Stop Being Afraid Of Culottes

Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
Culottes are not easy. But, hey, we never back down in the face of a little fashion challenge. Especially one that pays off in spades and is as flattering as this one. Yes, we said it: flattering.
We understand culottes have had a bad rap, and one that was only perpetrated with the popularity of stretchy gauchos in the early 2000s. But, despite the fact that they look a bit different now, and have the stamp of approval from glossy editorials, street-style stars, and yours truly, we don't begrudge the eye rolls.
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Off the rack, these part-pants, sorta-skirty pieces look like they were made for super-sizing the bottom half of your body while chopping your height. But, hangers and product images can't really do them justice. Trying them on makes all the difference.
Once you slip into a pair, culottes are as graceful as a midi-skirt, as easy to toss on as your favorite pair of cropped trousers, and can actually lengthen your frame as well as any above-the-knee cut. Plus, you'll find that now there are so many more sophisticated styling possibilities that those Lycra ones ever afforded.
To prove it, we tasked seven women — of different sizes and styles — to let go of the wide-leg panic and put on their big-girl skirt-like pants. Click on to see how culottes killed it, across the board.
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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
The Cocktail Culotte
Annie Georgia Greenberg, senior style editor

Sorry, LBDs and sexy jumpsuits, but the fancy culotte is one of our favorite "going out" staples. This billowy fit is elegant (and — summertime bonus — airy) and all it requires is a statement-making crop top, sexy ankle-strap heels, and a clutch to be ready for an evening affair.

Novis pants, Tibi shoes, DKNY bag.

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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
What she said: "I'm now a tried-and-true fan. I love the way my look was a bit more dressed-up but still unexpected with the color of the culottes being somewhat 'daytime.' Yes, I love a crop top but I do actually think that for my body this combination is perfect — sophisticated but still with the silhouette to go out at night."
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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
The Tomboy Culotte
Larissa Green, social media editor

No heels, no problem. Though culottes can be pretty feminine — they basically look like an A-line skirt when you stand with your legs together — that doesn't mean this trend excludes sportier dressers. Look for athletic details, like a racing stripe down the leg or a drawstring at the waist, and just add high tops. Also, since this pair has a super-wide bottom, it adds some extra curve to Larissa's frame.

Topshop shirt.

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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
What she said: "I've never really thought about wearing culottes, and always thought they were a no-no for short and stubby body types like mine. After trying them on though, they made me feel slim, lengthy, and like a princess without having to wear a dress — I twirled in the pants and dreamt they were mine, but alas, I'll just have to add one more thing to my 'must-buy basics' list. Culottes are IN!"
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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
The Legs-For-Days Culottes
Kelsey Miller, senior features writer

There's a bit of magic when you pair a culotte with pumps: instant, mile-long legs. With a bright, pointed-toe heel, the high-waist culottes elongate her frame and only require a basic striped tee and practical backpack to complete the look. While Kelsey may keep her day-to-day style fairly casual, this outfit strikes a happy balance of easy and elegant all in one.

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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
What she said: "I had kind of forgotten culottes existed, so when someone volunteered me for this story, I agreed if only to find out what they actually were. Turns out, what they are is fabulous. Giant, swingy, lady-pants that make you look kind of like a '90s business gal and kind of like a genie? Sold. These are super comfy but definitely look put-together and grown-up in an outfit. Plus, they're so breezy — like a skirt but two skirts. Culottes are now my favorite reason not to shave in the summer."
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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
The Advanced Culotte
Emily Holland, styling director

In case you don't count yourself among the crowd of culotte novices, Emily's look challenges you to take things up a notch. Pick an intrepid fabric — this one's leather! — that has a stiffer shape. And, incorporate other tricky trends into the mix, like crop tops and fringe.

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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
What she said: "I tend to dress a bit on the boyish side, so I love that the wider, cropped-leg culotte is back in style. These are my ultimate dream would-love-to-have-in-my-closet culotte. The white leather is unexpected and a definite showstopper."
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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
The Vintage-Look Culotte
Chloe Daley, associate lifestyle editor

Take a cue from culottes' other heyday: the '70s. For a vintage-lover like Chloe it's especially fitting to choose a bold patterned print. But, instead of going full throwback and pairing with a matching top for a pajama-like ensemble, we layered on a few oversized, structured pieces for a modern touch, and cinched it together to show off her slender frame.

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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
What she said: "I wear culottes at least three times a week in the summer — basically a super fan. They're breezy, don't touch my body, and are so easy to throw on. But, I only own white and black pairs so I was psyched we switched it up and chose a patterned, Suno option for my look. I thought the style was only right for summer, but this layering trick showed me I can wear well into fall. Definitely going to try it!"
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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
The Petite-Power Culotte
Samantha Yu, editorial assistant

Culottes hit at a flattering three-quarter length for many women. But, for ladies on the shorter side, that could be more like seven-eighths.Treat this trend as you would your cropped trousers. Pair with a low, lace-up flat to show off a bit more skin and stick with a boxy top that hits at the hem of the high waistband, as seen in Samm's preppy ensemble here.

Philosophy pants, Topshop bag.

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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
What she said: "Culottes and calf-lengths are very new territory for me. At just under five feet tall, I tend to stick with above-the-knee shorts, dresses, and skirts, or straight-leg, ankle-grazing pants. I was a little worried that we wouldn't be able to find a perfect pair, and I did have to try on a few different options, but the hunt proved fruitful. The burgundy culottes added color to my normally black-and-white palette, and surprised me by pairing well with the boxy striped top. I think it's a great look for the office and I would definitely wear everything in this outfit again. Especially those DVF shoes. That was love at first sight."
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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
The Layering Culotte
Leeann Duggan, style features editor

Don't just think of this bell-shaped silhouette as an opportunity to wear something tiny on top; the culotte is also a your best layering tool to mix all kinds of proportions. A tunic or dress over your pants makes for a great alternative to, well, just a plain ol' dress on its own. The looser-fit shift mimics the shape of the bottoms, and looks especially flattering on an hourglass figure like Leeann's.

Novis dress, Alexis Bittar necklace, DKNY shoes.

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Photographed by Kristiina Wilson.
What she said: "Few words strike fear in my heart like 'culottes' — blame my fifth grade teacher Ms. Hansen, who didn't exactly make them look chic. But, the pair I wear here is more like a gamine, cropped trouser than the huge, billowy silhouette I feared would overwhelm my frame and cut my legs off at their stumpiest. If you're just dipping a toe into culottes land, start with something similar, and wear 'em with the highest heel you can stand. Chic culottes: not an oxymoron. Take that, Ms. Hansen."
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