Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Culottes demystified

I must admit to being thoroughly puzzled by the hype that has risen up around culottes over the past year or so. Culottes. What the heck even are they?

When I first heard the term, it was uttered by my grandmother when I was a kid (of course, at that time, I thought it was spelled "coolots") and it referred to a pair of dress shorts that was slightly baggy, like a skirt, and just shorter than knee-length. Naturally because they were endorsed by an old person, I thought these coolot things were anything but cool, and I avoided them – and all long shorts – for years. 

Somewhere along the line, I learned the correct spelling, but up to recently, I still wasn't interested or even sure what they were. But then I noticed an article on some fashion website about the resurgence of culottes. 

When I clicked through to view the pictures, I was expecting to see those skirt-like thigh-length shorts I remembered from my youth, but instead, I saw wide-legged cropped pants. Those weren't culottes, I thought. Those were gauchos! And that's really nothing new; gauchos had a moment around 2005.

But they kept popping up, those articles about culottes, and in all of them, the garment in question was long and wide-legged, and more like a capri pant than any kind of shorts I'd ever seen. But at the same time, several of the articles were clear to state that culottes are not gauchos, even though, maddeningly, they didn't say why.

I turned to my old friend, Google, to help me find out if there really is a difference between culottes and gauchos. And, well, to cut this narrative to a readable length, I'll skip right to the conclusion: despite what some people say, gauchos and culottes are basically the same thing–wide-legged calf-length pants.

Though the silhouettes are the same, if you want to get technical about it, their origins are different—that is, culottes were designed for women to ride horses in, while gauchos are, traditionally, the pants worn by South American cowboys. These cowboys are themselves known as gauchos, so to be more accurate, you should probably use the term "gaucho pants" when referring to the garment.

If there is a functional difference, it's only an arbitrary one regarding how each garment is styled in the present day. Today's culottes seem to be generally made of heavy fabric in a structured shape, whereas the gaucho pants I remember from the mid aughties were mostly butt-hugging flowy garments with lots of spandex. But I have heard that some people use the terms interchangeably, so my advice to you is, call them what you want, but do take advantage of the opportunity to wear them. A short, breathable, yet modest pant sounds like just the ticket for summer at the office.

I happen to already own a pair of culottes. I bought them 2 years ago at the thrift store, and I was about to get rid of them because they just weren't very flattering or easy to coordinate. But now that they're trendy again, I elected to give them another shot.

Stand tall in short pants

They say that only tall people can get away with culottes; I guess cropped pants have a way of making the wearer look short. I can think of a few ways to avoid this happening to you:
1) Tuck or partially tuck your shirt, so that the full length of the pant is visible.
2) Wear nude heels to elongate your legs.
3) Pose your photos with an exaggerated foreground distortion. Instant legs for miles!

1 comment:

  1. Valerie, this was a great post on culottes. Although I personally am not a fan of the style, it was an informative post and I did learn a lot. I like the tips you posted for those that choose to wear culottes. I can see how that would be helpful for non-un-fashionistas. Love your blog. Keep up the good work!