Here’s a helpful thing on the road to a lean closet: clothing that can perform two functions instead of one. Enter, culottes. (Koo-lots.) Not quite a skirt, not just pants. Dress them up or down, just wear them frequently.
I bought my first pair of culottes last summer when I was pregnant with Silas and in need of something cool and comfortable and with a forgiving waistband. Save a brief respite when it was too cold (and I was too pregnant), I’ve worn them at least once a week, and more often three or four times a week since then.
Of course culottes aren’t for everyone. (No need to consider if they’re not something you think you’d enjoy.) But here’s a thing to know about me: I can get awfully claustrophobic awfully quickly. Once, nearly a decade ago, I spent the entirety of a car trip with my family in my underwear because I couldn’t cope with how my jeans were squeezing me around the thighs. No, my family hasn’t stopped making fun of me. But a good pair of culottes would have solved the problem.
I’m working with a very loose definition of culotte for this post: basically anything with a wide, loose leg and semi-cropped length. Here’s a little encouragement to unearth a pair from your own closet or scan the local thrift stores for vintage options, or investigate a pretty pair from one of these thoughtful companies:
Conscious Clothing: Mykonos Linen Culotte
These culottes are the widest and shortest legged of the bunch, if you’re looking for something extra swingy. The Mykonos has a thick neutral stripe, the Corsica are a solid ginger color. They both remind me of something our proverbial grandmothers might have worn aboard a bicycle. (If culottes are not your bag, might I still suggest a gander at their Beach Pant.) Made in Michigan.
Elizabeth Suzann: Florence Pant
Silk crepe. Elastic waist. These beauties from Elizabeth Suzann walk the perfect line between neat and trim and utterly loosey-goosey. Aren’t we all walking that line? In other words, they’re a high-waisted culotte just right for dinners out or anytime you want to feel a little fancy. (Also available in linen and cotton canvas.) Made in Tennessee.
Hackwith Design House: Hallie Pant
For another dressed up take on culottes, the Hallie Pants from Hackwith Design House fit the bill. They’re made from one of my personal favorite fabrics: 100% cotton gauze. I especially like the beautiful off-center pleat. Made in Minnesota with imported fabrics.
Ilana Kohn: Boyd Pants
These are probably too long to call culottes, but they’re easy breezy and I couldn’t help but include them here. They might be a good fit for anyone who’s too shy to go full culotte. I’d like to take a long walk on an evening beach wearing these. The Boyd pants come in a range of neutrals, but gosh if this linen and cotton pink pair isn’t pretty. Made in New York City.
Jesse Kamm: Sailor Pant
I’ve had my eyes on these sailor pants for more than a year, though a pregnancy and the accompanying fluctuation of body size and shape has delayed me investing in a pair of high-waisted, non-elastic waist pants of my own. They’re what some folks might call a true “investment” purchase, but they’re designed with exactly that kind of longevity in mind. Made of 100% cotton from a company that proclaims “more is not better, more is just more.” Made in California.
Mara Hoffman: Wide Legged Cropped Pant
These are the most skirt-like of any of the examples shown here. They’re made from GOTS-certified organic cotton with the perfect stripe and a jaunty little belt to boot. See also: Button Side Culottes. Imported.
Reformation: Jaylene Pant
These high rise pants are a slimmer, trimmer take on traditional wide-legged culotte. They’re made of striped lightweight linen from surplus stock. Made in California.
Steven Alan: Trail Pant
These are the closest I can find to the pair of “pull-on pants” that I bought last summer from Steven Alan and am wearing in these photos. A pintuck running down the legs dresses this pair up a big more than mine, but they still look satisfactorily comfy and not too fussy. Made in the USA from Italian linen.
And you? To culotte, or not to culotte?