Trend: Culottes Through the Years


Claire McCardell bicycling outfit

Culottes are back in fashion again and for a very good reason. The bifurcated skirt first appeared during the French revolution. It was French men’s breeches or knee length tight fitting pants, usually made of silk, and worn with socks covering the lower leg. The pant first appeared in the late 1500’s, and was worn by aristocratic gentlemen across Europe. During the French revolution, 1789-1799, the revolutionary fighters were known as the sans-culottes, (without culottes) as they were rejecting the aristocratic system. So instead of wearing sans-culottes, they wore Trousers.

Sans Culottes

Sans Culottes

Schiaparelli designed this silk tennis outfit for Lili de Alvarez worn at Wimbledon in 1931.

Schiaparelli designed this silk tennis outfit for Lili de Alvarez worn at Wimbledon in 1931.

Slowly, Sans culottes morphed into what we now know as a split skirt for women. It usually had pleats or a wrap around skirt to disguise the pant element. Women would not have been able to engage in physical activities such as horseback riding or bicycling without a split skirt, unless they were sitting side saddle.


Schiaparelli’s shocking split skirt, London 1931

“French designers had been playing with the idea of the divided, or culotte, skirt for several seasons, and by spring 1927 it had found its place in the wardrobe of

active, fashion conscious women. In May 1931 Schiaparelli wore her true divided skirt, undisguised by panels or a wraparound skirt, in London during a trip to buy tweeds. The garment caused much controversy and was loudly condemned by the British press” (31).

We have come a long way since 1931; however, the needs of “active, fashion conscious women” have not very well been served! The bicycling clothing market has mostly been catering to the athlete, only now are smaller companies rising up to meet the needs of urban riders who use the bicycle as transportation.

More becoming and just as functional, culottes give you all the freedom of movement you need in workday chores or active sports, besides making a good appearance in public.


1955 Fashion Weaing Culottes

The modern Babecycle culotte isn’t quite as controversial; it is a pragmatic garment appropriate for the office and efficient on the bicycle. Babecycle says, “It’s easy to bike in a skirt, especially if it is really pants!”

Designs Through The Years


Breezy, really comfortable looking vintage button culottes.

culotte suit | Anna May Wong, circa 1928 #vintage #style #1920s

culotte suit | Anna May Wong, circa 1928 #vintage #style #1920s


Anne Fogarty, spring 1967: linen culotte ensemble. © AP/Wide World Photos.




3 thoughts on “Trend: Culottes Through the Years

  1. Pingback: Culottes: Styled For The Curvy Woman | MY SILHOUETTE STYLING

  2. Pingback: Trends: ‘trompe l’oeil’ | MY SILHOUETTE STYLING

  3. Pingback: Iconic Designer: Elsa Schiaparelli | MY SILHOUETTE STYLING

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