Culottes are women’s pants, with wide voluminous legs, that are cut in such a way that they resemble and hang like a skirt. They are almost always cropped, with a hemline that hits somewhere between the knee and the ankle.
Okay, don’t freak out. These are not the culottes of your youth. Today’s styles are tailored and much more flattering than the last pair you owned. And what’s more is that they have transcended their trend status, finding a permanent place in women’s closets.
This is a garment with a long and colorful history. The split skirts made their debut as menswear during the middle ages, and continued to be the lower half of upper class outfits through the end of the 18th century (cue George Washington). During the Victorian era, women embraced the silhouette, as the split skirt gave the ladies freedom to do things like ride horses astride. The word, ‘culotte,’ is borrowed from France (where contemporary French uses the word to mean ‘panties’), and other parts of the world may refer to the style as a skort or gaucho pant.
Despite their popularity, culottes are a tricky silhouette—wide and short, which are typically two traits you don’t want associated with your clothing. However, the right top and shoe can balance out the pants to create a sophisticated look. Culottes can make the legs appear short, but a pair of heels, booties or wedges solves this problem by adding extra length. As far as tops go, shorter or cropped tops with a jacket or blazer creates the proper proportions.