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Culottes in Style

Do you really know the meaning of "Culottes"?

Culottes is a word that originated in the French language. Historically, "culottes" referred to the knee-breeches commonly worn by gentlemen of the European upper-classes from the late Middle Ages or Renaissance through the early nineteenth century. This style of tight trousers ending just below the knee was first popularized in France during the reign of Henry III (1574–1589).  Culottes were normally closed and fastened about the leg, to the knee, by either buttons, a strap and buckle, or by a draw-string. 

The women's fashion industry commonly takes words that have historically been used to describe men's garments and uses them to describe an entirely different garment, often creating confusion among historians and history students and readers. For example, currently, the term "culottes" in French is now used to describe women's panties, an article of clothing that has little or no relation to the historic culottes. 

Another latter-day use of the word culottes describes a split or divided skirt or any garment which "hangs like a skirt, but is actually pants."

In place of the term "culottes," the term skort (a portmanteau for skirt and shorts) is more widely used in some areas. While some garments sold as culottes resemble short trousers, to truly be a skort it needs to look like a skirt. Thus, they differ from trousers or shorts by being much fuller at the bottom (hem) than at the waist. A skort is shorts that have a front covering to resemble a skirt or short pant legs with a same length or longer skirt sewn over the top.  Some culottes have a part sewn over only the front, some are shorts with a skirt sewn over them. While these may not be completely the same, they are often called by either name, so either term can apply.

Culottes are used in school uniforms for girls along with skirts as an option or culottes are brought in as a replacement to skirts. Culottes are worn as part of a uniform mainly to primary and middle schools.

What are culottes?  Are they simply the cropped, wide-leg pant making a chic comeback this season?  It is a versatile piece because it can be defined in many ways and therefore worn in many ways.  If you know more information about culottes, you are welcome to post your thoughts or questions in the comment area below.

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