The Inescapable, Unavoidable Culotte—Past and Present Patterns

Decades of culotte sewing patterns. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

Culottes are the zombies of fashion. We say we hate them and won’t wear them, but every decade culottes rise from the dead and it’s yet another culotte moment in fashion history. Despite declaring them “torso-truncating, leg-bisecting, billowing,” New York Magazine recently defended the culotte:

“Culottes are aggressively unsexy. Which is perhaps why men tend to hate them. But that’s kind of the point. Culottes are about women more than men, about what it feels like to wear them rather than how people respond to them. From their earliest associations with suffragists and female athletes to their newfound popularity, these breezy pants are about liberation, and, really, what could be more sexy than that?” —New York Magazine (check out the fun historical slide show that goes along with the article)

On that note, let’s take a look at some of the culotte patterns Butterick has brought you over the years:

Decades of culotte sewing patterns. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
1930’s culottes: Let’s go ride a bike!
Decades of culotte sewing patterns. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
1940’s culottes: Easier to help with the war effort when you wear culottes.
Decades of culotte sewing patterns. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
1950’s culottes: Beatnik chic.
Decades of culotte sewing patterns. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
1960’s culottes: Playsuits for grownups.
Decades of culotte sewing patterns. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
1970’s culottes: All about the wrap-and-go look.
Decades of culotte sewing patterns. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
1980’s culottes: The sporty look. Culottes, or just really long shorts?
Decades of culotte sewing patterns. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
1990’s culottes: Fitting right in with the soft and unstructured looks of the decade.

Here are some 2015 culotte pattern options:

Culotte patterns from McCall's, Butterick and Vogue Patterns
Butterick B6223 in plus sizes, McCall’s M7131, Vogue Patterns V9075.

So, are you ready to give culottes a try this season, or would you rather wait another ten years for their next time in the sun?


Decades of culotte sewing patterns. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

  1. Never. Ever. Wearing. Culottes. In fact, this post inspired me to hit my pattern stash tonight in search of anything to sew, EXCEPT culottes!
    Well played, McCalls. ; )

  2. I have worn culottes in each decade of my life and loved them, when I was wearing them. I think they are great in a casual way but have limited appeal. My Grandmother was a well known Suffragette in my area. I have no idea if she wore them but I like to think that she was out there, banner in hand, walking comfortably while still modern and modest in her culottes! Until we see a major designer put his/her spin on the design there will be lots of negative connotations but mark my word, If Ralph Lauren fashions a pair every fashion commentator will be drooling to get them!

  3. I’m in Lisa’s camp – I’ll never wear them. I sewed a pair in the 70’s and the look was awful on me! This style simply does not work on a figure that has a long torso and short legs – ugly!

  4. I made McCalls 7167 and it came out soooooooo cute! I paired it with some BCBG fringe heels let me see if I can take some photos…

  5. I love culottes! I think they are elegant and comfortable at the same time!
    Check out one that I have made:
    By the way. no woman should ever wear clothes for men to look at her, this is 2015!!!

  6. I have just finished sewing, and in fact am wearing as I am typing this, butterick 6179. These are a true divided skirt culotte and I love them. My husbands opinion: there nice…but….a leeetle ridiculous…good thing I dress to please myself! 🙂 they will be on my blog soon.

  7. I think that the culottes styled as divided skirts are very useful garments. Those that are called gaucho pants do not suit my figure, so I avoid them. Culottes in the late 1960s-early 1970s were often more like full-legged shorts, and often had a “modesty panel” flapping in front and back — very annoying to elementary-school girls playing kick-ball at recess.

  8. I am 50/50 on Culottes. i love the idea of them. However, like many after I make them i am less than thrilled. I made a pair of wool gaucho pants to wear with boots for winter. I like them ok but they aren’t really figure flattering. Right now I am making a pair from a 1980’s pattern that are really a full divided long skirt. I am making them out of a thin knit and they are gathered so the legs will be full and they are calf length. I plan to wear them with a great pair of wedge sandals. i think I will like these better because the fullness and light weight fabric will make them more like a skirt.

  9. I enjoy wearing them. Something between skirt and pants

  10. Kill them! Kill them with fire! I really, really, really hate culottes… I can be liberated and comfortable without wearing them. 🙂

  11. I love culottes! I’m taking my love of them right into Fall with wool versions and tall boots!

  12. I have always been a culottes lover! I find them to be a happy medium between slacks and dress. I never considered them to be “unsexy”, but then again, I dress to please myself. I hope that culottes never go away…

  13. I remember that there were several Perry Ellis culottes patterns. He was the master of the culotte; his culottes were sporty and fashionable at the same time. I copied a Perry Ellis outfit from Vogue; it was a suit in a bold linen stripe that I still have – even if I no longer fit into it. A month after I finished the suit Vogue Patterns came out with a pattern for the suit I really wanted to make:

    I love all the culotte skirt patterns, but a culotte dress involves undressing and too much fabric lying around during bathroom breaks. Culottes with boots is a great look for fall!

    1. Ahhhh! Thanks for the reminder about bathroom breaks! I was eyeing that dress, and will now refrain.

  14. I come down on the side of LOVE them. Haven’t had a stylish pair is a long while. I’m especially drawn to the waistband-less pattern, fitting perfectly at the hips. And I agree with Erica, tall boots this fall will perfect the look I’m going for.

  15. I always thought culottes were those shorts that had the panel in front of them that made them look like skirts while the garments pictured above are gauchos. Regardless, it’s definitely a style that does not look good on me.

  16. The thirties tailored pleated ones are great, I love the ethic of ability! Get on yer bike! After that ,all downhill, I had to wear them in college in the 1980’s studying Physical Therapy. hated them then too, they had a front flap to make them look more like skirts. Now I live in pants. Let the fad slip quietly away again.

  17. I have that 90’s culotte pattern still in my stash – I must have used that at least a dozen times – in fact I still have 1 pair still in my closet. I liked it best using a drapey rayon print. Glad to know that culottes are back in style – maybe I’ll make up another pair. They are so comfortable to wear, I always got compliments when I wore them.

  18. I love culottes! I love them and always will. I have a pair in a brown rayon that I love to wear and I am getting ready to cut out M7131 either tomorrow or by Friday. My mother used to sew hers and she would rock them like no ones business! She always looked put together running around the base. I have looked at all the patterns and I think I might just get V9075 for later in the year to rock with some boots.

  19. I love culottes, split skirts , gauchos and wide leg pants ( which I put in the same category). I been sewing them up for years. I change the length at will with no concern about whats in fashion. Generally, I like them long . Culottes are a timeless sensible garment that can be dressed up or down. With a tight low cut top they can be very sexy.

  20. I am a big fan of variations on the culotte, have one free diagram/pattern up on Craftsy and another coming up. I need something like shorts for work, but more interesting (and blousier for ventilation).

    But everyone knows what works for them and what doesn’t, and nobody needs to dump on a style they don’t like. Me, I don’t get the maxi love, but if you do, rock it sister.

    1. oops. freebie not up yet. sorry.

  21. Just waiting for the perfect fabric! I think I’m going to dive in and make a pair this weekend.

  22. It is so funny to see how fashion recycles. I remember wearing these at one point in my life; however, I don’t think I’m drawn to them again. These pants are like the offspring of the pants and the skirt.

  23. I do want to try these again. Didn’t like the gaucho on me, but I have a skort pattern that ‘one day’ I plan to lengthen into culottes. I like the idea of the partial wrap skirt

  24. I love the tailored look of culottes from the 30’s,40’s and 50’s. How about bringing back one of these patterns, McCalls?!?!?

  25. I’m not liking culottes, gauchos, or anything in that realm. They are not the most flattering on my already huge thighs , so I will wait for the next trend. Maybe I’ll try a jumpsuit instead

  26. I love them. I made a pair this spring and have sewn a couple of different tops to wear with them, using designer’s runway styling of culottes as inspiration.

  27. I like them – on other people. I am a short stocky woman and they just emphasize my negative figure qualities. I did make one Pucci print wrap style culotte/dress that you spread out on the floor and laid down on to wrap yourself into. I was younger and a lot thinner in 1972 and I think it looked cute on. Trouble was that if the wind was blowing it would unwrap you enough to give a “view” of your thighs. I still look for that pattern on line as emblematic of my youth. I am toying with the idea of making culottes for a trip to India in ’16 – we will be visiting temples and I need to find something modest and comfortable.

  28. I am currently into ’30s fashions, but have always loved the ’70s and am surprised to find that culottes fit into both categories, depending on the shoes and top worn (and hairstyle). I have sailor pants (true sailor, not boot-cut) and those look good on me, so I assume really wide culottes would. I have tall boots as well as shoes styled right out of the Golden Era, so I could really do this. Color me excited.

  29. I think they are great for little girls. As a matter of fact, I’m looking for a pattern for them that gives them a nice flutter – what do girls like more than a swirly skirt? – but is also a little less exposing on the playground…

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