Firmly stuck in a gray area between pants and shorts, culottes have long eluded even the most style savvy fashionistas.
Blame the way they awkwardly cut off mid-calf. Blame this season’s designers for deriving so much inspiration from the groovy, lax ’70s that many pairs of culottes resemble midi skirts on the rack — until the big dressing room reveal: Oh, they’re pants. I mean, they’re sort-of pants. Uh, OK, now what on earth do you wear on the top and bottom of these sort-of pants?
“Culottes are the it pant this summer,” said style and wardrobe consultant Allie Brandwein. “We all know that midi skirts are a great option, but if you don’t feel like rocking a skirt, culottes are your next big choice!”
So guys, they aren’t going anywhere. Nor should they — because culottes can look super cool and fashion-forward, as long as you heed some great tips on how to style them.
1. Wear them with heels
The length of most culottes calls for a fan heeled sandal or mule to ensure the leg isn’t cut off. “Culottes vary in length but right below the knee is the most universally flattering length for almost every height,” Brandwein said. “It you are on the shorter side, you definitely want to wear them with a heel. Wearing a heel helps to lengthen your look and balance out the large, billowy leg opening.” (Club Monaco, $295).
2. Keep your top cropped
Finally — the perfect excuse to wear a crop top even if you’re not 19. “Always, always opt for a shorter top,” Brandwein said. “Either a crop top if your culottes are high-waisted, a shirt that hits right around the waistband, or tuck it in.” (Asos, $65).
3. Play with prints
Relax and have fun — fashion “risks” can have big payoffs, and culottes are no exception. “If you want to have some fun with your culottes, you can experiment with print mixing,” Brandwein said. “Find a two-tone vertical stripe bottom — preferably white and a simple neutral like navy. Pair with a print with the same two colors, like a great floral printed crop top. Style this look with a chunky soled flat slide and you are ready to go.” (Urban Outfitters, $40).
4. Delight in denim
Need a fun Friday look or not a big fan of billowy pants? Consider denim culottes, which can be dressed up or down to your liking. “For a more casual feel, I suggest denim culottes,” Brandwein said. “Tencel is a great, flowy fabric to look out for when you are going for this casual style. Pair with a cropped short sleeve button-down, a fun statement necklace, and a pony-haired slide sandal.” (Shopbob, $61).
5. Add a blazer
Aren’t sure how to wear culottes to work? The answer is simple: Add a chic, short, fitted blazer and instantly look more polished. “A little blazer will smarten the look and kitten heels with the whole overall look can finish it off nicely — perfect for office dressing,” said Sisi Tsoi, director at Siren London.
6. Go monochromatic
If you’re still feeling unsure about the culottes trend and want to play it safe, there’s no better way to make a quiet statement than by choosing one color, like classic black, and using it head to toe. Black culottes paired with a black slouchy (yet relatively short) sweater, heeled booties and a smart bag will make you look long, lean and hip to new trends.