Spring & Summer

How to Wear Culottes and Not Look Awkward

They’re not a skirt; they’re not pants, they’re something in between. Are you a fan of Culottes?  This throwback to the ’70s is an exciting trend, even though it can be awkward to wear.

Wondering how to wear Culottes and make them work for you? Here are some style tips.

What to wear with white cullotes

1. Skirt Like Culottes Look Chic

Culottes have an unusual shape and are known to make you look totally frumpy or fabulously chic; there seems to be no in-between.  The newest and most elegant way to work this trend is to choose culottes with a flowy look and feel that are quite full in the leg. Think of women’s culottes like a long, full, swingy skirt, but with a modern twist. These feminine white culottes are exactly what I’m talking about.

What top to wear with black cullotes

2. Nothing Bulky with Culottes

Soft folds or pleats in the legs are a lovely detail, but watch out when they creep north to your waist. Too much detail or bulky material at the waist adds pounds, which is precisely what you don’t want if you are already battling a midlife middle. Heavily pleated culottes will make you look heavier than you are. These black culottes are very slimming because they have a flat front, no pleats or vertical zipper up the middle.

If you are petite, try going with a slimmer culotte and make sure your culotte pant legs are not so long they drown your legs. Sometimes you can find Petites culottes specially tailored to flatter smaller, more compact bodies.

Another trick to looking taller and thinner in culottes?

High waisted culottes

3. Pay Attention to Your Top

It can be hard to know what type of top to pair with such statement-making pants. The first rule to remember is that the top you choose needs to have less volume than the culottes. This is the only way to avoid looking like you have no waist, and you’re drowning in fabric.

To make culottes look more sophisticated pair them with a slim, refined top, like a silky blouse. For sporty types, a structured, button-up style shirt provides a beautiful contrast of hard and soft lines between the top and bottom half of your look.

Cropped sweaters that end at the waist can work, but only if you have a flat tummy.

White culottes for women

4. Tuck in or Tuck Out?

If you decide on a shirt or blouse, then tucking or half-tucking in is most flattering.  This is the best way to showcase the shape of the culottes and create an hourglass shape!

For gals with a bit of mummy tummy, try a sweater tucked out that stops at the top of the hipbone. – I call it a happy medium.

Some women can go longer, but it is tricky. If you are slim and your sweater is more streamlined, not big and baggy, this could work for you. You just have to be careful you don’t create that wide on the top, wide on the bottom silhouette that makes you look like a big box or even Sponge Bob Square Pants!

wearing wide leg cropped trousers or styling tips for denim culottes

5. What Shoes and Bags Work with Culottes?

Culottes stop halfway down your calf; they can make your legs look heavy, so need to be paired with heels to lengthen your leg line.  You can wear anything from a pump to a strappy heel, or a sexy bootie. Even an adorable (and comfortable!) pair of low kitten heels is fine. The slightest lift works wonders to elongate your legs and make you look taller and slimmer.

Also, remember that culottes highlight your ankles and feet, so have some fun and go a little wild with your shoes.

As for your bag, choose one with clean lines and a very structured shape to contrast your flow culottes in a very fashion-forward way. For more tips on how to feel confident in this new trend, check out these other Fabulous After 40 posts on wearing wide leg cropped trousers or styling tips for denim culottes. 

Prefer denim? See my denim culottes post.

Do you love culottes, or do you stay clear?  Let me know.

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12 thoughts on “How to Wear Culottes and Not Look Awkward

  1. Are striped linen culottes with a tie waist worn with a long-sleeved shrug that hits at the core and a sleeveless shell suitable for a “country club casual” reunion? Thanks!

  2. I liked the post! It will help me dress up or down some of my many culottes. Being 50+, this blog helps me NOT try to dress like a 20-something. Anyway, I love culottes. Also, can women over 50 wear fashion boots(with culottes or other bottoms)? Thank you.

  3. I love culottes tips! I bought a pair for hols in Oz in July/August and needed some shoe tips. Now for the neck to wear them !!!

  4. Hi Rose, If you go to my front page and type the word podcast into the blank search bar at the top right, all my podcasts will come up. You can also find my podcasts on YOU TUNES. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy it!

  5. Although one of my favorite bloggers frequently styles culottes, I cannot get on board with this clothing item. I feel they either look too oversized or, in the case of the slim ones, they look like the seamstress ran out of material when trying to make pants. As a kid, we called them high water pants because they were short enough that you didn’t get the hems wet if walking through a puddle in a parking lot. Plus, they always seem to emphasize the heaviest part of the calf. Either way, I wouldn’t say I like the look even on the most stylish of women the look.

  6. Deborah,

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blog – it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. I am definitely “after 40”; however, I still love to look fabulous. I make almost all my clothes, and you’ve given me tons of great ideas. The only dispare I have is that due to Canadian broadcasting regulations, I cannot take advantage of your podcasts. Perhaps in another life.

    Once again, thanks so much for everything you do, and with such grace.


    Helen Mitchem

    1. Hi Helen,
      You can listen to the podcasts if you are Canadian. On the right-hand side of my blog, about two-thirds the way down, you will see a search bar on the front page. Please type in the podcast, and a listing of all my podcasts will come up.
      You click on the link in the post, and you can listen to each podcast. Let me know if you have any problems. I tried them now, and they work fine. So glad you are enjoying the blog! Cheers, Deborah

  7. I am not a fan of culottes, but if I did wear them, it would be with knee-high boots, and the culottes would have to come below the shoes. I would wear a fitted long, fine knit sweater outside – not tucked in, and a shawl or shawl-type coat.

  8. I can appreciate what you have tried to do here; styling the culottes. In my opinion, culottes don’t look nice to any woman, no matter how she accessorizes them. They were introduced in the late 60s or early 70s as culotte skirts, much shorter than these. Those died a quick death. They were re-introduced in the Fall of the early 70s as gaucho pants, again dying a quick death, and now, in 2015, they’ve risen from the fashion grave again. I’m willing to bet this time next year; they will again become a thing of the past.

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