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The Case for Culottes: Why a Wide-Leg Pant Should Be Part of Every Woman’s Wardrobe

May 18, 2018 | Filed in: Your Closet

Around our Soho showroom, MM stylist Sam is known for her exceptional style—and for her love of culottes. But she wasn’t always a fan of the wide-leg silhouette. Read on to find out how she went from considering the style frivolous and trendy to believing that the culotte is an essential component of a well-rounded wardrobe. 

When culottes came back in style several years ago, I was skeptical. I had my day-to-day uniform down pat, and saw no place in my personal aesthetic for cropped, wide-leg pants. I was a student at Barnard College at the time, double majoring in Art History and Visual Art. I needed sturdy, machine-washable, slim-fitting clothes that wouldn’t get caught on the machinery I worked on in class. So, while I was in school, I almost exclusively wore black skinny jeans, and continued the habit after graduation. Fast-forward several years: I now own five pairs of culottes. I’ve come to think of them as my “utility pants,” because they have a number of advantages over slimmer-fitting styles. 

The Case for Culottes:

Culottes are Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-level in their versatility: Unlike most pants, there’s no “correct” hem length—they are flattering whether they hit at the bottom of the calf or go all the way to the ankle. They also work wonderfully on different body types: For bustier women, the loose fit on the bottom has a balancing effect. For straight and middle-conscious women, the nearly A-line cut of the pants defines the waist. And if you’re self-conscious about your hips, you’ll love culottes—the wide, flowing fit creates an hourglass silhouette.

Culottes are a statement piece: The wide leg adds drama and interest to an otherwise ordinary outfit. All you need to finish the look is a simple, slim-fitting top and classic jewelry.

They pair beautifully with almost all footwear: If you’re going for a proper, feminine look, wear your culottes with strappy sandals to show off your ankles. For a classic, preppy vibe, opt for loafers. The sky is truly the limit: I’ve worn my culottes with tennis shoes, over-the-knee boots (roll up the pants to put on the boot, then roll the pants down over the boot), Doc Martens, ankle boots, sandals, pumps… the list goes on.

Culottes are perennial: Unlike heavier styles that are reserved for colder months, I wear culottes year round. I especially appreciate them in the summer—the breezy, loose fit keeps my legs covered without making me feel hot or sticky. And in the winter, I can wear tights or silk long underwear underneath them without compromising the silhouette.

Culottes are the best pants to wear while getting a pedicure: You can roll them up much further than any slim-fitting pant or jean for the leg massage (the best part of any pedicure).

I bought my first pair of culottes a few summers ago, when I was in the market for a warm-weather-appropriate pant that was comfortable, breathable, and could easily pull together an outfit. That first pair felt simultaneously dramatic and simple, thanks to the cinched waist and relaxed fit through the legs, and I was an instant convert. Here are three ways I wear my culottes, to work and beyond:

1. Relaxed Fit 

culotte outfit ideas

Sam wears the Michelle top in stripe, the Pippa pant in staccato, and the Nox earrings.

The Michelle top and Pippa pant both have relaxed silhouettes, and when you combine them, you get what I like to call “the column effect”—making you look long and lean. Tucking in tops when you’re wearing a high-waisted bottom is one of my cornerstone styling tips. It shows off your waist, lengthens your legs, and dresses up more casual pieces.

2. Go With the Flow

culotte outfit ideas

Sam wears the Tiffany top in alpine green, the Pippa pant in staccato, the Ringed belt.

Since the Tiffany top has a loose, flowing silhouette, I opted to wear it over my culottes rather than tucking it in, and added a belt to define my waist. And, since the green color of the top has dark undertones, it pairs nicely with black pants and a brown belt. 

3. Monochrome

culotte outfit ideas

Sam wears the Helen top in black, the Pippa pant in staccato, and the Graham kimono in black.

For this monochrome ensemble, I chose three garments that are the same color, but have different textures (a good rule of thumb for monochrome dressing in general). The Helen top and the Graham kimono each have ribbed stitching, and pairing them together highlights their texture. Wearing two knits also adds an element of softness to the more sturdy Pippa pant. These tops are both on the more casual side, but when tucked into culottes, they feel elevated. 

In sum: Not only are culottes incredibly versatile, they’re easy to wear—no matter your shape, size, or height. And with their wide silhouette, they stand out in a sea of slim fitting black pants, while making you look polished (and like a bit of a risk taker). What’s not to love?

Want to try culottes with the help of Sam or another one of our stylists? Click here to book an appointment.

Photographs by Yan Ruan.

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Sam is a stylist in MM.LaFleur's Soho showroom. She has a knack for spatial arrangement, home-cooking, and making ceramics. Read more of Samantha's posts.

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