What in the World are Culottes?

One of my friends needed some culottes to wear on a trip and asked me to make them.  For those of you who do not sew, culottes are not particularly difficult to make.  The thing that is odd to me is that outside of the church’s in the States, not many people know what culottes are.  Well, let me tell you, the history of culottes is much more interesting that you would think ladies church pants would be.

Culottes were not meant to be worn by women originally.  True story!  They were originally worn by upper-class men in Europe.  The word itself is French.  However, in modern times the French word “culottes” refers to women’s panties.  Back to the past though.  Culottes were so popular in France before the French Revolution that the revolutionaries during the war became known as “sans-culottes”.  The reason for that was because they refused to wear the knee length pants that were associated with the aristocracy.  It wasn’t just the French Revolution that had men wearing culottes.  Most of the military conflicts had people in the pants as part of their American Revolution!  That’s right, even our founding Fathers wore culottes.

BANG!!! Victorian Era!!! Women began wearing culottes.  These culottes were designed to look like a skirt while still having a split in them.  This was to make it easier for women to ride horseback and bikes while still wearing something like a skirt in a time when women did not wear pants.  It was also about this time that men’s culottes began falling out of fashion.  Today, men do not generally wear culottes unless it is for a historical reenactment.  Culottes today are associated with girl scouts and church ladies here in the States.  Why?  Pretty much the same reason in the Victorian Era.  They allow for a wide range of movement and activities while still retaining modesty and the look of a skirt.