick to black. And always make sure your culottes are straight legged and that they don’t flare out at the hem. The trick to culottes is to keep the torso long, so make sure that any top comes at least to the hips to balance out the culotte leg length.
Here are some great and flattering culottes that we have tried and tested: