Don't Fear The Culotte! What You Need To Know Before Going Big

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they can't wear culottes, don't know how to wear culottes, or are afraid of the trend altogether, I'd be on a yacht somewhere by now. For a laundry list of reasons, culottes are tricky — there's no doubt about it. Some trends, like skinny jeans, come around and take the world by storm because they're versatile and pretty universally flattering. But when culottes step out on the scene, people flock like scared pigeons. Everyone thinks they're awkward, unflattering, or just plain puzzling.

But when you do find the right pair of culottes, it's like a whole new world — they can be just as versatile as your favorite jeans, not to mention they look super-chic and of-the-moment. But first, to clear up some universal confusion, let's talk about what makes a culotte a culotte.

Believe it or not, the term's been around since the late Middle Ages, and the original culottes were actually worn by men first. From kings to military personnel and the first few presidents of the United States, men wore trousers that hit just below the knee. But later, the definition shifted to mean bottoms that look like a skirt but are actually pants — like the original French definition of the word, which described the liberating split riding skirts that women wore to ride their bikes. And today, they've become even slimmer, looking more like a wide, cropped trouser.

Who knew this trend had such a history? If you're still not on board with them, it turns out you're even longer overdue than you thought to give these guys a try. Ahead, we solve all of your culotte-related problems so that you can find a pair to wear with confidence. Go big or go home.
1 of 23
The Problem: The Crop Of Culottes Isn't Flattering
Today's culotte is supposed to be cropped, but we can understand why some people may find this unusual length unflattering or feel like they're just not used to it. Especially if you're particularly tall or extra petite, it can be difficult to find a pair that hits where it should on the leg. Luckily, there are plenty of lengths available to try and try until you find the one that fits.
Advertisement
2 of 23
The Solution: Experiment With Different Lengths
If the typical calf-length culotte just scares you, try a super-short culotte that shows off the leg and hits above the knee. The extra volume and short length make your stems look longer and leaner, especially with a little heel. Legs for days, y'all. Petite women may especially like this variation since it won't ever feel like it's swallowing them.
3 of 23
If you're not ready to go full-on short-shorts or want a shorter length that's still work-appropriate, try a Bermuda-length culotte that hits directly below the knee. Again, this avoids any awkwardness if you feel uncomfortable with culottes that hit mid-calf, but covers a bit more skin than the shortest version.
4 of 23
The typical culotte hits around the middle of the lower leg. Many are afraid this isn't a flattering spot, but we say to just embrace it. A pair like this almost looks like a midi skirt, as it flows away from the body and almost creates a voluminous A-line shape, flattering the waist and accentuating the ankles. Adding a little height with your shoe can help the leg feel more elongated, as well.
5 of 23
Some pairs hit right at the ankle — a bit longer than your average culotte length. They look great with a platform shoe and crop top, whether you're petite and curvy or tall and lanky. Embrace the fitting room as your place to experiment until you find the length that best fits your height, body shape, and personal style. And don't forget that the perfect hem is only a trip to the tailor away.
6 of 23
The Problem: Culottes Look Too Much Like Pajamas
Culottes may remind you of PJ pants, thanks to their oversized silhouette and often soft, casual fabrics. With anything that fits loose or baggy, there's the concern that it just looks sloppy. But culottes are offered in a variety of colors, fabrics, and shapes that can feel more dressy than any after-hours bottom ever would.
Advertisement
7 of 23
The Solution: Seek Out Dressy Details
A few elements can make culottes look like anything but pajamas. From the fabric and color to added elements like crossover panels and prints, pay attention to detail in choosing a culotte that looks polished. The bold hue and interesting structure of this pair keep the look feeling elevated instead of overly casual, especially when worn with a luxe knit and sophisticated pump.
8 of 23
With a rich jewel tone on a structured fabric that has a tiny bit of sheen, these culottes are dressy enough to wear to a fancy event, but can be dressed down with a crop top or tee and sneakers, too. Either way, you won't be sleeping in these bad boys.
9 of 23
Pay attention to the style of the waistband and any closures to make sure that your culottes don't resemble pajama pants. Avoid elastic or drawstring waistbands and fabrics that look like flannel or jersey. This pair has a cool schoolboy vibe, a rigid structure, and a sleek, no-frills waistband and zipper fly.
10 of 23
Sometimes, patterns such as stripes or plaids can remind you of the flannel pajamas you wear on family vacations. A modern and streamlined print in a heavier, nicer-looking fabric keeps these culottes looking put-together. They make an interesting, easy outfit with a classic oxford shirt and some loafers. And always accessorize in a way that lines up with the level of dressiness you're going for.
11 of 23
The Problem: Culottes Make My Butt Look Weird
Again, with silhouettes that are oversized or baggy, there's the concern that your butt might look a bit saggier than it actually is. Especially if you're used to tight, skinny jeans or leggings, you may feel like your form gets lost in the shape of culottes. But go for the right cut, and your backside will get the structure it deserves.
Advertisement
12 of 23
The Solution: Look For High-Waisted Culottes That Are Formfitting At The Top
If you're worried that all your time doing squats at the gym won't quite be showcased in a pair of looser, flowy culottes, try a pair that hugs the body more at the top. Those culottes that have longer rises have a drop-crotch effect and look more like a skirt. A shorter rise, on the other hand, results in more separation between the legs and highlights the butt.
13 of 23
A slim-fitting pair of culottes that hits at the smallest part of your waist will accentuate the rear. Go for a basic color that you can mix and match with the rest of your wardrobe.
14 of 23
A high-waisted, skin-hugging denim with the perfect amount of structure and stretch highlights all the right places. You can still get the volume of a culotte in the leg without losing your curves.
15 of 23
A form-flattering pair of culottes doesn't necessarily have to be skin-tight, either. A non-bulky, lightweight fabric in an A-line shape still has the same enhancing effect on the waist and butt.
16 of 23
The Problem: Culottes Feel Too Casual Or Beachy
Wide-leg pants can make for a cute beach cover-up, but you don't want to look that way when you're heading to the office. You want your culottes to feel structured and appropriate for whatever the day may throw your way. So steer clear of fabrics and shapes that are overly sheer or flowy, and opt for one of the options ahead instead.
Advertisement
17 of 23
The Solution: Lean Toward More Structured Fabrics
A satin pair of culottes feels anything but beachy. Polished enough for work or evening, these avoid looking too much like a palazzo pant. A matching blazer can even bring the look to the next level.
18 of 23
A medium- or dark-wash denim that hugs the body on top is another way to avoid that vacation-pant look. A little distressing keeps these casual and cool, but no one will think you took a wrong turn for the beach.
19 of 23
Your typical beach-day palazzo pant is usually in a sheer, printed cotton or linen. On the other hand, a pair of leather or faux-leather culottes is a fashion-girl staple. It's these kinds of pieces that get us excited for chillier days ahead.
20 of 23
The Problem: Culottes Look Too Much Like A Skirt
With culottes in super-sheer, lightweight, and flowing fabrics, the legs tend to blend together into what looks like a skirt. But sometimes you want culottes to maintain the shape of a pant and not be confused for something they're not. Fortunately, the solve here is pretty simple.
21 of 23
The Solution: Stay With Slim Cuts And Structured Legs
You won't have to worry about a wide-leg trouser like this one looking like a skirt. Thanks to this pair's slim cut, there's a distinct separation between the legs. And the pleats on the front panels seal the deal.
Advertisement
22 of 23
A denim culotte is always a reliable alternative to a more flowing fabric that may swish together. For a look that's still breezy, go for a white pair and create a monochromatic ensemble with your favorite tee.
23 of 23
Another fabric that creates structure in the leg is a mid-weight or heavyweight jacquard. You won't lose that defining line between the legs.
Advertisement

Shop your inbox!

yay! get ready for the good stuff!