How Do You Style Culottes?

Eazy breezy culottes: Just imagining the light, loose fabric invokes comfort on a warm summer day. But figuring out how to wear these billowy pants may be a challenge of their own — you may not want to look like you’re swimming in yards of fabric (although that’s certainly a look on its own!). Our guide can help you pair these pants with the right tops for a crisp and clean look.

What are culottes?

Culottes are knee-length shorts marked by a very wide leg and an overall roomy cut, almost appearing like a skirt. 

The word culottes comes from the French word “culot,” referring to the lower half of an object, in this case a garment. It’s had several meanings over many centuries, at times referring to men’s breeches and sometimes referring to women’s undergarments. Today, though, culottes refer to knee-length, wide-leg shorts. 

What about gaucho pants and palazzo pants?

Culottes, gaucho pants, and palazzo pants all have wide legs in common, but these three styles all differ in length. Culottes hit at the knee, while gaucho pants are mid-calf and palazzo pants are floor-length. So while you may often see these terms used interchangeably, they are technically different from one another, even though they are all wide leg bottoms with a roomier fit.

Do culottes work for everybody?

You may have heard that culottes only “work” on certain body types, and that’s simply not the case. The only thing that matters is that you like the clothing you’re wearing. If you love the look and feel of culottes, simply get a pair then wear your culottes. That’s all there is to it!

The basics for styling culottes

If you have questions on how to style culottes, these tips can help guide your selections of the tops and accessories to wear:

Selecting a texture, color, and fabric

Culottes are typically associated with an airy fabric perfect for a warm day. You can find culottes available in a breathable cotton knit, linen, or a similar fabric. You’ll also find culottes with an elastic waist that’s friendly to many looks, including tucked in shirts.

Texture and color are important to consider as well. You may not want to be too “matchy matchy” by pairing a more crinkle crepe or seersucker texture with the same look on top. Similarly, culottes can be found in both solids and prints; select a print for a bolder look and a solid print to balance a more striking top.

Choosing the right top

The right shirt helps guide the direction of your whole outfit. Often, you’ll find that culottes are styled with more streamlined, fitted tops, to provide some balance to the wide leg culottes. On the flipside, you may want to wear a more flowy shirt, but you should try tucking it in. Wearing this look untucked may look unkempt.

Selecting your shoes

Ever hear that shoes make the look? That’s certainly true with culottes. Just like any other pants or shorts, sneakers keep your outfit casual, flats or sandals dress it up but keep things relaxed, and heels take the clothes to a whole new level.


6 cute culotte outfit ideas

Now that you have some basics on hand, you can shape your culottes to fit the occasion. Here are six outfit ideas you can try right now.

Date night

Whether date night looks like strolling downtown, getting ramen, or experiencing an art installation, culottes keep the mood light without going too casual for this special occasion. Fun and playful polka dots work well for a date night look, especially when paired with nice sandals or kitten heels, a tucked-in tank, and a statement necklace — maybe one that was a special gift from your partner!

Summer picnic

Nothing says “outdoors” quite like breezy culottes. With these shorts, you get the look of a summery skirt while staying covered when you sit on the picnic blanket. Espadrilles or even bright white sneakers make this look.

Outdoor concert

An outdoor concert is all about letting loose and having fun, and culottes are just the bottoms to match. A tucked-in graphic tee is all the rage right now, so take the opportunity to rock your favorite band’s merch at the show.

Birthday party

Culottes are an effortlessly cute look for a birthday party. Tuck a sunny top into a pair of black culottes, or flip the script and go bold on the bottom. A pop of teal brings brightness and cheer to celebrate the guest of honor, whether the party is for a friend, a family member, or for yourself!

Casual Friday

Culottes can be dressy enough for work, particularly when in a neutral color and paired with professional-looking tops and jackets. Try plus size elastic waist culottes with a complementary, neutral-colored jersey tank top and a matching blazer for a look that’s just right for work without giving up comfort or style.

Visiting an art exhibit

Whether strolling a gallery, an outdoor sculpture garden, or checking out a new installation in a nearby park, culottes are comfortable for all-day walking without turning to ultra-casual leggings. Try culottes with a smock-style V-neck tee — untucked! — for a cute look in a moment’s notice. (And don’t forget your sun hat, especially if you’ll be outside.)

Plus size culottes for any occasion

Whether for work or play, culottes bring comfort and polish to your look. There’s a way to pair these wide-leg shorts with the right shirt, tank, or blazer for just about any occasion. Stepping out to a party? There’s a look for that. What about a meeting? There’s a look for that, too.

At Ulla Popken, we carry a line of culottes, gaucho pants, palazzos, and other wide leg styles that will make themselves right at home in your closet. Available in many styles, fabrics, and lengths, you’re sure to find the right pair that speaks to your personal style. Take inspiration from our outdir ideas in this guide to look and feel your best.

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