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    CULOTTES: The Garment that Transcends Time

    The culotte is a wonderfully versatile garment that defies all categorisation. Designers have adopted and twisted this garment and made it their own, ensuring that it continues to contest the tricks of time, age, and season. Revolutionised from their French origin (the ‘culot’ and the ‘sans-culottes’), contemporary culottes have witnessed a recent comeback and transformed into a versatile, feminine garment that is a staple in any woman’s modern-day wardrobe. Rooted in a long and intriguing history [link to history of culottes], culottes have become a standard necessity in contemporary fashion labels and stores, yet each has their own individual touches that allow different styles, body shapes, and desires to be accommodated for. Whether you are a connoisseur or a novice when it comes to all things fashion, culottes are the perfect item with which to start experimenting and discovering how to communicate your personality through how you dress.


    With the high street aiding in the accessibility of this attire – including Zara, Oliver Bonus, Next, French Connection and many more – it could not be easier for women from different walks of life to collectively engage with the culottes as a go-to style. The modern evolution of the culotte has sustained popularity because of its ability to transcend class boundaries, where ordinary women can compare their own wardrobe with the likes of royalty, such as Kate Middleton. Nurturing a long history, culottes have adapted into an item that caters for the level of activity required of modern-day women. From corporate to casual, culottes have a variety of customisations that accomodate different social situations. An alternative to the midi skirt, a soft-pleated pair of culottes are a more conservative yet feminine choice that can be worn both at work and at home. In contrast, to accentuate your silhouette, a more structured crop trouser can be a more flattering choice and works equally as well in the workplace or in more casual environments. With each fashion era adding their own variations and subtle touches to the traditional culotte, they have become a staple of timeless fashion. In recent years, a wider leg has emerged as more fashionable amongst both street-level styles and high-end designers, but there is still variation in the material, with distinctive approaches in denim, wool and silk. From desk to dinner, the culotte is an effortless choice that transcends modern expectations but is simultaneously ideal for the unique modern woman.


    Neither a skirt, shorts, nor a trouser, culottes are an adventurous combination of all three. In early 2020 runways, prestigious designers such as Givenchy and Saint Laurent incorporated the culotte ensemble into their shows. Givenchy’s Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear collection demonstrated the versatility of the culotte, pairing ripped denim culottes together with a smarter, cream done-up blazer. This was highly effective as it reinforced the culottes’ role in combining different aspects of fashion into one, allowing this trend to be fun rather than strictly formal and breaking free of the workplace connotations which are rigidly associated with the trouser-suit. Another designer fully embracing culottes is Saint Laurent who, in their Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear collection, infused their designs with a more bourgeoise tone. Amidst traditional tartan, wool and cashmere, Saint Laurent’s inclusion of tailored culottes contributed significantly to the feel of luxury and opulence. What is interesting about Saint Laurent’s collection is how the French designer was able to fuse both masculine and feminine histories of the culotte ensemble, with the model simultaneously carrying a suit blazer and wearing a sheer top with a pussy bow, which visibly highlighted her womanly assets. This brings to life the key to fashion success: tradition and experimentation. The classy but conservative bourgeois-look is also used by fashion label Celine, whose grey, woollen culottes are paired with over-the-knee boots, a high neck shirt and a check blazer.

    Givenchy. Ready-to-wear, SS 2020
    Celine. Ready-to-wear, SS 2020


    The most fascinating thing about culottes is their transcendent nature. They have cut across time, age and season, with it being normal to see a woman sporting them across a warm, sandy beach, or to work in the London winter rain. Culottes can also be reworked for a woman of any status and personality, as demonstrating when the fashion icon Lady Diana flipped the discourse of monarchical fashion by donning culottes, which at the time boasted a particularly masculine heritage. Indeed, her clothes certainly mirrored her powerful and beautifully problematic personality. As a woman who often made daring and bold statements, she significantly helped popularise the garment by wearing Bruce Oldfield’s velvet culotte suit  when she turned on the Christmas lights at Regents Street in 1981. Fusing fashion with wider cultural agendas, Lady Diana’s influence continues into the modern day, with Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, often seen to fashionably sport culottes in order to match her fast-paced lifestyle.

    Diana, Princess of Wales
    Diana, Princess of Wales
    Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge
    Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge
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