growing a minimalist wardrobe: culottes.

June 28, 2017

Here’s a helpful thing on the road to a lean closet: clothing that can perform two functions instead of one. Enter, culottes. (Koo-lots.) Not quite a skirt, not just pants. Dress them up or down, just wear them frequently. 

I bought my first pair of culottes last summer when I was pregnant with Silas and in need of something cool and comfortable and with a forgiving waistband. Save a brief respite when it was too cold (and I was too pregnant), I’ve worn them at least once a week, and more often three or four times a week since then. 

Of course culottes aren’t for everyone. (No need to consider if they’re not something you think you’d enjoy.) But here’s a thing to know about me: I can get awfully claustrophobic awfully quickly. Once, nearly a decade ago, I spent the entirety of a car trip with my family in my underwear because I couldn’t cope with how my jeans were squeezing me around the thighs. No, my family hasn’t stopped making fun of me. But a good pair of culottes would have solved the problem.

I’m working with a very loose definition of culotte for this post: basically anything with a wide, loose leg and semi-cropped length. Here’s a little encouragement to unearth a pair from your own closet or scan the local thrift stores for vintage options, or investigate a pretty pair from one of these thoughtful companies:

Conscious Clothing: Mykonos Linen Culotte
These culottes are the widest and shortest legged of the bunch, if you’re looking for something extra swingy. The Mykonos has a thick neutral stripe, the Corsica are a solid ginger color. They both remind me of something our proverbial grandmothers might have worn aboard a bicycle. (If culottes are not your bag, might I still suggest a gander at their Beach Pant.) Made in Michigan.

Elizabeth Suzann: Florence Pant
Silk crepe. Elastic waist. These beauties from Elizabeth Suzann walk the perfect line between neat and trim and utterly loosey-goosey. Aren’t we all walking that line? In other words, they’re a high-waisted culotte just right for dinners out or anytime you want to feel a little fancy. (Also available in linen and cotton canvas.) Made in Tennessee.

Hackwith Design House: Hallie Pant
For another dressed up take on culottes, the Hallie Pants from Hackwith Design House fit the bill. They’re made from one of my personal favorite fabrics: 100% cotton gauze. I especially like the beautiful off-center pleat. Made in Minnesota with imported fabrics.

Ilana Kohn: Boyd Pants
These are probably too long to call culottes, but they’re easy breezy and I couldn’t help but include them here. They might be a good fit for anyone who’s too shy to go full culotte. I’d like to take a long walk on an evening beach wearing these. The Boyd pants come in a range of neutrals, but gosh if this linen and cotton pink pair isn’t pretty. Made in New York City.

Jesse Kamm: Sailor Pant
I’ve had my eyes on these sailor pants for more than a year, though a pregnancy and the accompanying fluctuation of body size and shape has delayed me investing in a pair of high-waisted, non-elastic waist pants of my own. They’re what some folks might call a true “investment” purchase, but they’re designed with exactly that kind of longevity in mind. Made of 100% cotton from a company that proclaims “more is not better, more is just more.” Made in California.

Mara Hoffman: Wide Legged Cropped Pant
These are the most skirt-like of any of the examples shown here. They’re made from GOTS-certified organic cotton with the perfect stripe and a jaunty little belt to boot. See also: Button Side CulottesImported.

Reformation: Jaylene Pant
These high rise pants are a slimmer, trimmer take on traditional wide-legged culotte. They’re made of striped lightweight linen from surplus stock. Made in California.

Steven Alan: Trail Pant
These are the closest I can find to the pair of “pull-on pants” that I bought last summer from Steven Alan and am wearing in these photos. A pintuck running down the legs dresses this pair up a big more than mine, but they still look satisfactorily comfy and not too fussy. Made in the USA from Italian linen.

And you? To culotte, or not to culotte?

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46 Comments

  • Reply shannon June 28, 2017 at 11:13 am

    At 5’7″ and with all the extra height in my torso, culottes make me look impossibly short and wide! It’s a bad, bad optical illusion that somehow manages to cut about 5 visual inches off my height. They can look so chic and comfy (especially when paired with huaraches!) but nope, not for me.

    • Reply Sasha June 28, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Shannon, me too! I can do cropped leggings…but cropped wide leg, no. I have a smocked waist sort of sweater knit pair of wide leg black pants, on clearance at target, that I love. They are long enough to wear with clogs, and even though the fabric is cozy, I can wear all year round, at least on cooler summer days. They are so comfy. I’m claustrophobic about tight clothes too Erin. Yoga pants hooray 😉

  • Reply kristina June 28, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I *am* short (five feet exactly). And wide (given my frame) and I have fully embraced culottes this year. [What’s so bad about being or looking short? or wide?] Loose, flowy pants are the very best thing for summer in Alabama. I had no idea hot weather could be this comfortable!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 28, 2017 at 11:48 am

      So, so glad!

    • Reply Marianne June 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      My thoughts too! I’m only 5′ 4″ and I have no problem being short or looking short. BTW I have 4 pairs of culottes in my closet. 😉

    • Reply Caitlin June 29, 2017 at 9:37 am

      I’m short and wide as well and I love culottes as well. I also wear a ton a maxi shirts which I hear look terrible on people shaped like me, but I love being comfortable!

    • Reply Sasha June 29, 2017 at 10:49 am

      To be clear, I wouldn’t mind short…It’s the weird looking proportion. Long torso compared to legs, and long arms too. Some clothes just accentuate the wrong things and look plain old weird.

      • Reply nina June 30, 2017 at 5:03 am

        I have the exact same problem, I look like a dachshund with monkey arms in culottes (and anything else wich cuts my legs between knees and ankle) despite being of average height and width – I just have short legs, and the culottes accentuates that to the extremes. They’re cute on other people though.

  • Reply Kacy June 28, 2017 at 11:54 am

    I grew up calling Culottes, Gouchos! In fact, in the middle of typing this comment, I looked up the difference. Haha!

    http://qstylethebook.com/gauchos-vs-culottes-is-there-really-a-difference/

  • Reply Jill Palumbo June 28, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    I’m older than most of you, so I remember culottes from middle and high school. I’m not sure I could revisit this trend, but these options do look cute. I love that Conscious Clothing website! If they had plus size, I would probably buy one of each!

  • Reply Genevieve June 28, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Looks cute on you! Definitely not for me though. I love the car/underwear story. Took trains for 4 hours yesterday and was SO glad I had brought workout leggings to change into after my suit-wearing time was over.

  • Reply Hannah June 28, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I am loving wide leg, cropped pants this year! I just bought a pair of the Chiara pants from Sugar Candy Mountain. The linen is flowy and cool and wonderful https://sugarcandymtn.com/collections/pants/products/the-chiara

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 28, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      Lovely! Thanks so much for sharing. These are terrific!

  • Reply Tamara June 28, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    I do like some styles of culottes that I’m seeing out there, including the ones you’re wearing, but I have to say, they are giving me flashbacks to my fundamentalist upbringing where I had to wear them because they were ‘modest’ while all the other girls got to wear cute little shorts. They were basically shorts for nuns, not stylish! ha! But I am hoping to find a pair that work for me because they look so comfy and I’m so over skinny jeans!

  • Reply Kathleen June 28, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    I love flowy, comfy wide leg pants but culottes do not flatter my frame. I need and prefer the length all the way down to my ankles. They’re cute on others but not for me. 🙂

  • Reply MA June 28, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    I have fully jumped on the culotte band wagon. I enjoy sewing as a hobby and there are so many great culotte patterns that pattern designers are churning out this spring. I haven’t sewn any of them yet, but I did hem two pairs of wide leg pants into culotte-ish pants. It’s such a different look than skinny-leg pants – its a refreshing change! And so comfortable.

  • Reply raphaëlle June 28, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    i like these: https://www.etsy.com/ca-fr/listing/519856106/linen-midi-skirt-pants-linen-culottes-in?ref=shop_home_active_8
    plus, perfect fabric for summer (linen!) and many colour options 🙂 i love culottes!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 28, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Lovely find! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Annie June 28, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Oh ‘to culotte’ for sure! I hadn’t heard of the brand you mentioned from Michigan, Conscious Clothing. Their “Petoskey Pant” has me in love and Petoskey is a lovely little town close to where I grew up. Thank you for sharing, as always!

  • Reply Breanna Marie June 28, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    I have a pair like these Jaylene pants. They’re more like super wide leg trousers. While these were purchased before I was truly aware of ethical fashion and minimalism, I have been rocking them since 2008. Hopefully that counts for something? Oh, and they still get compliments every single time I wear them!

  • Reply Jennifer O. June 28, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    I wore the shorts version when I was a kid in the 80s, but I don’t think the longer version would work now, plus if I can’t wear something to work I am unlikely to buy it. I noticed there are a few sewing patterns if you want to make your own – Megan Nielsen and Liesl Gibson (Liesl + Co.) have a version I think.

  • Reply MK June 28, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    I have the same last-year culottes from Steven Alan (in both colors) — so, so good! Another favorite is Black Crane’s linen culottes that they don’t seem to make any more — I have three pairs. You can call me a culotte maximalist. 😉

    Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful roundups!

  • Reply Samantha June 29, 2017 at 2:53 am

    I love the look of these, I’m definitely dressing more for comfort than fashion at this stage of life. But what top would you pair with them? I’m not a fan of form hugging tops but would flowy make me look a bit like a box? Any recommendations would be awesome!
    x

  • Reply Nathalie June 29, 2017 at 5:26 am

    Yes! Although I remember hating them when I was a kid. I am a French-speaker and we call them “jupe-culotte”. Growing up, I always thought it was the worst name as “culotte” also just means underwear and in general is not the nicest word of the french language (the first three letters mean a**). I didn’t want to wear them for fear of having to say that gross name 🙂 And now in English they are simply called “culottes” haha.

  • Reply Erin Loechner June 29, 2017 at 6:02 am

    So happy to pop in this morning – yes, yes, yes! I find myself living in linen culottes all summer long, perfect for playground visits and park sprawls with the littles. These are my favorite – handmade and perfectly cropped for transitioning to fall!:
    https://www.etsy.com/listing/514345942/black-linen-pants?ref=shop_home_active_1

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 29, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Lovely!

  • Reply Mun June 29, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Absolutely yes to culottes, paired with MNZ’s pumps or sandals please 🙂

  • Reply Maura June 29, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Mmmm yesss! I adore Fog Linen for their 100% linen culottes (and dresses) for summer and the wool/linen blend for the other 3 seasons. This pair is Everything (and sold out, sigh); perfect for yoga, for work, for travel: https://www.shop-foglinen.com/products/lou-pant-navy-white-seersucker and I adore some of the shapes from Not Perfect Linen on Etsy, which I think someone linked to above.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 29, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      Ah, perfect!

  • Reply Heather June 29, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Love! I haven’t found shorts I like this summer and I’ve been wearing my linen Florence pants about five days a week! The other two days a week, it’s a linen skirt. To add to this list, I also love the look of a few of Black Crane’s flowy pants.

  • Reply Melanie June 29, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    I think these would be wonderful for when the weather warms up a bit but because I have really thin legs I’m kinda worried they would look super huge on me! No harm in trying some on I guess!

  • Reply Sarah June 29, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Totally into these. I tend to find what I like second-guessing, but I do have a pair of cheapo linen pant from Old Navy that ripped within a wear or two. Planning on having them hemmed to cropped length (hoping the fabric will hold up).

    Mostly I just have a problem finding shorts that fit well and don’t look weird (butt hanging out or so flouncy they slip up or just plain dowdy), and skirts aren’t always great for high activity.

  • Reply Ana June 30, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Muji make a great pair of linen culottes. They are like trousers in the front with a button and zip closure but have an elastic waistband in the back, making them extra comfy.

  • Reply Nina June 30, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    If anyone wants to make their own, super-stylish Italian blogger Sasha has a free pattern here: http://www.secondopiano.space/blog/2015/12/21/culottesgonna-pantalone

  • Reply gilian June 30, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    I’m not totally sure how I feel about culottes yet, but I just want to thank the powers that be that the world is getting over skinny jeans! Maybe they’re flexible, sure, but certainly not universally flattering nor very exciting. I spent years wearing skinny jeans because that’s what was largely in stores and I didn’t think about it too much, but I realized recently that I just don’t feel my best in super skinny jeans! So glad to see others embracing more diverse cuts as well!

  • Reply Jess July 1, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Linen culottes are a summer essential for me — the only way I can survive the humidity since moving to the upper midwest! I’ve had great luck with a pair of vintage Flax pants & a jumpsuit from ebay, but if I were to buy new I’d definitely save up for this perfectly-pocketed pair by Aliya Wanek: https://www.aliyawanek.com/all/indra-pants

  • Reply Heidi July 2, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for this! We need a jumpsuit/overalls guide next! You seem to have some lovely options you’ve found along the way, and I’m nosey about their sources:)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 5, 2017 at 10:02 am

      Oh, good one! Will get to work!

  • Reply Melissa July 2, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Why do these things keep coming back? I had to wear culottes as a preteen in the late 70s and I will never wear them again.

  • Reply Annabel Wyatt July 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

    I’ve been loving culottes this summer and last, they are an absolute must have in the UK right now too. Are all the girls over where you are wearing the “crepe” material ones? xx

  • Reply Amanda July 5, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    So this is slightly off-topic, but I just discovered a website/organization called Fibershed (www.fibershed.com), and their mission is to , “… develop regional fiber systems that build soil & protect the health of our biosphere.” They have a “community” tab that includes a lot of producers doing cool things in fibers, up to and including creating fabric and clothing. Just wanted to pass along!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 5, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Reply Amy July 5, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    I love these posts about a minimalist wardrobe. I always feel like I am buying the wrong things and appreciate the encouragement toward mindfulness. That said, I have really been drooling over the Culottes. I have the worst time with shorts and can not even begin to talk myself into “skinny” pants in the summer. Usually I am skirts and sundresses for days. Thanks, Erin.

  • Reply maudiemay July 7, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    These pants are all beautiful. But you must seriously live in a different world than I do. As I buy all my clothes second hand, usually at a thrift shop, I doubt my whole wardrobe costs $400, as do some of these pants.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 8, 2017 at 10:13 am

      So glad you’ve had such great luck shopping second-hand!

  • Reply Khaiya July 10, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Oh I can relate so much to the problem of sometimes not being able to have tight things around the hips and thighs! As best I can tell from your photos, I am a similar build to you, but I have some kind of nerve something going on there, I constantly am unbuttoning during drives, and can’t wear any pants or shorts to bed any more or my thigh goes numb, long pjs or shirts only now! And sometimes any elastic at all will keep me up all night if it’s not just so. (I’ve been wondering if it’s something like “meralgia paresthetica”?)

    I am in fact wearing culottes right now, part of my uniform for at-home working. I could only find white, which I love at home, but I don’t always feel comfortable wearing out. I would love to find some (affordable) navy ones like you have there so I can wear them out at ease (for cafe or park working!) I like the look of jeans even if they drive me nuts sometimes!

    Anyway, first time commenter here! I found your blog in the midst of attempting to KonMari my home. I haven’t changed much since college, so while I don’t buy a lot of clothing, I had way too much because I had never donated any of my old stuff away except a few shirts here and there so I had such a bloated wardrobe! And your blog has been a nice inspiration to keep going beyond the wardrobe, and also I like your perspective on things sustainability-wise. (We are also planning a downsize soon to move to Vancouver BC where it’s much more expensive, and so while I have the room I think it’s best to sort it out now)

    Ack! My apologies for the long comment, just wanted to also thank you. So thanks!

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