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Culottes make a comeback

DesignBrooke Ginnard, Gap Inc. bloggerComment

From left: White Pleated Culottes from Gap; Brochu Walker Culotte Pant from INTERMIX; Black Sleek Wide-Leg Gaucho Pant from Banana Republic; 1969 Wide-Leg Denim Culottes from Gap; Brochu Walker Isla Culotte Pant from INTERMIX; White Sleek Wide-Leg Gaucho Pant from Banana Republic; Theory Gera Suede Gaucho Short from INTERMIX; Black Pleated Culottes from Gap; 3X1 W3 Penn Gaucho Denim Pant from INTERMIX.

It's a skirt ... it's pants ... it's culottes!

As loose-fitting pants and longer skirts come back into style from the 1970s, culottes are the perfect pre-fall interpretation of the trend. Traditionally falling at the knee or mid-calf, culottes provide a summery alternative to longer, wide-leg pants. They're also an easy way to transform an existing full-skirted look into something bicycle-ready.

A precursor to modern-day women's shorts, culottes were originally popularized by 15th-century European men, who wore trousers that fastened just below the knee, sometimes causing the fabric to flare out in a balloon shape. In the Victorian era, women donned long, split skirts purely as a horseback-riding accessory for those tired of riding sidesaddle. 

But it wasn't until innovative women's fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli revisited the concept in 1931 — when she designed a split skirt as part of a tennis outfit for Wimbledon competitor Lili Álvarez — that culottes made their way into modern fashion. The divided white skirt shocked Wimbledon spectators and the fashion world alike, but no one could deny its practicality for active women.

Soon after, Schiaparelli wore a tweed pair of culottes on a shopping expedition, cementing the garment's place as a fashionable staple for women — in sports and in everyday life.

Wide-legged, knee-length women's pants resurfaced in the 1970s, branded as gaucho pants. "Culottes" and "gaucho pants" have since become interchangeable terms in modern-day fashion.

With the 1970s back in style, and with versatility and comfort remaining decisive factors in the way women dress, culottes are making a comeback.