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    THE RECENT HISTORY of CULOTTES

    From disguise to display, culottes have had an incomparable evolutionary journey. As an item that allows women to move freely, the garment has a feminist backstory that should be worn with pride.

    THE 1960s: the DECADE that DARED 

    The 1960s are strongly associated with daring experimentation, where rules and regulations in creative industries began to be challenged and thus loosened; fashion was no exception. In this decade, fashion designers started taking culottes and reconstructing them to empower women. Norman Norell, one of the leading New York fashion designers during the 1940s and who later designed for stars such as Marylin Monroe and Doris Day, was a prominent voice in the fashion industry and used this voice to reintroduce culottes as a feminine attire. In 1960, Norell showcased his version of the culotte suit for both formal and day wear, quickly gaining popularity. Being the first to base an entire suit collection on the culotte divided skirt, Norell made a bold move in the industry that acted as a catalyst for the garment’s future success. Mirroring the socio-political changes of the decade, fashion designers, from Mary Quant to Anne Fogarty, soon followed in the same footsteps, added to the popularisation of the culotte, with features in prestigious fashion publications such as Harper’s Bazaar in 1966. As one of the most revered style icons of the 1960s, it is only right to mention the supermodel and cultural trend-setter Twiggy, who made vast contributions to the decade that broke down boundaries – and, of course, this included her regularly sporting the culotte. The 1960s youth icon included the culotte in her fashion line and in her day-to-day looks, proving how this item of clothing was beginning to be an upcoming style.

    Culottes by Norman Norell
    Mary Quant, English fashion designer and fashion icon

    1970s CULOTTES CRAZE 

    The culotte has appeared to increasingly gain popularity through time, and yet what is fascinating is that it has never lost its controversial appeal. The 1970s was an eruptive decade of political scandals, equality struggles and digital revolutions, but it was also home to an eruption of trouser styles, from flares to bell-bottom pants and, you guessed it, more culottes! Going on to be one of the most successful bands of all time, Swedish group ABBA performed at Eurovision in 1974 and made a statement with their fashion choices as well as their music. Agnetha Fältskog, one of the female singers in the band, chose to sport a shiny blue culotte piece paired with silver, knee-length, platform-heeled boots. As an eye-catching and bold look, this influential statement piece speaks volumes, as the pairing of knee-high boots and culottes would later be included in contemporary designer collections, including those by Saint Laurent and Celine.

    Agnetha Fältskog, 'ABBA' (1974)

    1980s: LADY DIANA SHAKES ROYAL AESTHETIC 

    The royal aesthetic has historically revolved around protecting the feminine, traditional, and conservative appearance of royal women. But Diana had different ideas. The culotte ensemble was a go-to look for Lady Diana because it was stylish yet functional and strayed from conventional guidelines of feminine fashion. Worn to both formal and informal occasions, Lady Diana sported a culotte that inspired women worldwide.

     

    Diana, Princess of Wales
    Diana, Princess of Wales
    Diana, Princess of Wales

    THE GENDER-BENDING 1990s

    As we reach the 1990s, the culotte firmly established itself as a stylish statement piece that has survived the test of time. Wearing both a skirt and trouser at once was now considered acceptable fashion, even finding itself as part of uniforms for schools and brownies groups up and down the country. A noticeable trend that emerged in the 1990s was the popularisation of the culotte-jumpsuit, which perfectly balanced feminine and masculine styles into one piece of clothing, as well as ensuring comfort and style. The ensemble is an effortless look to achieve, with the culotte-jumpsuit being a single, slip-on item that complements different body shapes, accommodates everyday practicalities, and yet still allows women to feel confident in their clothes. Not bound to the nineties, the culotte-jumpsuit has been recycled ever since and still makes a statement today!

    Ultimately, culottes speaks volumes about the women who wear them. It signals a streak of rebelliousness, a dash of bravery, and a determination not to be bound by futile restrictions. Throughout the decades, women have dared to sport the garment that has successfully challenged gendered boundaries. Incorporating the culotte into your outfits serves two important purposes: it is a timeless addition that looks effortlessly stylish, but it’s also a look that has had a long, feminist history that we can be proud of as modern day wearers.

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